Below is an icon of Saint Sophia and her three daughters (Faith, Hope, and Charity). It's so cute! I hope someone who is knowledgeable about iconography can answer a couple questions I have about it.

  1. Who is who in the icon? We obviously know which figure represents St. Sophia, but what about the three daughters? There are no inscriptions. Which is Faith? Which is Hope? Which is Charity? In other icons, the three girls are different heights so they are easily distinguishable (according to the hagiography, Faith was 12 years old, Hope was 10, Charity was 9), but in this icon they look equally heighted to me. The middle one looks slightly taller, but maybe that's only because she is in front. Most icons I've seen online have Faith in the middle, Hope on the left, and Charity on the right, but not all of them follow this convention. [I realize the placement of the three figures in my icon most likely can't be answered with 100% certainty, but is there a probable answer?]

  2. Are the three girls wearing veils in this icon? Looking at their shoulders, it seems as if they have white veils. But the tops of their heads look brown (like hair) to me, not white! What's going on? Is this just because the image is faded?

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1 Answer 1


Here is another icon of St. Sophia and her three daughters St. Faith, St. Hope and St. Charity:

Martyr Sophia and her three daughters at Rome

Martyr Sophia and her three daughters at Rome

The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love were born in Italy. Their mother was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. Saint Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it before everyone.

There are a wide variety of icons of St. Sophia with her three saintly daughters as your link points out.

In the icon I placed above St. Faith is in the middle because she is the eldest and thus the senior child. St. Hope is standing to the right of St. Faith and St. Charity is standing to the left of St. Faith. This is in fact the traditional way of placing individuals according to seniority.

An Abbot has his prior seated at his right side in the refectory and the subprior is seated at his left side. It's tradition.

Even the Supreme Court of the United States follows this tradition:

Seniority and seating

For the most part, the day-to-day activities of the justices are governed by rules of protocol based upon the seniority of justices. The Chief Justice always ranks first in the order of precedence—regardless of the length of his or her service. The associate justices are then ranked by the length of their service. The chief justice sits in the center on the bench, or at the head of the table during conferences. The other justices are seated in order of seniority. The senior-most associate justice sits immediately to the chief justice's right; the second most senior sits immediately to his left. The seats alternate right to left in order of seniority, with the most junior justice occupying the last seat.

During Court sessions, justices sit according to seniority, with the chief justice in the center and associate justices on alternating sides, with the most senior associate justice on the chief justice's immediate right, and the most junior associate justice seated on the left farthest away from the chief justice. Therefore, the current court sits as follows from left to right, from the perspective of those facing the Court: Gorsuch, Sotomayor, Breyer, Thomas (most senior associate justice), Roberts (chief justice), Ginsburg, Alito, Kagan, and Kavanaugh (most junior associate justice). Likewise, when the members of the Court gather for official group photographs, justices are arranged in order of seniority, with the five most senior members seated in the front row in the same order as they would sit during Court sessions, and the four most junior justices standing behind them, again in the same order as they would sit during Court sessions.

The more ancient icons of St. Sophia and her daughters would definitely follow this order even when the daughters of St. Sophia are not named and appear to be of the same height. Modern artists may not follow this tradition way of placing saints in an icon. But the icon you posted is of a certain antiquity and St. Sophia's daughters are from left to right: St. Hope, St. Faith and St. Charity.

St. Sophia's daughters are not wearing veils in your icon but their heads are surrounded with golden halos. In iconography the color gold represents the presence of God.

  • +1 Very well written! Excellent analysis on question #1! If you are willing to go more in-depth on question #2, I think I would be willing to give you the green checkmark. The first time I looked at the icon, I quickly concluded as you did that they aren't wearing veils. But, after zooming in and looking at it more carefully, I think I'm starting to see a veil on Saint Faith! I see a white garment on her shoulders, and I think I see it going up the left side of her neck. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 2:16
  • @Pascal'sWager After I zoomed in I can not see a veil on any of St. Sophia's daughters. The golden borders around the girl's shoulders match the golden borders on their sleeves and bottom of their dresses, thus I must conclude that both areas of their dresses are a type of artistic additions to the icon. The white fabric you see on St. Faith's shoulder is in reality (at least to me) from the border works of St. Sophia's dress herself. I can not conclude with any assured knowledge, anything else about the image in question due to it's age (white spot on shoulder). It is a great work of art.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 12:54

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