Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.76 Part of the epistyle of an iconostasis with the Dodekaorton
16th c.
Pantokrator Monastery
Wood, egg tempera, 300 x 57 cm


The Original New Testament

Together with three more sections of the same epistyle that survive in Pantokrator Monastery, this piece originally came from the sixteenth-century iconostasis in the katholikon (Tsigaridas 1978, p. 203, pls. 22-4). The epistyle, which survives in its entirety, contains a total of thirty-one scenes, making it one of the most thematically rich surviving epistyles on Mount Athos. The four sections depict scenes from the circles of the Dodekaorton, Christ's Passion and Anastasis, Pentecost, and the Life of the Virgin, all of them known from the art of the Palaeologan period, and adopted into the thematic repertory of the Cretan School both on Mount Athos - the katholikon of the Great Lavra (1535), among others - and on Meteora - the katholika of the Great Meteoron (1552) and Doussiko Monastery (1557).

Twelve scenes from the Pentecost cycle are represented on the section of the epistyle exhibited here, in the following order: 'Peace be unto you', The Incredulity of Thomas, the 'Chairete' to the Myrrhophores, the Healing of the Paraletic, Mid-Pentecost, the Woman of Samaria, the Healing of the Blind Man, Christ Walking on the Sea of Galilee, Noli Me Tangere, the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Koimesis.

The subjects are depicted in compartments defined by carved relief arches supported on colonettes, the spandrels decorated with rosette-like ornaments sprouting three three-lobed leaves. The epistyle is crowned by a wide band consisting of four carved wooden mouldings. The first consists of stylised double leaves similar to those on the little arches; the second carries a kind of bead-and-reel ornament; the third is covered with an undulating tendril enclosing triple leaves; and the fourth, which is almost as wide as the other three put together, is ornamented with a band of palmettes.

Iconographically speaking, the scenes (particularly the Noli Me Tangere, Ascension, Pentecost, and Koimesis) follow the strict, spare iconographical format of the Cretan School in the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth (Chatzidakis 1985, pl. 202), while certain iconographical details link them with the Palaeologan tradition of painting.

However, certain other features - the typology and the iconic types of the figures, with their coarse, crude faces rendered with sharp chiaroscuro after the manner of wall painting, and the drapery, with its bright illuminated areas defined by restless outlines on the monochrome ground of the garments, disrupting the unity of the body - distance the epistyle from the artistic manners of the Cretan School and link it with the products of Macedonian workshops of the sixteenth century, such as the wall paintings in the Church of the Panagia Palaioforitissa (second half of the sixteenth century) and the Church of St Cerycos (1589) in Veroia (Papazotos 1994, pls. 87, 96β).

On the basis of what has been said above, this writer believes that, from an iconographical point of view and also as regards his synthetic predilections, the anonymous painter of the epistyle adopts the spare, strictly organised, symmetrical format of works of the Cretan School; but in his artistic approach he differs radically from the Cretan School's manners and opts for those favoured by sixteenth-century Macedonian workshops. We may thus conclude that he was active on Mount Athos in the second or third quarter of the sixteenth century, and came into fruitful contact there with works of the Cretan School, which influenced him chiefly at an iconographical level.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Pantokrator
16th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Learned Freeware


Reference address :