One of the most important aspects of the School's activities is the study of Eastern Christian art and the tradition of the icon painting, which is realized both as educational program and scholarly research.
Traditionally icons and the Church architecture are studied on the basis of those methodological principles, which have been developed within the classical fine art studies of the Modern Age and the contemporary epoch. The corresponding methodological principles are appropriate for the investigation the classical Antiquity and European liberal arts, and the corresponding analyses are more or less free from the religious world view and religious canon.
Nevertheless the world history includes extremely meaningful epochs, which do not allow for comprehension and investigation starting from the principles of the classical fine art studies mentioned above. Religious art of different epochs and nations and above all the Christian art, including
icon painting, Church architecture etc., which is closely interrelated with the history of the Church and the history of the Christian doctrine, requires, along with the traditional analysis, the implementation of completely different methodological approaches. The investigation of the artistic image in its close interconnection and interaction with the liturgical word and theological thought requires a broad and profound knowledge in philology, theology, the history of Church, Patristics, liturgical studies etc.
The Department of Icon Studies (Iconology) has created the unique series of courses, which allow students to graduate as art historians, specialists in Christian art. The disciplines taught by outstanding scholars include Christian art, the Church history, philology, liturgical studies and iconography. Medieval images are interpreted from a strictly historical and iconological point of view. Icons are examined as a cumulus of Eastern Christian culture and as a result of theological as well as liturgical creativity. Their specific features are studied within the context of the theology and history of icon painting, technology of icon restoration. The students participate in excavations in ancient Russian cities, restoration of old Russian Churches, study and work in the museums of the St. Petersburg (The Hermitage, Russian State Museum).