Temple Gallery

Established 1959


The iconography details presented here represent general information about icon subjects - they do not refer to particular icons.
Please note that the information in this section is not complete. We are adding to it and making corrections as we go along. Specialist students and scholars who would like to help us here will be welcome.

Click on any item below to see the relevant Iconography entry



(Gr. "Evangelismos"; Rus. "Blagovyeshchenie ")

Icons of Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary date from the third century. One fresco of the subject, in the Roman catacomb of Priscilla, is thought to be second century.
The imagery is based partly on Luke (1:26-38) and the apocryphal Protevangelion Jacobi or Book of James (11:1-3), which dates from the second century. The latter was the source throughout the Middle Ages for much of the imagery associated with Mary, both in the East and West. Today it is scarcely known other than to scholars.
According to this apocryphal tradition, Mary was one of seven virgins set to spin wool. For each a different colour was chosen by lot and that of royal purple fell to Mary. It is said that this was the skein of wool that would cover the Holy of Holies in the Temple and which would be "rent in twain" at the Crucifixion.
Gabriel's actions, though painted with the proper restraint typical of icons, are specific: the feet show that he is in movement ­ he is a messenger ­ and his right hand blesses Mary.
The iconographic tradition denotes three separate events comprising Mary's reaction to the news. First, her perturbation: she turns away from Gabriel and raises her hand as though to ward him off. Second, her perplexity and prudence: she turns towards the angel but does not yet accept ("How can this be, seeing I know not a man?") Third, her consent: here we see her press her palm to her breast in a gesture of acceptance while her head bows in assent ("so be it".)
The background includes Mary's house (one thinks of the Philokalia's "house of spiritual architecture") with its doorways and entrances. She sits enthroned, and her feet do not touch the ground but rest on a footstool. The archangel, whose movement is in contrast to her repose, has suddenly appeared as though from the divine realms. The non-realistic, vaguely "cubist" architecture reminds us of the event's supernatural meaning.

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("Mikhail Voyevoda")

1. The imagery is based on Revelations 12:7-9 where a cosmic war takes place between the Archangel Michael and the devil. Michael is shown as the "Arch Strategist" of the Heavenly Hosts (Greek: Archistrategos, Russian: Voyevoda) riding over the devil's flaming abyss wherein are the fallen cities of the world. He is arrayed as a warrior, riding a winged charger, blowing a trumpet, holding the Gospel Book and a censer of holy incense. A rainbow arches over his head.
In the upper border we see Christ the Logos of the Universe before the Hetymasia (the throne prepared for the Second Coming).
2. The Archangel is shown standing, often with slender tapering legs that do not convey weight onto the ground. Such stylization appears in late Byzantine painting (Paleologan art) and continues up to the end of the 19th century. He is dressed in the uniform of a Roman army officer of the 2nd century or, more than a thousand years later, an icon painter's version of such clothing.

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(Gr."Analepsis"; Rus. "Vosneseniye Gospodne")

The feast celebrating Christ's ascent into Heaven is described in Luke's Gospel (24:50-53) and in Acts (1:9-12)'. The feast falls on the fortieth day after Easter.
The composition derives from the pre-Christian imagery of an emperor's apotheosis whereby the deified emperor was shown on a shield carried up by eagles into the realm of the gods.
In the icons, Christ is shown ascending in a glory of golden light born up by angels. He is seated and blesses with both hands in the traditional gesture with two fingers raised. Below, standing on the Earth, are the Mother of God attended by two angels on either side of whom are the apostles. Behind are rocky mountains whose function symbolically emphasize the idea of ascent.
The feast, dating from very early Christian times, appears to have originated at Antioch around 380 AD. The present form of the imagery dates from the 6th century and was in general use throughout Christian churches by the 9th century; since when it has scarcely changed.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (1991, Vol 1. p. 203) "the presence of Mary, the inclusion of Paul, and the use of the 12 apostles rather than the 11 disciples of Scripture are references to the Church, showing the Ascension as a major event in its history".

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(Gr. "Synaxis ton Asomaton"; Rus. "Arkhangelsky Sobor"')

The origins of the Feast probably date from the 10th century; the earliest images are found in the 11th century. These show only two archangels, Gabriel and Michael standing either side of s disc with and image of the Saviour. Later the grouping is enlarged to include a "host" of angels and archangels.
The Greek word Asomatos (a = not, somatos = physical) means here non-bodily or spiritual as opposed to earthly and physical. Various theologians wrote about this. St John of Damascus (10th century) stated that "only God is immaterial" though he went on to say that there are in fact two kinds of immateriality: that of God which is part of His essential nature, whereas spirits, such as angels and souls, are incorporeal through grace. St Gregory of Nyssa, writing in the 4th century, assigned different phases of Creation into incorporeal and corporeal and stated that "the angelic category is asomatos, the other category is mankind".

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("Vassili Veliki")

The great importance of St Basil derives from several features of his personality: his intellect, his political and family connections, his administrative powers, his influence as a writer, his saintliness and his authorship (with St John Chrysostom) of the Christian liturgy still celebrated, unchanged, in Orthodox churches, after 1600 years.
Born in Caesarea in Cappadocia in 329, he was educated in Athens and Constantinople and had traveled in Egypt, the country widely regarded at that time as the source of all knowledge and wisdom. Intellectually, he mastered both pagan classical thought (Homer and Plato) and Christian theology to which he was to be a major contributor. Among his student friends were the future St Gregory Nazansios and the future emperor Julian. One of his brothers was to become St Gregory of Nyssa while another would be Bishop Peter of Sebaste. His sister was St Makrina the Younger.
As did many of his period, Basil gave up what would have been a dazzling career in public life and became a monk. Rather than the solitary (eremetic) life he had seen in Egypt, he founded the communal (koinobitic) brotherhoods in Cappadocia and gave rules for the life of communal work and prayer for both monks and nuns that profoundly influenced the subsequent development of Christian monasticism.
He became bishop of Caesarea in 370 where he died in 379.

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(Gr. "Gennesis tis Theotokon"; Rus. "Rozhdyestvo Bogoroditsa")

The imagery is taken from the apocryphal Book of James or Protevangelion, a late second century "gospel" of the Life of the Virgin. Saint Anna reclines on a bed; she and the newly born child are attended by midwives. Also shown is the scene where Mary's parents Joachim and Anna caress the Child Virgin. Sometimes Joachim is shown looking in on the scene through a window.

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It is supposed that St. Blasius was bishop of Sebaste (in present day Turkey) and that he suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the 4th century. He is mentioned in ninth-century martyrologies and though his tradition is purely legendary, its antiquity gives it weight.

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("Blagoe Molchanie")

Christ depicted as an angel is based on Isaiah 9:5 who refers to "The Messenger ("Angelos") of Great Counsel". He is the "Word in Eternity" and, according to Coomber in The Icon Handbook, (Springfield Illinois, 1995), the iconography is "associated with the Creation and the Plan of Salvation, ordained from Eternity".
Other references from Isaiah are relevant: 42:2 "He shall not...cause his voice to be heard in the streets"; 53:7 "He was afflicted yet opened not his a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth".
Two four pointed stars, one superimposed on the other, are seen within Christ's halo; their eight points are said to symbolize Eternity and the whole of Creation. (The Octave is the symbol of completion).
Christ is clothed as a bishop (cf Hebrews 4:14 "...we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus Christ, Son of God...". Seraphim, six-winged, bodiless and traditionally red, adorn the upper part of his chest and arms. The Seraphim, according to Dionysius the Areopagite, are the highest order of Angels and stand at the entrance into Paradise. Below Christ's navel is a Cherub, also bodiless and regarded as second in the angelic order. Christ holds the traditional Russian eight pointed cross and an inscribed scroll: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
The subject was introduced into the iconographical canon in Russia in the 16th century. At that time Moscow, which had recently declared itself the Third Rome, was a milieu of intense theological and iconographical activity. (See N.P. Kondakov, The Russian Icon, OUP 1928, Chapter Mystical and Didactic Subjects).

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Boris and Gleb were sons of Prince Vladimir the Great Grand Prince of Kiev who, in 988, converted the Slavs to Christianity. After his Death in 1015 a dynastic dispute arose between the two brothers and Svyatopolk, a son of Vladimir by another marriage. The result was the death of Boris and Gleb at the hands of conspirators, but history has laid the responsibility for their murder at the door of Svyatopolk.
Ancient Russian chronicles, recounting the story, tell of the beauty and spiritual purity of the two brothers. Once they saw the inevitable fate that awaited them they accepted death singing psalms and praising God.
Thus they became martyrs for Christianity and the first Russian saints to join the ranks of the martyrs and saints of the Byzantine church.

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According to tradition St Catherine was a virgin of the imperial family in the reign of Maxentius. She was martyred for the defense of Christianity in debate with pagan philosophers. Thus, together with the wheel on which she died and the cross that she died for, we also see symbols of her scholarship and wisdom: books, writing instruments and an armillary sphere.

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("Gospod Vsiederzhitiel", the Lord of All Life)

The composition traditionally follows the elaborate cosmological imagery that came to its full development in Russia at the beginning of the 15th century. According to Vladimir Lossky (see Lossky and Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons, Olten 1952, p. 73) the two curved squares constitute an octagonal star symbolizing the future aeon. Other details such as the throne, the bodiless cherubim and the wheels come from Ezekiel and the Revelations. The symbols of the Four Evangelists are in the corners where one of the squares obtrudes from the mandorla.
This composite iconography is not found in Novgorod or in the Byzantine world. However, we seem to see it in a primitive form on wall paintings in 5th and 6th century Egypt. (For a discussion on this see R. Temple, Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity, Luzac Oriental 2001, pp. 72-175.)

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Here Christ is shown half-length with the gospel in his left hand while he blesses the onlooker with his right.

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(Gr. "Stavrosis"; Rus. "Raspyatie")

At the arms of the Cross: Sun and Moon (SOLNTSE, LUNA). The inscription beneath the main crossbeam: RASPYATIE TSAR SUIN BOZHIY SLAVUIY GOSPODNE "The Crucifixion of the Lord, The King of Glory, the Son of God"). The Spear and the Sponge are beside the body of Christ. Behind his legs we see the walls of the City of Jerusalem. On the left are Mary Magdalene and the Mother of God; on the right St John and the Roman Centurion. Below the Cross the rocky hill of Golgotha with a cave in which we see the skull of Adam. The letters M L R B stand for the Old Slavonic MESTO LOBNOE RAY BUIST: "The Place of the Skull Become Paradise".

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The Greek word "Deesis" means literally "entreaty" and is usually rendered as Intercession. Certainly that was the meaning of the image of Christ Enthroned attended by The Virgin and John the Baptist from the period of the 13th century. However the composition is older and examples are known from the 9th century when the meaning was not so much that of intercession but rather that of honoring Mary and John as the first witnesses of Christ's divinity. The composition soon grew into the so-called Extended Deesis or Great Deesis where many further intercessors were included. The main row of the 15th century iconostases in Russian churches included altogether 14 saints ranked either side of Christ, facing inwards towards him.
As was often the case, the composition is an adaptation of the image from pre-Christian, imperial times where one saw the emperor enthroned between two interceding courtiers.

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(Gr."Koimesis"; Rus. "Ouspenye")

The Dormition ("Falling Asleep") of the Virgin is one of the "Great Feasts" of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on August 15. It is described in historical records from Constantinople dating back to the 6th century.
Artistic images certainly date from the 10th century though earlier representations may have existed that are now lost. Icons follows the tradition laid down a thousand years ago when the iconography, based on apocryphal texts going back to James the Brother of the Lord, was established. According to the legend, the twelve apostles were present at the death bed of the Virgin, together with four early Christian writers (recognisable in the icon by their bishop's robes decorated with crosses) James, Dionysius the Areopagite, Hierotheos and Timotheos of Ephesus. In the buildings in the background are mourning women. Sometimes the apostles are shown twice: grouped around the bier, and (more rarely) transported to the scene on clouds accompanied by angels. Archangels are present in the foreground in the lower left and right corners while, in the centre foreground, the Archangel Michael threatens the non-believer Jephonias who dared to touch the holy bier. (The story goes that his hands were cut off and later miraculously restored when he converted.)
Behind the bier stands Christ surrounded in the aureole signifying heavenly glory. The Cherubim (in blue), the seraphim (red) and golden stars refer to the hierarchy of cosmic powers, described by Dionysios the Areopagite, who serve the Lord. Christ receives the soul of the mother of God. (Here, the imagery reverses the traditional picture of mother and son.)

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(Gr. "Kyriki ton Baion"; "vkhod vo Ierusalem")

Christ is shown, according to the gospel account, riding a horse or colt accompanied by a group of his disciples. A crowd of citizens stand outside the gates of the city to greet him in the manner of the imperial "adventus" when leading dignitaries came out to meet a visiting emperor.
The ancestry of the design can be traced to Byzantine icons and beyond that to miniature ivory carving. An example is in the Museum fur Spätantike und Byzantinische Kunst, Berlin. Already in the tenth century, all the elements of the composition are present in detail.

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("Ognennoye Voskhozdenie Iliy Proroka")

We see the Old Testament prophet Elijah ascending to Heaven in a fiery chariot as described in 2 Kings 2:11-13. As he departs he drops his mantle to his successor, Elisha. Often related scenes are included: Elijah dividing the Jordan River by striking it with his mantle and Elijah fed by a raven beside the Brook of Cherith (1 Kings 17:4-6).
Elijah was important to Russian peasants because he was believed to control storms and lightning. Thunder was caused by the wheels of his fiery chariot as it rolled across the cloudy skies. He is considered to take over some of the attributes of the ancient Pagan god Perun who was associated with fire and lightning in pre-Christian times.

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("Georgi Pobyedonosets")

The St. George iconography is an elaborate cosmological image. The Divine world (Heaven) is represented by the quadrant in the upper corner from which emerges the hand of God; in this case shown in the person of Christ whose inscription, IC XC, is immediately above. Below is the Firmament, represented by the gold or white ground and below again the spiritual warrior George who, riding a horse and taming the dragon brings order to the lower forces of Creation. Below the dragon are the earth (matter) and the dark cave of the lower world (Hell). For a fuller discussion of the iconography's cosmic symbolism see Richard Temple, 'Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity', Element Books, 1990).
St. George became the patron of saint of England (replacing King Edward the Confessor whose shrine is still in Westminster Abbey) when the cult was brought back from Palestine by Crusaders in the 11th century. He is widely venerated throughout Europe in many countries.
According to traditional legends, George was a 3rd century Roman military officer who died a Christian martyr. The story goes that he rescued the princess who had to be given in sacrifice to the dragon. St. George came by on his white charger and saved her just before she was devoured by the beast. In some versions the icon shows this narrative part of the event with the king and queen watching the scene from the city's battlements. In others the image is reduced to its symbolic elements and the‘story is not illustrated.

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(Gr. "Joannis Prodromos"; Rus. "Ioann Predtecha")

St John the Forerunner depicted as an angel comes from the quotation from isaiah, found at the beginning of the gospel of St Mark "Behold, I send my messenger (Greek angelos) before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee". The type originated in Byzantium in the 13th century and was popular throughout Asia Minor. His shaggy hair and wild animal skins for clothes refer to his forty days in the desert.

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("Obraz Nerukotvorrenuiy" literally: "Image Not-Made-by-Hands")

The theme originates with the legend of King Abgar of Edessa who, being ill and hearing of Christ's miraculous powers, sent his ambassadors to Jerusalem to obtain a cure. Jesus was too busy to come but, finding the image of his face on a towel with which he had wiped himself, sent the cloth to the king. Abgar was duly healed and the icon, not having been painted, acquired its strange title.
A further legend tells that the icon was immured in its niche above the city gate when the Persian army approached. Many centuries later the space was unbricked and the icon was found intact with a candle still burning before it.

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St Sergius is revered by the Slavs as the father of Russian mysticism and the founder of monasteries, most notably the Trinity-Sergius Lavra at Sergeyev (formerly Zagorsk). Born in 1315, he became a monk in 1335. He became so noted for his piety that he was consulted by Grand Prince Dimitri on the eve of the Battle of Kulikovo Polye (1380). This event is regarded as a miracle and, historically, it is the moment when the tide of invading Mongols, who had so oppressed the Slavs for two hundred years, was first turned back.
The vision of the Mother of God to Sergius is one of the earliest such incidents recorded in Russian hagiography. In the icon we see St Sergius and his companion the Venerable Micah gesturing in wonder before the Mother of God who has appeared in their cell accompanied by the apostles Paul and John. The miniature roundel refers to the monastery founded by Sergius and to the famous icon painted by one of Sergius' followers in contemplative prayer, Andrei Rublyov.

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(Gr. "Gennisis"; Rus. "Rozhdyestvo")

In accordance with iconographic tradition, only part of the imagery is taken from the gospel of St Luke. The main elements are found in the 3rd century apocryphal Book of James or Protevangelion and also, according to Leonid Ouspensky (see Lossky and Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons, Olten 1952), from the Kontakion of the appointed festival. Mary gives birth to Christ in a cave in the desert. On the left we see the journey of the kings; on the right the "Annunciation to the Shepherds", in the lower right midwives bathe the newly born child and on the lower left "the Temptation of Joseph": the devil, disguised as a shepherd, tempts Joseph regarding the virginity of Mary.
The liturgical feast was developed, both in the west and in the east, by the end of the 4th century. All the main features of the imagery are in place by the 6th century.

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("Nilokai Chudotvoryets")

St Nicholas is the most widely revered saint in Orthodoxy. The Russians have a saying "If anything happens to God, we have always got St Nicholas". According to the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Kazhdan ed., 1991, Vol 2, p. 1469) his cult, which only became popular in the 9th century, gave him a prominence "second only to the Virgin".
The supposed historical Nicholas was a bishop in the 4th century. According to tradition, he was present at the Council of Nicaea where he attacked the heretic Arius so violently that fellow bishops had to restrain him. Some thought this behavior was unsuitable but legend recounts that Christ and the Mother of God appeared to Nicholas, that night in a dream, endorsing his conduct. This vision is often referred to by the miniatures of Christ and the Mother of God depicted on either side of the saint. The events from the life of St Nicholas, seen on biographical icons of the saint, amalgamate miracles from the lives of several historical and non-historical persons, most notably the 6th century St Nicholas of Sion.
In Russia St Nicholas, or Nikolai, is often depicted as a "little Russian", a type found among the peasants: simple, wise, shy, kindly and deeply religious.
In 1087 the saint's relics were stolen by Genoese merchants and brought to Bari in southern Italy where his shrine is today.
In icons he is traditionally depicted as a bishop wearing a stole decorated with crosses. He blesses the onlooker with his right hand and holds the open gospel in his left. The high-domed forehead, short curly beard, small mouth and large ears give him an easily recognisable and distinctive appearance.
His feast is celebrated on 21st December.

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Her full religious title is "Paraskevi of Ikonium, Great Martyr." Her feast day is 28th October and she is also greatly venerated in Russia, especially in Novgorod. No certain historical facts about her are known and, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, the origins of her cult are obscure. The name, in both Russia and Greek means Friday.
By tradition she is the patron of women and of markets and trade. (In Russia Friday was market day). Theologians suppose her to have been martyred during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian (304-305) for her fearless preaching of the Christian gospel. Legend tells us that, when arrested and asked her name, she would only give that of Christ: "it is necessary to give first the name of eternal life and only then the name of temporary existence."

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(Gr. "Pentekosti"; Rus. "Soshestvie Svyatogo Dukha")

The Apostles are depicted in two groups seated on two curved benches. In the foreground are Peter and Paul. Tongues of flame emerge from the opening in the heavens at the top of the icon and descend onto the heads of the twelve Apostles. Below, an old man inscribed with the name Kosmos, wearing royal robes and a crown, is the personification of the lower world. He holds a cloth containing the twelve scrolls representing the teaching of the twelve apostles.

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(Gr. "Hypapante"; Rus. "Sretenie Gospodne")

The Mother of God hands the infant Jesus to Simeon the Prophet in the event that inspired the "Nunc Dimitis". ("Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace"). On the left is Joseph and, standing behind Simeon, Anna the Prophetess. The architectural background with its baldaquin and arches represents the Temple at Jerusalem within which the scene takes place. (Luke 2: 25-28).
The presentation is one of the "great feasts" of the Orthodox liturgical calendar (February 14th). The feast originates from ancient times and is known from at least the fourth century. Its iconographic representation was fully established by the ninth century.
The prominence given to St Simeon stems from some ancient liturgical texts where he is described as "the greatest of the prophets: more even than Moses..."he who has seen God" ". For this reason he is known in Old Slavonic as "Bogoprimyets") the "God-Receiver".

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(Old English: "Candlemass"; Gr."Eisodos tis Theotokon", Rus. Vvedenye vo Khram, "Entrance into the Temple")

One of the five Marian "Great Feasts" (21 November). Its source is from two apocryphal gospels, the Protevangelion, also known as the Book of James, and the Pseudo-Matthew.
The feast of the Virgin's presentation, which falls on 21 November, is one of the five Marian "Great Feasts". Its source is from two apocryphal books, the Protevangelion, also known as the Book of James, and the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew.
The occasion depicted is the ancient Jewish custom of presenting a male or female child to a priest at the temple soon after birth. In Orthodoxy, Mary's presentation foreshadows the Nativity. The three year old Mary is presented by her parents Joachim and Anna into the temple where she is received by the Zacharias the high priest. She was on of seven virgins each holding a candle and each set to spin skeins of wool of different colour. Mary was given the royal purple that would become the veil of the temple. Mary subsequently ascends a seven-stepped stairway on top of which she is "fed by angels".

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The icon combines two different events separated in time by a period of four hundred years but celebrated on the same day in the church calendar.
According to the vision granted only to St Andrew the Holy Fool (died 956), who is seen with his disciple Epiphanius, in the icon seen gesturing, below right, the Mother of God, accompanied by archangels, the twelve apostles, bishops, holy women, monks and martyrs, spreads her veil in protection over the congregation.
Below, centre, are St Romanos the Melodist and his choir attended by the Emperor Leo the Wise together with the Empress and the Patriarch of Constantinople. These are historical figures of the 6th century.
In the lower right corner we see the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God to St Romanos.
The icon combines events dating from the 6th and 10th century that took place in the no longer existing Church of Blachernae in Constantinople. However, the cult and its corresponding image are only found in Russia from the 14th century. The Feast of the Pokrov is celebrated on 14th October (1st Oct. "old style"), the day traditionally regarded by Russians as the first day of winter.

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("Voskresenie Lazarevo")

The icon traditionally depicts the scene recorded in the gospel of St John where Jesus, accompanied by a group of apostles, tells the dead Lazarus to "come forth". Lazarus is shown standing in the mouth of the dark cave wrapped in grave clothes. His sisters, Martha and Mary kneel at the feet of the Saviour.

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(Old English: "Harrowing of Hell"; Gr. "Anastasis"; Rus. "Bogoyavlenie i Voskreseniye")

This is the Orthodox Church's greatest feast, celebrating Easter, and showing Christ Descending into Hell and rescuing Adam and Eve from Tombs together with kings David and Solomon (identifiable by their crowns), St John the Baptist and other Old Testament figures. All of this represents the general resurrection of humanity.
In later icons one sees, in the lower left corner, the Jaws of Hell from which Adam and Eve and all those who are saved emerge, winding upwards towards the Gates of Paradise (upper right corner) where stands the Good Thief. Within Paradise we see Moses, Abraham and Aaron. In the lower right we see Christ calling the Apostles by Lake Galilee. In the upper left the Shroud and the Empty Tomb. Christ is shown twice: Descending into Hell and Ascending into Heaven.
The event itself, scarcely referred to in the New Testament, is based on the apocryphal, and today little, known Book of Nicodemus. This was long thought to date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries but recent scholarship suggests a later date, i.e. 8th century. (see A. Kartsonis Anastasis, the Making of an Image, Princeton 1986)
The images around the central picture are the Festivals of the Church showing scenes from the life of the Virgin and from the life of Christ. Someone who knows the Bible well could help you identify the events among which usually are: Birth of the Virgin, Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, Annunciation, Birth of Christ, Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Christ Teaching the Doctors, Baptism, Raising of Lazarus, Entry into Jerusalem, Transfiguration, Ascension, Trinity. Dormition of the Virgin, Elevation of the Cross.

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Saint Spyridon of Trimyphunteia was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd and is traditionally depicted wearing the beehive shepherd's hat of antiquity. He became a bishop and in 325 attended the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea. Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (10th century), wrote an account of his Life, and compared Saint Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his virtue and hospitality. It is elsewhere recounted that the saint set sail by ship for Alexandria where he put an end to the pagan worship of idols. He died on Cyprus in 348 where his relics were kept for over three hundred years. Following an Arab raid in the seventh century; the saint's body was carried to Constantinople, where it was kept until the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453. In 1456 it was taken to Corfu where it is venerated to this day and of which island he is patron.

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The Saint and martyr is traditionally shown as a Roman general (stratelates). According to St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-400), on discovering that he was a Christian, the military authorities first caused him to recant, and then set him free, whereupon he was accused of burning down a pagan temple. Arrested again, he was ordered to apostatize. He was. then tortured and responded by reciting the Psalms. Saint Theodore the Tyro (recruit) is almost certainly the same person as Theodore Stratelates.

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(Gr. "Metamorphosis" Rus. "Preobrazheniye")

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and taketh them into a high mountain apart, (2) And was transformed before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as light. (3) And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking unto him. (4) Then answered Peter and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Moses and one for Elias. (5) While he yet spake, behold, a mighty cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (6) And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face and were sore afraid. (7) And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid. (8) And when they had lifted up their ayes, they saw no man, save Jesus only." (Matthew XVII, 1-9, A.V.).
The scene, based on the New Testament text quoted above, (it is also in Mark IX, 2-9, 1-9 and Luke IX, 28-36). In the upper part of the icon is Christ transfigured in glory with Elijah and Moses. Below, Peter James and John are seen in attitudes of dismay.
The event, witnessed by only three apostles, of Christ's appearance in shining glory, i.e. in the attributes of his divinity, has never ceased to draw the attention of Christianity's great saints, theologians, liturgists and artists. Among writers from as early as the 4th century, perhaps the richest period for spirituality and mystical theology, we find the names of the author of the Liturgy Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and Saint Andrew of Crete (7th century) writing homilies and sermons on the Metamorphosis. It is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, second only to Easter and Christmas. The liturgical feast is thought to have been first instituted in Constantinople from "well before the 8th century"; at least such is the cautious opinion of scholars, but its presence illustrated in mosaic in both Ravenna and in Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai in the 6th century suggests a considerably earlier date.

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(Gr. "Philogenia"; Rus. "Svyetaya Troitsa")

Icons of the Trinity depict the event recounted in Genesis where "three young men" appear before Abraham and his wife Sarah and foretell, despite their advanced age, the birth of their son. Early Christian theologians interpreted Abraham's use of the singular - he addresses the three visitors as "My Lord" - as an epiphany or divine manifestation of God; in this case in his triune form. Three Angels are seated at a table; in the background a tree; buildings on the left, a hill on the right; with these simple elements Russian iconography symbolically depicts the Trinity as the three young men who appeared to the Patriarch (praotets) Abraham at the Oak Of Mamre, as recorded in chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis.
Russians generally do not distinguish the three persons of the Trinity in this type by inscription, though some understand them thus: Christ at the centre, above whom is the tree, signifying the wood of the cross; the Father to the left before a building symbolizing the Church; the Holy Spirit on the right below a hill signifying spiritual ascent.
The image of the Trinity, that corresponds most fully to the teaching of the Church as regards both its content and its artistic expression, is to be found in the greatest of works, known as the Trinity by Andrei Rublyov, painted by him in the monastery of the Trinity and St. Sergius, probably between 1408 and 1425; it is now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Formerly, painters stressed the narrative elements of the story and included the figures of Abraham and Sarah and the sacrificial calf. Rublyov's composition dispensed with these and reduced the design to its most basic elements thereby giving priority to its mystical and symbolic meaning. His icon from then on was the prototype on which later painters modeled their work.

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Legend tells that the original work was a portrait of the Mother of God painted by St Luke during her lifetime. The Virgin gazes either into the distance or at the viewer holding the child Christ seated on her left arm while she gestures towards him with her right hand. The historical origins are obscure but the type was known in the period before iconoclasm.
The Tuesday procession of the Hodegetria icon kept on the Hodegon monastery in Constantinople was one of the memorable events of the city recorded by medieval visitors and pilgrims.
The prototype for the any one of the Russian "Smolensk" icons would have been one of the eleventh century copies made in Constantinople of the Hodegetria Virgin that came to the Slavs in the retinue of the Byzantine imperial Princess Anna who married Prince Vsevelod of Chernigov in 1046. In 1101 it was installed in the Cathedral of Smolensk by Prince Vladimir Monomakh. The icon was brought to Moscow in 1308 and returned to Smolensk again in 1456. Many miracles are attributed to the work of the icon, among them the defeat of Napoleon at Borodino after it was paraded before the Russian Army in 1812, and many copies made in the nineteenth century abound.

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The iconography of the Tikhvine Mother of God (that protected the city of that name) developed in Russian in the 15th century as a variant of the more formal "Smolensk" Mother of God which, in its turn, derived from the Byzantine prototype known as "Hodegetria".

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The composition follows that of the great icon painted in Constantinople in the late eleventh century and brought to Russia shortly after, since when it has been the chief palladium of the Russian state, protecting the Russian people, delivering them from enemies and performing many miracles. The Virgin's glance varies; sometimes it is down, towards her son, sometimes outwards towards the onlooker. The composition, in the embrace of the two figures, characterizes tenderness (Russian: "Oumileinye").
A number of copies of the Vladimirskaya were made in Russia in the 15th and 16th centuries. Apart from the direction of the look, there is little or no variation in either the colour scheme the composition. The emotional tone, however, can vary considerably and is achieved through the subtlest alterations. In some examples, through the slightly paler and warmer tonality of the ochre or the almond shaped eyes of the Virgin, the aspect of tenderness is enhanced, whereas in other examples we feel more a grave and pensive mood of the Virgin.
According to ancient tradition, the original version was painted by St Luke who made a portrait of the Virgin during her lifetime. On seeing it, so the story goes, she said "In this image is my grace and power" and then quoted Luke's gospel "All generations shall call me blessed".

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SS Zossim and Savvati [Sabbas] were founders in the early 15th century of the Solovki Monastery on the shores of the White Sea. This thriving religious centre with its fortress monastery played an important role, politically, economically and theologically throughout Russian history. In pre-Revolutionary times its holy shrines attracted 1000 pilgrims a week. Later, in the soviet era it became a prison. Today it is once more functioning as a monastery and a pilgrimage centre.

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