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eikōn "image") is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and certain Eastern Catholic churches.The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and/or angels.

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At the same time there has been change and development.

Aside from the legend that Pilate had made an image of Christ, the 4th-century Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Church History, provides a more substantial reference to a "first" icon of Jesus.

This recognition of a religious apparition from likeness to an image was also a characteristic of pagan pious accounts of appearances of gods to humans, and was a regular topos in hagiography.

One critical recipient of a vision from Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki apparently specified that the saint resembled the "more ancient" images of him – presumably the 7th century mosaics still in Hagios Demetrios.

Plato of Ankyra appeared to a Christian in a dream.

The Saint was recognized because the young man had often seen his portrait.It went missing in 1204 when Crusaders sacked Constantinople, but by then numerous copies had firmly established its iconic type.The 4th-century Christian Aelius Lampridius produced the earliest known written records of Christian images treated like icons (in a pagan or Gnostic context) in his Life of Alexander Severus (xxix) that formed part of the Augustan History.They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles [pagans]".On the other hand, Irenaeus does not speak critically of icons or portraits in a general sense – only of certain gnostic sectarians' use of icons.Dix notes that this occurred more than a century before we find the first reference to a similar honouring of the image of Christ or of His apostles or saints, but that it would seem a natural progression for the image of Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, to be paid similar veneration as that given to the earthly Roman emperor.

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