Saint Lazarus the Painter, and the Artist in Heaven

Saint Lazarus Zographos (the painter) believed that we do not live for the here and now, we live for the future. We are not content with what is, but struggle to achieve what should be and what will be.

Saint Lazarus the Painter

Saint Lazarus the Painter was born in Armenia on November 17, A.D. 810. He became a monk at an early age and is thought to have studied art at the Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople. He was highly regarded and well known for his frescos. His ability to paint sacred images was seen as a gift from God. His qualities of love for Christ, asceticism, generosity, self discipline, and his rejection of worldly goods also led him to be ordained a priest.

In A.D. 829, Theophilos became the Byzantine emperor. Theophilos rejected the decrees of the 7th Ecumenical Council (II Nicaea) and declared all forms of sacred art to be idolatry and therefore forbidden. Images in churches were destroyed and the painters of those images were arrested or driven into exile.

Lazarus, however continued his art, in spite of the dangers. He even began to restore images that were defaced by heretics. As Lazarus was well known for his skill, the emperor sought him out, intending to make an example of the painter. At first Lazarus was ordered to stop painting. When this had no effect He was brought before he emperor. Theophilos ordered the artist to destroy any and all of the images he created. Lazarus refused. The emperor tried flattery and then bribery, all to no avail. Finally Lazarus was thrown into prison where he was subjected to horrific torture. But the artist-priest persevered and even began to paint on panels from his prison cell. When Theophilos heard of this he had sheets of red hot iron applied to the painter's hands, searing them to the bone.

The ordeal left Lazarus half-dead and the emperor's consort Empress Theodora finally convinced Theophilus to release Lazarus. 

Theophilos died in A.D. 842 and in A.D. 843 the legitimacy of sacred images was restored by his son and successor Michael. In spite of the injuries received in prison, Lazurus once more took up the brush and continued to paint, even serving Emperor Michael as an ambassador to Rome.

Saint Lazarus Zographos (the painter) believed that we do not live for the here and now, we live for the future. We are not content with what is, but struggle to achieve what should be and what will be. As pilgrims on this earth we look to the future. The earth is not heaven, it is the path to heaven.

The Transfiguration of the Lord also looks to the future, it points ahead to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. Whoever is occupied with earthly things, is an “enemy of the cross of Christ.” But whoever follows Christ, keeps their eyes on the light, and occupies their mind with things of Heaven, is a citizen of Heaven and awaits the return of Christ who has prepared our home for us. The promise of Heaven is the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham.

In the glorified body of Christ we see the presence of the Holy Trinity and the culmination of all of salvation history. The new covenant between God and man, Heaven and Earth, is embodied in Christ. 

The Artist in Heaven

What will happen to our creative and artistic gifts in the new Heaven and the new earth? They will find their ultimate purpose. Each of us is unique. Our particular blend or combination of skills is unique to each individual. In the world that is to come we will each find that task that only we can accomplish, that hole that has been there for us to fill from all eternity.

To ask “is there art in Heaven?” is a little misguided. Heaven isart and music and poetry and dance. I like to think that as we all share, to one degree or another, in the divine spark of creation, we all have a role in creating Creation. Here on earth our abilities offer glimpses into Heaven, but in Heaven our abilities will contribute to and enlarge Heaven. To compose music in the new Heaven and the new Earth is to add that music to the angelic chorus that resounds throughout Heaven.

And since the new Heaven and the new earth will not pass away, they are eternal, existing outside time. So in a sense we did create, are now creating, and will continue to create art that adds to the reality of the world that is yet to come.

As Rudyard Kipling alluded to in his poem, “When Earth's Last Picture is Painted:”

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair.


And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;

And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,

But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,

Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!

We will retain our gifts, our talents, and our abilities. All of those things that make us who we are shall find their fullness of purpose in Heaven. And each will find contentment and peace in realizing their purpose.

In Heaven we will not only be reunited with our glorified bodies but the world of the Creator will be transformed into the world of the Redeemer. In Jesus Christ, as members of His mystical body, we will be fully integrated into, and contribute to, the covenant God has made between Him and creation.

Pax Vobiscum

Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at and can be reached at