Learn About St. Luke

Historical Note

St. LukeSaint Luke was an apostle, evangelist, physician, and artist. He was born in Antioch, the son of Greek parents. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and became the first iconographer. Saint Luke was the first to paint the images of the Holy Virgin and the Lord Jesus, at the request of the Mother of God herself and the main apostles. The Eleousa, which means “merciful Mother of God,” is one of three original icons painted by Saint Luke. According to legend, the Archangel Gabriel gave Saint Luke the boards on which the icons were painted.

The Holy Virgin held and blessed these icons when she said, “The grace of the One born of me be with them through me.” For this reason, the Eleousa is believed to be grace-filled and is dearly loved.

KykkotissaThe miracle-working silver-covered icon of the Eleousa of Kykkos hangs on the icon screen at the Holy Monastery of Kykkos in Cyprus. It is also known as the Panagia of Kykkos and the Kykkotissa, and is famous throughout the Orthodox world for answering prayers for rain in times of drought and for protecting sailors.

The dynamic image of the Eleousa of Kykkos, with the Holy Virgin’s distinctive crimson veil and the barefooted, kicking Christ Child held on her left arm, has been replicated many times over hundreds of years. Since the mid-eighteenth century, the holy faces of the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary have been hidden from view, possibly to inspire more reverence. Each year on September 8, the Orthodox Church celebrates the birth of the Theotokos, and on October 18 she commemorates Saint Luke.

Photo of Kykkotissa by Professor Annemarie Weyl Carr.