pantocrator ink

A little over a year ago I decided that I wanted a tattoo on my upper arm of the Christ Pantocrator, one of the oldest icons of Jesus Christ. The oldest known Pantocrator image was written in the sixth century, and it survived the iconoclastic periods of 730-787 and 813-843, housed in the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert.

In Greek, the word Pantocrator means “ruler of all”.

While I wanted a classic image, I wanted it to have a modern twist. My friend Paul Soupiset is an amazing graphic designer and illustrator in San Antonio. I fell completely in love with his work when he did a Moleskine painting a day as a Lenten discipline a few years ago.

Back in February while I was in San Antonio for the Faith Stories retreat, I asked Paul if he would design a Pantocrator image for a tattoo for me. He graciously agreed, and I was delighted to receive an image from him a few weeks later.

My tattoo guy made a few small changes, but stayed pretty true to Paul’s original design.

Here’s a photo of the finished piece, taken right after Julian finished inking.


As you can see, the symbolism of the original images is represented here. In his left hand, Christ holds a book with a cross on it, depicting the Gospel. His right hand is raised in blessing. There is significance of the posture of his right hand – with his thumb, ring finger, and little finger bent together symbolizing the divine and human natures of Christ and his index finger and slightly bent middle finger held upright.

The letters on the top left and right are ‘IC’ and ‘XC’, which symbolize Ieosus Khristos, the Greek shortened form of Christ’s name IC XC.

Jesus’ face follows ancient traditions, with a high forehead to indicate wisdom, a small mouth closed in contemplation, and eyes that appear to peer into the soul.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product. Thanks, Paul!

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