Saints Aquila and Priscilla


Saints Aquila and Priscilla. Egg tempera and gold on panel. 9x12” 2024.

I recently finished this icon for dear friends who commissioned it for their 50th wedding anniversary. I referenced early Christian art, including the mosaics at Ravenna. Christ blesses them from the heavens. The saints are holding martyrs’ crowns, which is typical in early Christian art, and also reflects the lovely poetic kathisma hymn from their service (below).

Illumining thy soul with the words of Paul, thou didst shine like the sun with the light of divine knowledge, O blessed Aquila; and thou didst plait for thyself a martyr’s wreath in accordance with the law. Wherefore, thou pourest forth rivers of healings upon those who with faith celebrate thy memory, O blessed one. (Poetic Kathisma)

Aquila was one of the Seventy Apostles. A Jew, he first lived in Italy with his wife Priscilla. When Emperor Claudius decreed that all Jews be driven from Rome and Italy, Aquila settled in Corinth. There the Apostle Paul met him for the first time, remaining in his home for a year and a half and baptizing him and his wife. Burning with zeal for the Faith of Christ, Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul to Ephesus and assisted him in his apostolic labors. At Ephesus, Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he said: Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is their house (1 Corinthians 16:19). After the death of Emperor Claudius, the Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and so Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome. When the Apostle Paul later wrote the Epistle to the Romans from Corinth, he greeted his old friends and co-laborers: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus; who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles (Romans 16: 3-4). We later find Aquila in Ephesus, where he labored with St. Timothy the Apostle. Chained in Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus: Salute Priscilla and Aquila (2 Timothy 4:19). As a bishop, Aquila baptized many and enlightened them with the Faith; he destroyed idols, built churches, ordained priests, and spread the glory of the Incarnate Son of God among men. He was finally murdered by wicked heathens, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ. (from the Prologue of Ohrid)

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