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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Athos Holy Mount

8.5 Bema doors
Chelandari Monastery
Wood, left door 165 x 55 cm, right door 150 x 50 cm


The Original New Testament

These two solid doors form a pointed curve at the top and have both painted and carved decoration. The carved ornaments are very elaborate and the gilded relief areas stand out against a flat red or blue ground. At the bottom and in the middle of the central strip between the doors are rings holding bunches of leaves, and at the top a pear-shaped ornament, while dainty tendrils with palmette-like leaves and many-petalled rosettes coil slantwise over the rest of the central member. The outer edges of each door are defined by a rope-like ornament, followed by a broad band with two pairs of intertwining leafy tendrils embellished with rosettes and palmettes. In the arched upper section, this band is limited to a single pair of tendrils, which twists and twines around palmette-like ornaments, is enriched at regular intervals with half-palmettes, and every so often forms interlacing ornaments. On the rest of the interior surface, at the bottom there is a square area defined by a fine rope-like ornament and filled with a disk in the centre, heart-shaped palmettes in the corners, and lotus flowers in the middle of the sides. At the top, similar rope-like ornaments frame a small triangular section containing a representation of a prophet - David on the left door, Solomon on the right. Immediately below this, a larger space contains opposed bunches of stylised leaves flanking a boss in the form of a firewhirl. In the middle is the principal painted subject, the Annunciation, with Gabriel on the left door and the Virgin on the right within a high-relief frame forming a canopy. More specifically, on two small consoles projecting from the surface of each door stand spiral colonnettes with rings in the middle and at either end. These in turn support two larger consoles, and the whole structure culminates in the canopy proper. The latter has a mulitlobed opening on the front, a lobed window at either side, a double window at the top, two-lobed pointed openings on the narrow sides, and the exterior surface of the pointed roof imitates tiling.

Apart from their elaborate carved decoration, these bema doors are also interesting in that they are connected with Mitrophanovic, a monk of Chelandari and an artist who painted frescoes, icons, and iconostases both in Chelandari and in Serbia (Bogdanovic - Djuric - Medakovic 1978, pp. 155ff.). In fact, the paintings on the iconostasis to which these doors belong are the oldest known works by this artist, and the inscription mentions Mitrophanovic, the donor, and the date 1615/16.

The low relief, the stylised rendering of the decorative subjects, and various other details place these bema doors in the early decades of the seventeenth century; but they are chiefly characterised by the choice and composition of the themes and the addition of the canopy, which hints at western models.

Bibliography: Corovic-Ljubinkovic 1965, p. 102, pl. XLIX. Bogdanovic - Djuric - Medakovic 1978, p. 156.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Chelandari
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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