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The icons of the temple in the Visoki Dečani Monastery, which has been converted into an iconostasis, date from the time of Tsar Dušan in the mid-14th century

The iconostasis (also iconostasis or (the) iconostasis ; Greek εἰκονοστάσιον , from εἰκών , , ikón , "the image that resembles an object, image" and στάσις , from it στάση "stand" or "stand") is one adorned with icons Wall with three doors that stands in Orthodox church buildings between the inner nave and the chancel ( Bema ). Iconostases developed from the early Christian templon systems. They belong to the tradition of the Eastern Churches .


The nave (Greek naos ) is the main part of the church; there sit or stand the believers. The chancel is the place to the east of the nave. The sanctuary is usually one to three steps higher than the naos. The altar is usually a round table for the liturgy . The iconostasis is the wall that stands between the altar and the naos. Although the iconostasis is usually almost room-high, it rarely touches the ceiling. This enables the believer to hear the priest's words or chants well.

In large churches, the iconostasis is part of the overall architectural composition, but it is not necessarily part of the basic equipment. There are many examples of a donor later donating an iconostasis. Sometimes this is built up row by row over decades. In smaller churches, especially in chapels without regular liturgy celebrations, the iconostasis can be omitted for reasons of space, as can non-orthodox church buildings that are used temporarily; In some cases, portable and collapsible iconostases are also used there, which are only set up during the service. In the western diaspora, the iconostasis is sometimes stylized and reduced, with the aim of offering the faithful a greater insight into the altar area.

General construction of the iconostasis

Iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow Kremlin , Russia
Classicist iconostasis from the 18th century in Finland

The iconostasis consists at least of

  • the royal door and the icons above it
  • the pair of icons next to the royal door
  • the southern door
  • the north door

In larger churches, further icons can be added upwards and outwards.

The pictorial program is strictly specified: in the middle (from the viewer) hangs an icon of Jesus Christ in the form of his resurrection , on the left an icon of the Theotokos , underneath or in between is the royal door or the holy gate through which the priest can pass brings Christ to the church in the Gospel Book and in the Eucharist . The next two icons on the left show the patron saint of the church, on the right in the north Slavic churches St. Nikolaus von Myra , in the other churches John the Baptist . Small icons of Christ and Mary also hang on the pillar of the royal door, which the priest kisses in the liturgy.

Royal door

The royal door in the middle of the iconostasis consists of two door leaves with depictions of the four evangelists and the Annunciation scene with the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Mother. Above and below the hll. Gabriel and Maria are the icons of two evangelists, usually with their iconographic attribute (Matthew: winged figure, Mark: lion, Luke: bull, John: eagle). An icon of the Last Supper hangs over the royal door. Above it is the large icon, usually the icon of the saint or feast to which the church is dedicated.

North and South door

On each door there is an image of an angel , either the archangels Michael and Gabriel or two seraphim with six wings. Michael is shown to the north and Gabriel to the south.

The iconostasis in the liturgy

Nave with iconostasis in the Italian-Albanian Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta in Villa Badessa , Italy

The Divine Liturgy , celebrated according to the Byzantine rite , consists of three parts: the preparation of the gifts behind the closed iconostasis, the catechumens service and the Eucharist .

During the catechumen liturgy, the deacon enters the nave through the left door and exits through the right. Such liturgical passages and processions are always carried out counter- clockwise . The royal door is only during the liturgy of priests passed and Deacon, twice during the service: the first time the so-called small catchment with the Gospels before the reading of the Gospel before the congregation. After the catechumens have been released, the door remains open during the Eucharist. Thus the altar is visible during the offering of the offerings. The second or large catchment place at the Ceremony for the presentation holy gifts of bread and wine from the preparation table on the altar for the consecration takes

The doors of the iconostasis are only open at Easter and in the week that follows, the Light Week of Renewal , and allow a view of the altar. This is understood as looking into the empty tomb after the resurrection of Christ.

Iconostases in Germany

Greek Orthodox Churches

The iconostasis of the Salvatorkirche in Munich was created in 1829 by Leo von Klenze .

Russian Orthodox Churches

When in the late 19th century more and more spa guests from the Russian aristocracy with ties to the tsarist family came to Bad Ems , Baden-Baden or Wiesbaden , Russian Orthodox churches with outstanding iconostases were built there too or, like the Reinhard Church in Bad Nauheim, for the Orthodox Leave to use. The Nauheim iconostasis from the 18th century came to its current location in 1908 as a gift from the Sarow Monastery . The iconostasis of the Russian Orthodox Church in Wiesbaden , completed in 1855, is made of Carrara marble in Italian Renaissance forms ; the painting shows influences of the Nazarenes . In the St. Alexi Memorial Church in Leipzig there is an 18 meter high iconostasis from the beginning of the 20th century.

Roman Catholic churches

The Church of St. Elisabeth in Essen is the only Roman Catholic church in Germany to have an iconostasis.


Web links

Commons : Ikonostasis  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Duden online
  2. Dr. W. Pape's Greek-German Concise Dictionary. Braunschweig, 2nd edition 1888.
  3. The chancel of the Eastern Church located behind the iconostasis.
  4. The directions refer to church buildings in the east .
  5. Beatrice Härig: What is an iconostasis? In: Monuments. Volume 28, Issue 4, 2018, ISSN  0941-7125 , pp. 58–59.