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Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.83 Deesis and Saints in four bands
Skete of St Anne
Wood, egg tempera, 45.9 x 37.5 cm


The Original New Testament

An unusual small icon depicting a multitude of figures, with Russian inscriptions, donated by the Metropolitan Arsenios, formerly of Elassona according to the inscription on the back 'ΤΑΠΕΙΝΟC ΑΡCENIOC ΑΡΧΙΕΠΙCΚΟΠΟC COYZΔΕΛΙΟΥ Τ(ΗC) ΜΕΓΑΛ(ΗC) ΡΩCI(AC) KAI ΠΡΩΗ(Ν) ΕΛΑCONOC ECTEIΛΑ ΤΗΝ ΠΑΡΟΥCΑΝ ΑΓΙΑ ΕΙΚΟΝΑ ΕΙC THN ΑΓΙΑΝ ΑΝΝΑ ΑΠΟ ΜΕΓΑΛΗC ΡΩCI(AC). Ω ΔΕCΠΟΙΝΑ ΠΑΝΥΜΝΗΤΕ ΜΗ(ΤΗΡ) Θ(Ε)ΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΛΟΓΟΥ. ΑΓΓΕΛΟΙ, ΑΠΟCTOΛΟΙ, ΠΡΟΦΗΤΑΙ, ΙΕΡΑΡΧΑΙ-ΜΑΡ(ΤΥPEC) MAPTYP(EC) OCIOI K(AI) OCIAI-ΠΡΕCBEYCATE ΠΡΟC K(YPI)ON ΥΠΕΡ ΕΜΟΥ ΑPCENIOY TOY TAΠΕΙΝΟΥ ΤΑΧΑ ΚΑΙ ΑΡΧΙΘΥΤΟΥ ΖΡΚΘ'. (I, the humble Arsenios, Archbishop of Suzdal in Great Russia, and formerly of Elassona, sent this holy icon to St Anne's from Great Russia. O Virgin Praised by all, Mother of the Word of God. Angels, Apostles, Prophets, Hierarch-Martyrs, Martyrs and Saints intercede with the Lord for me the humble and supposed high priest Arsenios [7129 =1621]). The central section with its four bands is surrounded by a border with figures in imitation of silver-revetted Byzantine icons.

The Hospitality of Abraham occupies the centre of the upper border, with Abraham and Sarah right and left respectively, but outside the closed composition of the Holy Trinity, where they are usually included (Mouriki 1962-3, pls. 34-5). Two cherubim in different colours and two Archangels enhance the central scene of the Hospitality.

It is of course not by chance that the Deesis is placed in the highest of the four bands, just under the Hospitality. The correspondence between the frontal Christ and the middle angel, and between the Virgin, Baptist and angels and the other persons in the Hospitality, directly links the Old Testament figures with the world of the New Testament, starting with Christ himself and extending to the Apostles ranged to the right and left in the same band.

In the other three bands the saints are depicted frontally, with their names over their heads. The side borders contain unnamed saints, and the subject matter of the icon is completed with five busts of saints along the lower border.

This iconographic arrangement in bands derives from the illustration of the menologia, or church calendars, (Vocotopoulos 1991, p. 78) and is found in other Athonite icons of the same period, usually representing menologia. Twelve such icons-menologia, unpublished, are preserved in the Monastery of St Paul. The donor Arsenios, known from other donations of icons to the monasteries of Mount Athos (Vocotopoulos 1991-2, p. 169), certainly commissioned this icon from a Moscow workshop, as stated on the accompanying inscription. This workshop, however, was well aquainted with both the tradition of the Byzantine menologia and the types of the fifteenth-century Cretan School, as can be seen from the Andreas Ritzos icon in Tokyo (Vassilaki 1990, pp. 80-1), which has the same subject matter in the border.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Skete of St. Anne
17th 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

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