Among the old Russian icons copied as transfers by Vasiliy Guryanov, we find two having to do with the Old Testament fellow Noah — the chief figure in the well-known tale of Noah and his ark.

Here is a transfer of Noah  as visualized in Eastern Orthodoxy:


The title inscription reads ПРАОТЕЦ НОЙ — Praotets Noy/Noi — “Forefather Noah,” and his secondary title, in smaller letters at right, is Правед[ный] — Pravednuiy — “the Righteous.”

Here is a 16th century example — a fresco by Theophanes the Cretan in the Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos.  In Greek Noah is Noe.

Noah is holding the ark in his hands.  Keep in mind that “ark” (kovcheg) in Russian also refers to the recessed “box” (the part with the painted image) in the center of those icons having the border standing out like a frame in relief.

Here is another “Noah” type, “Noah Gathering the Animals and Birds into the Ark“:



Noah Stands at left with his wife and family.  He holds a wooden stick in one hand, and with it he beats on the oddly-shaped long, flat board in his hand.  That will make little sense to you unless you know that boards like this were used in early Eastern Orthodoxy as a kind of “alarm clock” to call people to assemble.  They make a loud noise when struck.  Cast bells (a borrowing from Western Europe) came later in Orthodoxy, but such a board — called a biloило) in Russian, or in Greek semantron — continued to be used in many monasteries to call the monks to assemble for prayer.  So old Noah is banging on his semantron to call the animals and birds to assemble and enter the ark behind him.

We know today that there was no universal flood.  But there were local floods here and there that led to the rise of various legends.  So the Old Testament story of Noah is not the earliest of flood stories; we find older versions from Sumeria and Babylon, using protagonists with other names.  If you are interested in how a variant of the ancient flood legends came to be in the Old Testament, a quite informative and interesting recent book is The Ark Before Noah:  Decoding the Story of the Flood.  It is written by Irving Finkel, a British Museum curator and authority on early Mesopotamia.

If you have been reading this site for some time, you will already know that the bearded figure blessing from the clouds at upper right is “Lord Sabaoth,” that is, God the Father.


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