As you know, people often write to me asking for help with the identification of icons. One such recent request involved this image:
It is a late Russian icon, and if you are a long-time reader here, you will recognize the subject as Svyatuiy Nikolai Chudotvorets — “Holy Nicholas the Wonderworker — that is, St. Nicholas of Myra, who was believed to be a miracle worker. Nicholas was extremely popular in Russia, and countless icons of this type were painted. In this example we see the usual elements — the circle enclosing Jesus at left, giving Nicholas his Gospel book, and that of Mary at right, bestowing the bishop’s stole (omophorion) on Nicholas.
I particularly want to take a look at the Church Slavic text held by Nicholas, because it is the most common text used on his icons. As students of icons you should learn to recognize it, because it will enable you to translate a great many icons of Nikolai/Nicholas. Here it is:
VO VREMYA ONO STA ISUS NA MESTE RAVNE I NAROD OUCHENIK EGO I MNOZHESTVO MNOGO LIUDEI OT VSEYA IOUDEI I [I]EROUSALIMA [I] PO[MORIYA TYRSKA I SIDONSKA….]
“At that time Jesus stood on a level place and the group of his disciples and a multitude of many people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon….”
The King James version gives it as:
“And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon….“
Now one may ask, why that text, given that it has no obvious connection to Nicholas. The answer is that in the liturgy for the Feast of St. Nicholas in the Russian Orthodox Church, the Gospel reading generally used for that day is Luke 6:17-23.