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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.86 Orarion
Iviron Monastery
Velvet, brocade, silk, silver parcel-gilt
Length 276 cm, width 11 cm


The Original New Testament

This vestment is made of red velvet, lined with a multi-coloured brocade fabric and finished with tassels of red and blue silk. Stitched to it, to cover most of the surface of the material, are twenty-one (originally twenty-two) appliquι round medallions alternating with twenty-two oblong metal sheets, the long sides of the latter cut away to accommodate the curved edges of the former. Sewn to the neck-piece are two more sheets, for practical reasons hinged, each decorated with a filigree cross containing the inscription 'Jesus Christ Conquers'. These two metal sheets are engraved with the following inscriptions: a) '+ ΔΙΑ ΣΥΝΔΡΟΜΗΣ ΣΟΛΟ/ΜΩΝ ΑΡΧΙΜΑΝΔΡΗ/ΤΟΥ ΕΤΟΣ ΑΠΟ Χ(ΡΙΣΤΟ)Υ ΑΧΟ/ΣΤ ΜΑΡΤΙΟΥ ΚΕ. ΕΝ ΤΗ ΠΟΛΙ ΜΟΣΧΟΒΙΑ' (With the aid of Archimandrite Solomon in March of the year of Our Lord 1676 and in the city of Moscow) and b) '+ ΔΙ ΕΞΟΔΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ Κ(ΑΙ) Η ΣΥ/ΜΒΗΑ ΜΑΡΙΑ Κ(ΑΙ) Τ(ΩΝ) ΥΙΩΝ ΑΥΤΩΝ ΡΩΜΑΝ(ΟΥ). ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΚΑΙ ΜΑΡΙΑΣ ΩΝ ΤΑΣ ΨΥΧΑΣ/ ΜΝΗΣΘΗ/ΤΗ Κ(ΥΡΙ)Ε' (At the expense of Christos and his wife Maria and their children Romanos, Michael and Maria, whose souls remember O Lord).

Stamped on the metal sheets flanking the neck-piece are the disks of the sun and the moon; the sheets at the ends of the vestment are stamped with rosettes, and the intermediary sheets with confronted pairs of seraphs. The circular medallions bear representations of Christ, the Virgin, Prophets, Evangelists, Apostles and Archangels, which alternate with crosses decorated with rosettes and trefoil finials on the ends of their arms. From the centre outwards, the order of the figures is as follows: on one side St Luke, the Prophets Aaron and David, the Archangel Michael, St Peter, the Virgin in the type of the Vlachernitissa, the Prophet Zachariah, and St John the Evangelist; and on the other St Mark, the Prophet Solomon, St Paul, Christ Enthroned, Moses, and St Matthew. All the figures are identified by a Slavonic monogram.

The orarion, a deacon's vestment, usually gold-embroidered, symbolises an angel's wings, and is therefore customarily decorated with angel-deacons and celestial powers, together with the opening words of the Epinikios hymn they sing around the Throne: the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, which is also sung during the terrestrial liturgy (Pallas 1954, pp. 180-4. Theochari 1986, p. 20). Oraria like this one, with appliquι metal elements, often cast, displaying both figurative and non-figurative decoration, are less common; known examples of this type date from the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century, and are preserved in monasteries and museums in Serbia, Herzegovina and Montenegro, as well as in the Monasteries of Vatopedi and Iviron (Radojkovic 1966, figs. 183, 184, 184a. Sakota 1984, fig. 9, p. 277. Sakota 1988, p. 198, fig. 13. Skovran 1980, fig. 30. Ballian 1996, figs. 462-3, 516-7).

The Iviron orarion, which has one of the most elaborate iconographic programmes known, is a product of the great Russian tradition of embroidery and metalwork. Miniature icons of precious metals, sometimes embellished with niello or enamel, framed with gemstones and seed pearls, were used from the fourteenth century on to ornament priceless ecclesiastical vestments and secular articles (Rybakov 1971, figs. 113-8. Manusina - Nikolaeva 1983, figs. 36-8, 56, 76 and 85). Unfortunately, the Iviron orarion has not been preserved in its original form and thus remains unknown what the original material was, whether there was any additional decoration in other materials, and even whether the metal sheets have been arranged correctly.

Archimandrite Solomon, with whose assistance the vestment was made in March 1670, according to the inscription, was the hegumen of the Monastery of St Nicholas, a metochi of the Iviron Monastery in Moscow, from 1667 to May 1670. In 1683 he is mentioned as prehegumen of the Monastery of Iviron (Gedeon 1906 and 1912, pp. 18-19, 35 and 39-40).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
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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