At the entrance to old Japanese Buddhist temples, there were often two guardian deities. Here is a pair dating from the Kamakura Period (13th-early 14th century):
I always think of such guardian deities when I see the two angels painted at the entrance to Orthodox Churches in Slavic countries. These are the “Ангелы Господни, записывающие имена входящих в храм” — the “Angels of the Lord, Recording the Names of Those Entering the Church.”
When both are found (sometimes there is only one), the angel on the left (in Slavic countries) of the entry is the Archangel Michael (Mikhail), as seen here in the Church of Simeon the God-receiver at the Zverin Monastery of Novgorod.:
He threateningly holds a sword in his right hand, and a scroll in his left.
In the Greek Painter’s Manual (Hermineia) of Dionysios of Fourna, we find this:
“Inside the door of the temple, on the right, the Archangel Michael; He holds a sword and a scroll with these words: ‘I am a soldier of God, and armed with a sword. Those who enter here with fear, I defend them, I guard them, I protect them and I observe them;But those who enter with an unclean heart, I strike them mercilessly with this sword.‘
Sometimes in Slavic Churches, Michael’s scroll reads:
Простираю меч мой на приходящих в чистый дом Божий с нечистыми сердцами.
“I extend my sword to those who enter the pure house of God with impure hearts.”
Again, in Slavic Churches, Gabriel (Gavriil) is commonly on the right side of the entrance, though Dionysios of Fourna writes:
“On the left, Gabriel holds a scroll, and writes these words with a reed: ‘I write with this reed the internal disposition of those who enter here;I take good care of the good, but I cause the bad to perish promptly.'”
Here are much more recent versions of the two Archangels, as seen in the Church of St. Kirill in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Michael at left:
And Gabriel at right:
As mentioned earlier, some churches have only a single recording angel, who is sometimes simply known as the Ангел храма — Angel Khrama — “Angel of the Church.” It is believed that this angel becomes the protector of a church when it is consecrated, and remains on duty there until the Second Coming. Such an angel may be depicted as standing or sitting, recording on his scroll the names of those entering the church, so that he may give his report on them at the Last Judgment.
Now obviously there is a relationship here to the standard image of the Guardian Angel in icons, who follows each person through life, recording his deeds. Sometimes the iconography of the two becomes mixed, particularly when the angel writing on a scroll is simply called Ангел со свитком/Angel so svitkom — “The Angel with a Scroll.”
An icon from the Blagovyeshchenie (Annunciation) Monastery in Murom shows an “Angel with a Scroll,” and the title inscription identifies it as the angel seen in the vision of “Holy Father Ammon,” who saw “the Angel of the Lord Sitting and Writing Names of Those Entering the Church of God.”
This relates to the old tale that the Egyptian monk-priest Ammon was given the ability to see spiritual things. Once during the Eucharist, he saw an angel near the altar who was writing down the names of those present, and crossing out the names of the absent monks.