The word “triptych” is Greek and simply means three-fold. A triptych is a form of artwork featuring three panels. The two outer panels of a triptych often fold closed to conceal the center image. When the outer panels are closed, it allows for still another image to be displayed on the reverse of the two outer panels. Hence some triptychs, may contain four images.
This form of artwork originated in the early church and became a common means of displaying iconography. Icons were painted on both two panels (diptychs) and three panels (triptychs). The tradition of utilizing triptychs to display Christian artwork also became quite common on the Altarpieces of medieval Europe in the Roman tradition, and later within Lutheranism as well. On the right is an historic triptych from a Lutheran Altar in Wittenberg, Germany.
Triptychs are beautiful pieces of artwork for the Christian home. The tri-fold design allows for the icon to be self-standing and easily placed on shelves or counter space.