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Noted American iconographer Phil Zimmerman will lead an iconography retreat Sept. 16-22 at the Franciscan Spirituality Center, 920 Market St. No previous painting experience is assumed, and people of all faith backgrounds are welcome.

Religious icons, often referred to as “windows in heaven,” typically depict Jesus, saints or other biblical events. The painting (or “writing”) of icons is both a meaningful prayer practice and a technical art form, which traces its history to the beginning of Christianity. The veneration of icons is considered one of the most distinctive elements of the Byzantine Rite.

Retreat participants will paint an icon of Christ Emmanuel on a round, prepared board. Each day will begin with prayer and reflection, and Zimmerman will lead students through the process in a gradual step-by-step approach, using modern artist’s materials while following ancient guidelines and techniques.

All materials and supplies, including gold leaf, will be provided so that participants will finish the week with a beautifully completed icon varnished and ready to display. Based at his St. John the Damascus Icon Studio in Pennsylvania, Zimmerman has taught more than 2,000 students and has created hundreds of icons for churches and private collectors throughout the world.

Cost is $625 for full retreat (includes supplies, all meals and six nights’ stay) or $505 for commuters (includes supplies, lunch and supper). The fee includes a non-refundable deposit of $150. This retreat is limited to 25 participants. Please register at or 608-791-5295.

ABOUT THE ICON: Emmanuel means “God with us” (from the Hebrew) and is often used to refer to Christ as a youth. God Incarnate is depicted as a beardless child but with facial features that would suggest an adult to convey that although Jesus was born on Earth as a baby, he has always been the All-Knowing God who existed before all time.

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