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Athos Holy Mount

Church Embroidery
11.28 Podea with portraits of the donors
c. 1533
Koutloumousiou Monastery
61 x 48.5 cm
Wallachian workshop


The Original New Testament

A royal couple with their son are represented kneeling and gazing up at an icon of the Virgin in the type of the Vlachernitissa. The figures and the nature of their petition are identified by Slav inscriptions: 'Voevode Ioannis Ventila', his wife 'Princess Rada', and in front of Ventila their son 'Voevode Ioannis Dragesh'. All three wear crowns and sumptuous robes. An inscription between the husband and wife states the boy's prayer: 'O Mother of God, by the sacred blood of thy son keep me'.

In the upper part of the podea, beneath the Theotokos, is the inscription: 'To the Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the Monastery called Koutloumousiou'.

The area beneath the segmentum coeli with the Virgin and Child and the spaces beneath and between the princely figures are separated with stylized tulips. The podea is framed by a narrow border of floral pattern and its lower edge is fringed with eleven tassels.

The monastery has a matching podea with very similar representation except that Christ is shown rather than the Virgin, and the inscription reads: 'O Christ and Lord, here am I, thy servant'. The podea is of red satin, embroidered with gold thread, mixed with red and green silk on the garments, while the hands and faces are worked in wheat-coloured silk. P. Nasturel, who first published this piece, notes that the style of dress and the attitudes of the donors copy those of the reign of Neagoe Basarab (1512-21).

Nasturel wonders 'What can have impelled the royal couple to offer these two podees to the Koutloumousiou Monastery?'. His conclusion, based on the size of the lettering, is that in both cases the petition concerns the young prince, Dragesh. 'Is it a prayer addressed to Christ and his Mother by the parents of the boy for the recovery of their son, or a cry of pain for a dying (or perhaps already dead) child? No one knows', he writes.

Blad Ventila's reign was a brief one, from 13 September 1532 to 12 June 1535. We know that on 18 April 1533, the voevode confirmed the Koutloumousiou Monastery's possession of two villages in Wallachia, and we may assume that the gift of the two podees was made at about the same time. As for the reason for the gift, it was customary when donating land or re-building a monastery for the benefactors to offer sacred vestments as well (see no. 11.27).

Bibliography: Jorga 1933, pp. 27-31. Nasturel 1958, pp. 28-30.

M. Th.
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The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

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