WHAT DAY IS IT? ICONS OF THE WEEK

There are a number of what we might call “calendar” icons in Russian iconography.  There are “Year” icons, and “Month” icons for each month of the year, showing the main saints and festivals and their days of commemoration.  There are also “Week” icons.   Here is an example of the latter:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

At first glance, it may appear to have nothing to do with the week; but that is because it represents the days of the week through standard iconographic types of church festivals.

There are also icons of the “Old Testament” days of Creation, ending with the seventh day on which God rests.  The type shown here may be considered the “New Testament” seven days.  Sometimes the two types are combined to make a more elaborate “Week” icon.

If you look carefully, you will see that the standard “Week” type contains seven separate images, one for each day of the week.  Six are at the top and upper sides, and the seventh takes up most of the lower half of the icon, as well as extending up between the lowest two of the upper “day” images.

Here is how they are arranged, with their corresponding days:

At top left is:
1. The Resurrection, representing Sunday.  Moving right, we come to
2.  The Assembly of the Archangels, representing Monday.  Then comes
3.  The Beheading of John the Forerunner, representing Tuesday. Then
4.  The Annunciation, representing Wednesday.  Moving down to the left side, we have
5.  The Washing of the Feet [of the disciples of Jesus], for Thursday, then opposite it is
6.  The Crucifixion, representing Friday.  Finally, the large lower image is
7.  All Saints, representing Saturday.

In the “All Saints” portion, we see Jesus seated on his throne at the top (in Deisis form), and below him is the altar “throne,” prepared for the end of time and beginning of eternity.

At left and right are groups of saints, each group categorized by the Church Slavic term ЛИКЪ — lik, which we can loosely translate as “choir.”

Here is the left side:

The inscriptions identify them from top to bottom as

1.  The Choir of Prophets

2.  The Choir of Princes

3.  The Choir of the Holy Fathers

Here is the right side:

The inscriptions identify them as:

The Choir of Venerable Martyrs (monastic martyrs)

The Choir of the Blessed (holy fools, etc.)

The Choir of the Apostles

The “Saturday” or “All Saints” portion of the “Week” icon is also found, like the other “day” images, as a separate icon.  Here is one example of it, the type called Суббота всех святых — Subbota Vsekh Svyatuikh — “The Sabbath of All Saints.”  Subbota may be translated either as “Sabbath” or as “Saturday.”

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

To avoid confusion, you may also wish to know that there is another and quite different icon type sometimes popularly called a “Week” (Sedmitsa) icon.  It is the Deisis grouping   more properly classified in Russian as  “Спас с предстоящими” — Spas s predstoyashchimi, meaning roughly “The Savior with Bystanders,” the bystanders being the saints and angels grouped around the throne, rather than being in the strictly horizontal arrangement found in the Deisis of an iconostasis.  Here is an example of such an icon:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Figures commonly found in such a grouping (their number varies), in addition to Jesus, Mary, and John the Forerunner, may be the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the Apostles Peter and Paul, Nicholas of Myra, John Chrysostom, John the Theologian (the Evangelist), Sergiy of Radonezh,  and as in this icon, the kneeling figures of Zosima and Savvatiy Solovetskiy at the foot of the throne.

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