Jesus said to the Apostle Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” 

Jn 14:9

In other words, Jesus was saying he was the image or icon of the Father, and this Icon was first manifested when Jesus was born. Today, by bringing out the tradition of writing icons, we perpetuate this sacred inheritance and assert the belonging of Bethlehem to its Christian roots deeply embedded into the philosophy of compassionate love.

Strengthening the spirituality of the Incarnation in the heart of Bethlehem

Millions of pilgrims visit Bethlehem every year, the most or part of the important Christian cities in the world, and they come because it is the birthplace of Christ. Everything about Bethlehem resonates with Christian spirituality, and iconography is an essential part of that now, as it has been for over 15 centuries. Visit any church in the Land of Canaan, and you will come across icons, thousands of them, some ancient, some new, but all are part of the living and ancient patrimony of the Palestinian-Canaanite Christian community of the Fertile Crescent. which was once strongly united during the Assyrian and Babylonian Empire, and which ever since was dominated by the Aramaic language.

Living Ascetically, Working with Justice

Visit any tourist shop in Bethlehem and you will find millions of icons, yet few originate in the Holy Land of Canaan, and fewer still are painted to an excellent standard. Most iconographers are paid perhaps a 10th of the selling price, far below even the basic standard needed to raise a family, let alone to invest the time and resources to provide work of the highest quality. Others work alone, bearing the brunt of expensive equipment and specialist facilities, and vulnerable to the vagaries of the marketplace in Occupied Bethlehem. Occupation is first spiritual, then becomes political as a by-product.

The BIC aims to challenge this cruel state of decaying occupation by creating a collaborative working environment where people work to their strengths, and the reputation of the Centre guarantees a decent price for their work and a regular supply of orders. 80% of the price paid for an icon via the BIC goes directly to the oppressed people writing them.

Students on the professional training course all do so on the basis of a scholarship, so that studies are not interrupted by financial worries. At the same time, all are expected to contribute to the common good of the institution. This also includes staff who are expected to give generously of their time and talents for the good of all. Iconography is an ascetic art and the Centre cultivates an ascetic ethos, yet one that has adapted to the needs of modern time. We are ascetic in the purity of our intentions and not in our style of life, since we are not monks.

Renewing Palestinian Christian culture

By working collaboratively, facilitating the highest standards, renewing the spirituality offered to visitors and pilgrims, and contributing to research into the Byzantine and pre-Byzantine inheritance of the Palestinian people, the Centre seeks to strengthen the presence of the Christians in the Holy Land and to encourage them to remain committed to their ancient culture. This culture is rooted in ancient history which we commonly call “pagan” and yet which many elements constitute the foundation of our Christian identity which we share with our Jewish, Samaritan and Moslem brothers and sisters.

By promoting opportunities for people to come and stay in Bethlehem to study iconography for short or longer durations, we seek to enable Christians around the world to make real contacts with the Living Stones of the Holy Land. Through public lectures, general art courses, and tours of our facilities and exhibitions, we seek to educate visitors and local Palestinians alike in the wonderful world of iconography, so they can better appreciate their visit to or living in this most spiritual of cities.

Reviving the iconography of the Holy Land