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Athos Holy Mount

8.1 Lectern
15th c.
Vatopedi Monastery
Wood, 117 x 48 cm


The Original New Testament

The exhibition contains one of two lecterns which are the most important items of ecclesiastical furniture in Vatopedi Monastery. It is an artistic masterpiece, which adds one more notable work to the few Byzantine wood-carvings that survive.

The body of the lectern is octagonal and stands on eight short legs. Each of the eight sides is divided into three compartments containing representations or decorative subjects; which means a total of twenty-four compartments in three rows, separated horizontally and vertically by strips of mainly vegetal motifs. More specifically, the horizontal strips are decorated with tendrils with fleshy leaves and the vertical ones consist of a pole with a leafy shoot twining around it, embellished with flowers, fruit, and a few animals. The principal decoration, however, consists in the relief panels within the compartments. These are rectangles measuring approximately 25 x 13 cm in the top row, 29 x 13 cm in the middle row, and 30 x 13 cm in the bottom row. On the other lectern (not exhibited here), the iconographical cycle of the Akathistos Hymn is illustrated, each panel representing one verse. The decoration on the lectern in the exhibition, however, is more varied in its thematic repertory and arrangement. Both horizontally and vertically, each panel illustrating a scene is flanked by a panel with a decorative subject. Twelve panels contain various combinations of intersecting or tangential circles, with the spaces between the circles either being decorated with rosettes and tiny bosses or forming fretted ornaments set against a red or green ground. The panel is missing from one compartment; the rest depict the Annunciation (in two panels); the Mother of God as the True Vine; the Hospitality of Abraham; Jacob's Ladder; David; Balaam the Soothsayer; the Three Youths; Daniel; and the Apostles Peter and Paul. The motifs on the horizontal and vertical strips are rendered somewhat summarily without the finesse that characterises the panels, whose elaborate detail recalls miniature ivory carvings.

Tradition has it that both lecterns were the gifts of Andronicos Palaeologos, the Despot of Thessaloniki who handed the city over to the Venetians in 1423 and became a monk under the name of Acacios (Arkadios, p. 277). As regards the various versions of where Andronicos went after 1423, it seems to be generally accepted that he became a monk at Vatopedi; and Uspenskij's information that a chronicle written in 1570 included the two lecterns among Andronicos' gifts to the monastery should be taken very seriously. This reference offers considerable support for the view that Andronicos had special links with Vatopedi, and also adds further weight to the theory that the lecterns, which must have been made especially for the monastery, date to Andronicos' time. It should also be noted that Ioannis Komnenos, in his Prokynetarion for the Holy Mountain of Athos, includes among the works 'worth seeing' the lecterns, which the monks must have shown him as such when he visited Mount Athos in 1698.

Bibliography: Komnenos 1701, p. 51. Uspenskij 1880, p. 32. Theophilos Vatopedinos 1972, p. 104. Vatopedi 1994, pp. 86-7. Moutsopoulos 1995, p. 61, fig. 19. Nikonanos 1996, p. 542-4, figs. 488-92. Arkadios, p. 277 (forthcoming).

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Vatopedi
15th 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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