Although a feast celebrating the Dormition (koimesis or "falling asleep") of the Virgin was established in the 6th century (celebrated August 15th), its artistic depiction appeared only after Iconoclasm. Byzantine theologians such as John of Damascus and John I, archbishop of Thessalonika, devoted sermons to the Koimesis, which were read during the orthros service of August 15, and served as the major sources for the iconography of Dormition icons. The earliest known depictions are from the 9th and early 10th centuries. The fresco image of the Dormition in the Ayvali kilise (Cappadocia), dated 913–920, shows Mary lying in state on a funeral bier with her arms crossed. She is surrounded by the apostles on both sides. Standing behind, Christ receives the swaddled soul of Mary from her mouth. The 10th century Dormition of the Virgin icon from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection presents the basic iconographic schema known from later examples. Christ stands behind Mary's bier holding her soul, flanked by angels who are ready to take it up to heaven. The apostles gather on both sides of the Virgin's bier. The apostle Peter, with a censer, is at Mary's head, while Paul is at her feet.
While early examples calmly depict Mary's death, the 11th and 12th century images introduce deep emotion and dramatic gestures of grief. The fresco image of the Dormition in the church of Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asinou in Cyprus (1105–1106) shows apostles and female mourners raising their hands toward their chins or raising their mantle with both hands to partially cover their faces. This composition was elaborated in the 11th and 12th centuries. Bishops, such as James, Dionysios the Areopagite, Hierotheos, and Timotheos of Ephesus, were added. According to the written legend, they were present at the scene of Mary's death. From the 13th century, bishops were depicted reading inscribed books (Psalm 118 from the office of the dead), an element which invoked the funeral ceremony, as is seen in the mosaic icon in the church of the monastery of Chora, Constantinople. The placement of the Dormition scene over the main door of the church gave this image particular significance. Byzantine theologians promoted the tradition of Mary's ascension to heaven and the development of her role as intercessor for mankind. Thus, icons of the Dormition of the Virgin were used for private devotion, as in the central panel of the 13th century Georgian triptych from the State Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi, or the 11th century ring from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.