Saint Basil the Great: The Iconography

In Caesarea, Cappadocia, the death of St. Basil the Great, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church. During the reign of the Emperor Valens he was a shining example of wisdom, of erudition, and of every virtue. He defended the Church against the Arians and Macedonians with indefatigable constancy. However, his feast day is best celebrated on June 24, the day he was ordained a bishop. – Roman Martyrology for January 1

Basil was a leader of the Catholics in their struggle against the Arians. (The "Macedonians" mentioned in the Roman Martyrology were also known as "Semi-Arians." They denied the godhood of the Holy Ghost.1) In Orthodox images like the second picture at right he will be dressed as a bishop and have a long, tapering black beard. Western images usually dress him as a bishop but are otherwise inconsistent in iconography; sometimes they give him a forked beard.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2015-09-14, 2017-03-04.

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Subleyras, St. Basil Celebrating Mass Before the Emperor Valens, 1745 (See the description page)


Detail from the apse at Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily, 12th century (See the description page)

DATES

  • Feast day: January 1
  • Born in 329 or 330
  • Died in 379

NAMES

  • Also known as St. Basil of Caesarea

HAGIOGRAPHY

NOTES
1 Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Pneumatomachi.