The Virgin And Child (Earliest Known Image)
The oldest known Icon of the Theotokos comes from the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. On the first level there is a Greek Chapel which has two second century Greek inscriptions carved into the walls. The arch of the ceiling vault is covered with ornamental Frescos and biblical themes. Among the images is the oldest known image of the Mother of God dated around 220 AD. The rich pigments have faded through the centuries into warm hues of reddish-orange and amber. The fresco depicts the Virgin nursing while presenting her child to the world. Alongside stands the figure of an Old Testament prophet in tunic pointing to a star that hovers above her head. This prophet is identified as Balaam from Numbers 24:17 who prophesies " I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not nigh; A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Isreal.
The catacomb of Priscilla is located in Rome 430 Via Salaria and can be visited. A Benedictine convent is attached to the catacomb. The photo of the Icon and information come from the Road To Emmaus, a Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture Vol. 9, No 3 Summer 2008