The gold leaf Byzantine-style painting of Jesus holding a Bible is an icon of the Eastern European Orthodox Church, and was donated to the chapel in a small ceremony yesterday.
The icon is a copy of the one in Nelson's Christ Church Cathedral, and was presented by the Rev Yvonne McLean, who is also the hospital chaplain.
The hospital chapel is a place that patients, relatives, whanau and staff can retreat to in difficult times. The multifaith chapel was until yesterday devoid of references to the Orthodox Church, which in Nelson represents members of the Russian, Greek and Serbian communities.
Founding president and now patron of the Eastern European Orthodox Church Nelson, Rosalina McCarthy, initiated the idea for the icon after she spent time in hospital. She said icons were important to the Orthodox community, and it was difficult not having one at a time and place when she needed it.
She said the icon presented yesterday was not something to be worshipped but a reminder of faith, and something that would bring comfort to people of the faith.
Ms McCarthy, whose parents were Russian and whose father helped to found the Orthodox Church in Auckland, said Nelson's multiculturalism included increasing numbers of eastern European migrants, for whom there was no spiritual base until 2008, when the first Orthodox service was held here.
"Icons are taken very seriously, especially by the priests who create them. Just about every brush stroke is prayed over as it's put together."
The icon is stored in a case that can also be taken to Orthodox patients in the wards, where patients and families can touch it and the chaplain can pray over it.