top of page
  • Writer's pictureBield at Blackruthven

Encounter with the Woman at the Well- the Retreat Association Icon

This month at the Bield, we are blessed with the gift of the Retreat Association Icon residing with us. We are welcoming guests and day visitors to come and spend some time sitting with this beautiful icon painted by John Coleman (also known as Ikonjohn).       

The story behind this icon comes from St John’s gospel, Chapter 4 when Jesus encounters a lonely Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well outside the town of Sychar. This profound encounter centres around identity, both of Jesus and the woman's and it proves to be life-changing for the woman and has long lasting implications for the Samaritans of that area. Although excluded from her own society and belonging to a tribe with whom Jews would normally not be associated with, during this encounter, Jesus accepts and understands her. They engage in a very deep spiritual conversation about the nature of the living water of God  and Jesus reveals to her that he is the Christ, the Messiah, something he has not yet revealed to his own disciples. The woman, called Photina, rushes away from the well, leaving her bucket behind, a symbol of her past life and goes to tell everyone about the man she has just met. She is remembered as one of the first evangelists and in the early church was regarded  as an equal to the apostles. She is believed to have been later martyred by Nero and her feast day is celebrated on 20 February. Her name comes from the Greek word for light and that seems appropriate for the illumination that this encounter with Jesus brings to us all.

The overhead lighting in the bull pen really enhances the stunning gold leaf background and brings out the vibrancy of the colours; the blue of Jesus’s cloak which depicts his divinity, the apple green of Photina’s dress symbolising life and renewal, the bright red cloak  of the townsman maybe depicting his authority.

John Coleman gifted this icon to the Retreat Association in 2018 to help encourage others to take time out and ponder this encounter. As is the tradition with icons, he ‘wrote’ it in prayer and meditation and then it  has been displayed and prayed with in different retreat centres, churches and cathedrals in the UK for the past few years. So it comes to the Bield already steeped in other’s prayer.

As I have introduced guests to the icon, they comment on different elements of the scene. Someone pointed out the dark crack in the hill above Jesus’ head, another wondered about the long rope trailing from the woman’s water jug and  another was fascinated by Jesus’ tiny feet. The icon invites us to look and look again and also to be looked at by God as we do so. Each time of looking takes us deeper into the gospel story.

We have installed it in the bull pen of the Barn gallery and have placed chairs round it so visitors can sit for as long as they wish with it. The space is open each day the Bield is open from 10-5 pm until 14th July, and there are resource sheets to help you respond creatively to your own personal encounter. On 10th July at 11am, we will lead the last of our guided meditations with the icon.

We would welcome you to come in person if you are able and spend some time with this very special icon. If that’s not possible , then do take a look at the Retreat association website where you can learn more about it and watch the beautiful contemplative video with words and music created by Magdalen Lawlor SND and Tom McGuinness SJ.


Recent Posts

See All


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page