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Athos Holy Mount

Portable Icons
2.90 St John the Baptist and scenes from his life
Docheiariou Monastery
Wood, egg tempera, 53 x 43.7 cm
By the hand of Theodoros


The Original New Testament

The icon's subject matter is divided into two parts. The first, in the centre, depicts John the Baptist in the wilderness and the second shows scenes from his life in a band running round the central figure, an iconographic scheme already common in Byzantine times.

In the centre St John is portrayed winged and in full-length in a rugged landscape. Beside his left foot is the vessel containing his head, and on the other side is the dedicatory inscription (1696): ΔΕΗCIC ΤΟΥ ΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝΟCΙΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΛΟΓΙΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΑΓΙΟΥ ΠΡΟΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΚΥΡ ΑΝΑCΤΑCΙΟΥ. ΕΤΙ Χ(ΡΙCTO)Y ΑΧ Η ΧΕΙΡ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΥ (Supplication of the servant of God the most reverend learned and holy hegumen Anastasios. In the year 1696 by the hand of Theodoros (Chatzidakis 1987, p. 304).

Nine scenes from the Baptist's life are shown, in no particular order of content. In the top left corner is the Annunciation to Zacharias, in the top right the Meeting of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and between them the Baptism of Christ, quite out of chronological sequence with the other two. Much of the lower part of the icon is devoted to the Beheading of the Baptist, which in combination with Herod's feast creates a broad scene with a host of figures. Two other themes play an important role in this fine icon. The first is that of the young Baptist being led into the wilderness by an angel, an event dawn from the Apocryphal gospels and clearly personally chosen by the artist to emphasize the striving for higher things under Divine guidance involved in the anchoretic life. The other theme is related to the death of the Forerunner, that is his burial by his disciples and the first and second discovery of his head. These three scenes, familiar from monumental art and also from Byzantine icons and manuscripts (LCI, 7 (1974), pp. 164-90. Chatzidakis 1988, pp. 91-2), have been placed on the left of the icon as a group, their unity stressed by the exact repetition of the vessel with the head in all three episodes.

The icon comes from the Byzantine Church of the Prodrome in the area of the vineyards of the Monastery of Docheiariou. Until recently it was kept in the Church of Hagioi Pantes and Onouphrios, and was mentioned by Smyrnakis at the beginning of this century. The donor, Anastasios, appears in another inscription as the sponsor for the restoration (1695) of the church from which this icon comes (Smyrnakis 1903, pp. 569-71).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Docheiareiou
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

Learned Freeware


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