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19 October 2018

Unknown Russian icons at the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine and their iconography

Zograf
Unknown Russian icons at the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine and their iconography

The Holy Lavra of St. Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine houses twelve two-sided icons hereto unpublished in academic literature. All of these icons are identical in size and measure 28 × 22.5 cm, with a frame measuring another 2 cm, and originally had two incisions each. The bordure was painted red after they were framed except the icons depicting the Nativity-Baptism and AscensionPentecost, which have silver-colored edges, as the same color was used for their frames. All of these icons have inscriptions in the Russian recension of Old Church Slavonic set in red lettering, which are usually placed in the upper sections of the icons. According to their subject, these dozen two-sided icons can be classified into three groups, with the depicted events belonging to both movable and fixed feast cycles in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar. The icon whose sides have been labeled 1a and 1b depicts scenes from the Life of the Virgin: Nativity of Mary and the Presentation of Mary into the Temple. The icons labeled 2—8a depict scenes from the Dodekaorton (Twelve Great Feasts). The icons labeled 8b—12 illustrate the weeks of the Pentecostarion. Icon no. 12 depicts the First Ecumenical Council (commemorated by the Orthodox Church on the seventh Sunday after Pascha, after the Sunday of the Blind Man) and the remaining six Ecumenical Councils. They also depict the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Second Council of Nicaea), observed by the Orthodox Church on the first Sunday of the Great Lent. This suggests that the icons discussed in this paper are not only identical in size, but also comprise a cycle of interconnected subjects. Iconographical subjects on the reverse sides of these icons are also interconnected in both the liturgical and heortological sense, but as a whole these twelve icons comprise a logical and rounded heortological-liturgical sequence. A brief overview of the history of relations between Palestinian monks of Slavic origin (primarily Serbs) with Russia could elucidate the time frame and circumstances in which these twelve icons made their way to the Monastery of St. Sabbas. The presence of Serbian monks from the Holy Land has been noted in Russia in the first half of the 16th century (from 1548 onwards) and the number of Serbs traveling to the Orthodox empire on alms collecting missions grew in time. In their efforts to consolidate the position of the Monastery of St. Sabbas the Sanctified and its metochion, the Monastery of the Holy Archangels, in the Holy Land, the Russian emperors and boyars from the imperial entourage sent funds to Palestine on their own initiative. However, after 1605 the conflicts at the imperial court severed the ties between Moscow and Slavic monks in Palestine. Due to these circumstances, the time frame for the creation and arrival of these twelve icons at the Monastery of St. Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine should be limited to the period 1548—1605.

Source: Kukiaris Silas (2016). Unknown Russian icons at the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine and their iconography. Zograf. Vol. 40: 117-140

Source web-site: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-1361/2016/0350-13611640117K.pdf

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