A CHRISTIAN ICONOCLAST

This  image by Emmanuel Panselenos/Panselinos looks like an icon of Jesus, doesn’t it?

It is not Jesus, however.  We might have suspected so, given the Roman armor he wears and his spear and sword, but of course the definitive identifier is the Greek inscription, which reads:

Ὁ ἉΓ[ΙΟC] ΑΡΤΕΜΙΟC
HO HAGIOS ARTEMIOS
“[The] Holy Artemios”

Artemios is another of the warrior saints, which accounts for the armor and weapons.  Officially, he is a Μεγαομαρτυς/Megalomartys — a “Great Martyr.”  The hagiographies of great martyrs frequently credit them with undergoing severe suffering under persecution for their beliefs, along with miracles and the often the conversion of others.  Though it is said that Great martyrs are generally from the time before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Artemios was killed after that.  He is said to have been born in Egypt, and was a general under Emperor Constantine.

Constantine’s successor and son — Constantius II — sent Artemios to retrieve the relics of three famous saints —  first those of St. Timothy in 356, and the following year those of the Apostle Andrew and the Evangelist Luke.  Having brought these to Constantinople, he was rewarded in 360 by being made Imperial Prefect of Egypt (Dux Aegypti).

Artemios was a fanatical Christian iconoclast, with a reputation for the destruction of statues of the gods.  He entered the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria and destroyed the images and offerings.  When Julian became Emperor, he listened to the complaints of the people about Artemios, who was accused of badly administering the province under his control.  Having been called to Antioch and found guilty, Artemios was condemned to death, and is said to have been beheaded there in 362, which accounts for why he is known as Artemios of Antioch.

The hagiography of Artemios, however, gives another view.  It relates that he was beheaded for questioning the Emperor’s torturing of two Christian priests, Eugenios and Makarios, saying the Emperor was being guided by a devil.   Artemios was stripped of his office and beaten, and told to sacrifice to Apollo and be made a praetorian prefect, or else be killed.  Artemios refused and was tortured.  Being asked then to sacrifice to Zeus and Asklepios, Artemios again refused and reviled the Emperor.  He was squeezed between two large quarry stones, again refused to sacrifice, and  and was beheaded.  His body is said to have been claimed by a Christian deaconess named Ariste, who sent it to Constantinople as that of a martyr.

Artemios seems to have been an Arian Christian — one of those who denied the equality in divinity of Father and Son as God, and it is possible the tale of the martyrdom of Artemios was originally an Arian document that underwent later development.  By the 5th century, he had gained a reputation for healing — with a specialty in the cure of hernias, and the site where his relics were kept became a noted healing shrine.  When adopted into Eastern Orthodox hagiography, his Arian connections were not mentioned, and so he became a famous “Orthodox” warrior saint in iconography.

In the Maronite Church, Artemios is known as Mar Shalita.

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AN ARGUMENT OVER APPLES

In Greek iconography there is a category of saint called “New Martyr” (νεομάρτυς/neomartys).  New Martyrs are generally those martyred after Constantinople fell to the invading Muslims in 1453, which includes those martyred at any time during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule — a centuries-long period of suffering and oppression of non-Muslims commonly referred to as the “Turkish Yoke.”  There are also earlier New Martyrs, beginning from the time of the Seljuk muslim invasions of Byzantine regions in the 11th and 12th centuries.

An icon found in Greek Orthodoxy, though not so much in Russian, is that of Khrestos/Khristos/Christos/Kristo the Gardener — one of those New Martyrs.  Here is an example:

Let’s look at the inscription:

As you see, it has some ligatures (joined letters):

At left are the words Ὁ ἁΓιος — “The Holy.”  The α is joined to the Γ (g), and ς (s) is attached to the bottom of the ο.

At right is the name ΧΡΗCΤΟC.  The Ρ (r) is joined to the Η (e, pronounced “ee” in Modern Greek), and the C is joined to the Τ.  The last ς (s) is also appended from the ο.

Then comes his secondary title, which is here written as Ὁ ΑΛΒΑΝΤΙΣ — Ho Albantis — but is more generally written Ὁ Αρβανίτης — Ho Arbanites — “The Albanian.”  An Arbanite/Arvanite is traditionally an Albanian who settled in Greek territory.

Other icons of him may add the title Ὁ Νεομάρτυς — “The New Martyr,” and also Ὁ Κηπουρός — Ho Kepouros, meaning “The Gardener.”

The date 1748 and month December are also written on the icon.  1748 was the year of his martyrdom.  Khrestos’ day of commemoration is February 12, so either the painter made an error or it indicates the month in which the icon was painted.

According to his hagiography, Khrestos was an Albanian gardener who decided at age 40 to go to Constantinople.  One day he took some apples to the market to sell.  A Turk came up to him and asked Khrestos the price.  It was higher than the Turk wanted to pay, so after some bickering they could not agree, and Khrestos would not sell him the apples.

In revenge, the Turk told a judge that Khrestos had said he would become a Muslim, but was now refusing.   False witnesses were found to testify against the gardener in court, where he refused to give up his Christian beliefs and convert to Islam.  Because of his refusal to convert, he was beaten and eventually beheaded.

Just how Krestos/Khristos is depicted varies considerably.  Here is a recently painted icon that gives him a rather sly and sinister appearance, oddly enough.  As you can see, he carries a cross of martyrdom and a twig bearing two apples.

You should be able to read the inscription from the information given earlier in this posting.  At lower right we see this added signature:

ΧΕΙΡ Μ[ΟΝΑ]Χ[ΟΥ] ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΒΙΒ
KHEIR MONAKHOU MIKHAEL BIB
“[The] Hand of Monk Michael”

The BIB is a date in letter numbers — 2012.

There is another Neomartyr named Khrestos, but he was a sailor from a Cretan vessel, who it is is said, was martyred in 1668 on the island of Kos, when he got into an argument over religion and was killed by Janissaries (Ottoman muslim soldiers) after refusing to abandon his religion and saying negative things about Islam.  This Khrestos was from the Greek town of Preveza (Πρέβεζα)

There is also an even more obscure New Martyr Khrestos/Khristos of Ioannina, but he was a priest-monk, commemorated on August 15th.

 

THE VISION OF PAUL

Here is another 14th century fresco image from the Vysokie Dechani Monastery in Serbia:

If you are familiar with the Bible — which fewer and fewer people are these days — you may recognize the story depicted.  Here it consists of three scenes, and the central scene is the clue to identification.

Here is the scene at left:

The inscription at the top tells us what is happening.  It is a variant of Acts 9:1-2.  Here it is as found in the “Elizabeth” Bible:

Савл [Саул] же, еще дыхая прещением и убийством на ученики Господни, приступль ко архиерею, испроси от него послания в Дамаск к соборищем, яко да аще некия обрящет того пути сущыя, мужы же и жены, связаны приведет во Иерусалим.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

So we see this image depicts Saul — who was to become the Apostle Paul — during his period of persecuting Christians.  In the image, we see Paul at right, standing before the High Priest.

The central scene depicts the Vision of Paul — the appearance of Jesus to him on the road to Damascus.  The top inscription is a variant of Acts 9:3:

Внегда же ити, бысть ему приближитися к Дамаску, и внезапу облиста его свет от небесе:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light from heaven.

We see Paul falling to the ground, as Jesus (in the “Immanuel” form) appears to him in the sky.  According to the account in Acts 9:3-7:

3 ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐγγίζειν τῇ Δαμασκῷ, ἐξαίφνης τε αὐτὸν περιήστραψεν ⸃ φῶς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ,
4 καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἤκουσεν φωνὴν λέγουσαν αὐτῷ Σαοὺλ Σαούλ, τί με διώκεις;
5 εἶπεν δέ · Τίς εἶ, κύριε; ὁ δέ · Ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς ὃν σὺ διώκεις ·σκληρον σοι προς κεντρα λακτιζειν
τρεμων τε και θαμβων ειπεν κυριε τι με θελεις ποιησαι και ο κυριος προς αυτον ἀλλὰ ἀνάστηθι καὶ εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν πόλιν, καὶ λαληθήσεταί σοι ὅ τί ⸃ σε δεῖ ποιεῖν.
7 οἱ δὲ ἄνδρες οἱ συνοδεύοντες αὐτῷ εἱστήκεισαν ἐνεοί, ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φωνῆς μηδένα δὲ θεωροῦντες.

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven:
And falling to the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord [gr. kyrie]?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the goads’ [a goad is a sharp pole  used to control an animal through pain].
And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what will you have me do?’ And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.”

The portion underlined in Greek and in bold type in English is not found in early Greek manuscripts, and occurs only in one 14th century manuscript, though it appears in varied manner in some Latin manuscripts from the 5th -12th centuries.

The scene at right depicts Paul — blinded by the vision, being led into the city of Damascus.  He is acting on the words spoken by Jesus in his vision, as the inscription tells us — again, a variant of a segment of Acts 9:6:

И Господь рече к нему: востани и вниди во град….

“And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city….”

Greek icons of the incident on the road to Damascus generally bear a title such as: ΤΟ ὉΡΑΜΑ ΤΟΥ ΑΠΟCΤΟΛΟΥ ΠΑΒΛΟΥ
TO HORAMA TOU APOSTOLOU PAVLOU
“The Vision of the Apostle Paul”

In Slavic that is:
ВИДЕНИЕ АПОСТОЛА ПАВЛА
VIDENIE APOSTOLA PAVLA
“Vision of the Apostle Paul.”

Titles of this type vary, however,  so one may find instead something like “The Journey of Paul to Damascus.”

 

JESUS TELLS A LIE

In an earlier posting (see https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/prepolovenie/) we looked at icons of the “Middle” — the church commemoration that stands between Easter and Pentecost — and we saw that they are of two types.  One shows Jesus as a twelve year old boy, seated amid the learned men in the Jerusalem Temple — the event called in Western art “Jesus Among the Doctors,” recorded in Luke 2:41-49.

The other icon depicts a different incident — Jesus as an adult, preaching in the Temple, as described in John 7.

Here is a 14th century fresco from the Vysokie Dechani monastery in Serbia, showing the first type.  It is interesting not only because of its iconography, but also because of its unexpected inscription:

We might expect to find as its inscription a conventional title telling what is happening in a scene, as in this 16th century fresco from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos:

The Greek title of the image reads:

Ὁ Χ[ΡΙCΤΟ]C ΔΙΔΑCΚΩΝ ΕΝ ΤΩ ἹΕ[ΡΩ]
HO KHRISTOS DIDASKON EN TO HIERO
“CHRIST TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE.”

Some Greek icons of the type are titled simply:

Ἡ ΜΕCΟΠΕΝΤΗΚΟCΤΗ
HE MESOPENTEKOSTE
“[The] MID-PENTECOST”

On the Dechani fresco, however, we find this inscription:

It is neither a scene description nor a conventional title, and though the image depicts a New Testament scene, it is not an excerpt from the New Testament.  Instead, it is a slight variation on Kontakion 8 from the Akathist to Mary:

Кондак 8
Странное рождество видевше, устранимся мира, ум на небеса преложше: сего бо ради высокий Бог на земли явися смиренный человек, хотяй привлещи к высоте Тому вопиющия: Аллилуиа.

Strannoe rozhdestvo videvshe, ustranimsya mira, um na nebesa prelozhshe: sego
bo radi vuiskiy Bog na zemli yavisya smirennuiy chelovek, Khotyay privleshchi k
vuisote Tomy vopiiushchiya: Alliluia

Kontakion 8
Seeing a strange childbirth, let us estrange ourselves from the world by transporting our minds to Heaven; for this sake the Most High God appeared on earth a lowly man, that He might draw to the heights those who cry out to Him: Alleluia.”

Now as I mentioned, there is another Prepolovenie/”Middle”/Mesopentekoste/Mid-Pentecost icon type — Jesus teaching in the Temple as an adult.  Here is a 14th century variant example from Vysokie Dechani:

It has an interesting added detail.  Jesus holds a large pitcher of water as he stands among those in the Temple.  We find out why if we look at the inscription above his head:

АЩЕ КТО ЖАЖДЕТЪ ДА ПРIИДЕТЪ КО МНЕ И ПИIЕТЪ
ASHCHE KTO ZHAZHDET DA PRIIDET KO MNE I PIET
Whoever thirsts, [let him] come to me and drink.

It is taken from John 7:37:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirsts, let him come to me, and drink.

The “feast” mentioned is the Jewish Festival of Booths — Sukkot — which takes place in the autumn.  The odd thing about the speech of Jesus in the Temple on that feast is that if one took him at his word, he was not supposed to be there at all.

Earlier, his brothers had told him in Galilee that he should go to Judea and demonstrate his works in public, meaning at the festival.

Jesus, however, replies (John 7:6-9):
“‘My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but it hates me, because I testify of it, that the works of it are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I will not go up to this feast, for my time is not yet fully come.’  When he had said these words to them, he remained in Galilee.”

That is followed in John 7:10 by:
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

In other words, Jesus told a lie.  He said he was not going to the feast, but later he did go “as it were in secret.”

This text, of course, has bothered a lot of people over the centuries, who do not at all like the idea of Jesus having lied, and in fact it seems to have resulted in someone at some time correcting the problem.  We have early evidence of this.  In Papyrus 66, a manuscript dated variously from the 2nd to the 4th century, we find that change.  Instead of Jesus saying “I will not go up to this feast,” it instead changes the Greek word ουκ, meaning “not,” to οὔπω/oupo, which means “not yet,”  resulting in Jesus saying “I will not yet go up to this feast.” By doing so, Jesus no longer lies to his brothers; he just tells them that he will go up to the feast later, after they have gone.

It is a clever change, but it does not seem to be the original reading.  The point of the exchange appears to be that Jesus does not want his brothers to know he is going at all, because when he does go, it is “as it were in secret.”

In Greek it is the difference between:

ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην
ego ouk anabaino eis ten heorten tauten
“I go not up to this feast”

and

ἐγὼ οὔπω ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην
ego oupo anabaino eis ten heorten tauten
“I go not-yet up to this feast.”

It looks, in fact, as though the “not yet” was borrowed from the latter part of the whole sentence from which this excerpt is taken:

ὑμεῖς ἀνάβητε εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν· ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην, ὅτι ὁ ἐμὸς καιρὸς οὔπω πεπλήρωται
humeis anabete eis ten heorten. ego ouk anabaino eis ten heorten tauten, hoti ho emos kairos oupo peplerotai.
“You go up to this feast.  I go not up to this feast, for my time is not yet complete/fulfilled.”

So which was the original reading, “I go not” or “I go not yet”?  The manuscript evidence is divided, with some copies going with “not” and others with “not yet.”  Modern scholars tend to favor the former interpretation, which results in Jesus having told a lie, given that it not only better fits the sense of the text, but also because it is unlikely that an early editor would have changed “I am not yet going up to this feast” to the more embarrassing “Jesus lies” reading, “I am not going up to this feast.”  Conservatives of course prefer the option that saves Jesus from having lied.

It is interesting that the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry (c. 234-305), who opposed Christianity, knew the “I am not going up to this feast” reading, because as quoted by Jerome, he used it against the Christians of his time — another good reason for Christian editors to prefer the “not yet” reading when copying the text.

 

 

PLACES, NUMBERS, AND PIGS

In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark and the two expanded versions of Mark called Matthew and Luke) we find an odd tale and some peculiar variations:

Mark 5:1-2
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He [Jesus] got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

Matt 8:28
When He [Jesus] came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

Luke 8:26-7
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He [Jesus] came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons;

The first problem we encounter is that “Mark” says it happened in the country of the Gerasenes, where Jesus met one possessed man.

Matthew, however, says it was the country of the Gadarenes, where Jesus met two possessed men.

Luke retains Mark’s  “country of the Gerasenes,” and one possessed man again.

Now if Jesus had just landed by boat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he could not possibly have been — as Mark says and Luke follows him — in the “country of the Gerasenes,” because Gerasa (modern Jerash) is considerably farther from the Sea of Galilee than Gadara — over 30 miles away.  The writer of Matthew seems to have recognized this error, and to have attempted to correct it by naming the place of the encounter as the land of the Gadarenes.  Gadara (modern Umm Qais), is a little over 6 miles from the Sea of Galilee.

The distance from the sea is important not only because of where Jesus landed, but also because of what happens in the story.  As Mark relates, when Jesus cast the demons out of the man,

Now there was there near the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

So the place of the encounter has to be where a herd of swine/pigs can run down a steep place into the sea.

Some decided that the supposed miracle must have been at a place called Kursi (Κυρσοί/Kursoi),  not far from ancient Hippus, because that is the only area where one can find a “steep place” (κρημνός/kremnos — “cliff,” “precipice”) above the sea, descending toward the lake shore. There was once a 5th-century Byzantine church there.  The problem, however, is that it is considerably north of Gadara, and much farther up the shore of the Sea of Galilee, though still much closer to the Sea than Gadara.

The theologian Origen (c. 184 – c. 253 ), who traveled through the region, had this to say:

“In the matter of proper names the Greek copies [manuscript copies of the Gospels] are often incorrect, and in the Gospels one might be misled by their authority. The transaction about the swine, which were driven down a steep place by the demons and drowned in the sea, is said to have taken place in the country of the Gerasenes. Now, Gerasa is a town of Arabia, and has near it neither sea nor lake. And the Evangelists would not have made a statement so obviously and demonstrably false; for they were men who informed themselves carefully of all matters connected with Judæa. But in a few copies we have found, into the country of the Gadarenes; and, on this reading, it is to be stated that Gadara is a town of Judæa, in the neighborhood of which are the well-known hot springs, and that there is no lake there with overhanging banks, nor any sea. But Gergesa, from which the name Gergesenes is taken, is an old town in the neighborhood of the lake now called Tiberias, and on the edge of it there is a steep place abutting on the lake, from which it is pointed out that the swine were cast down by the demons. Now, the meaning of Gergesa is dwelling of the casters-out [Origen is apparently wrong here], and it contains a prophetic reference to the conduct towards the Savior of the citizens of those places, who besought Him to depart out of their coasts.” (Commentary on John 6.40-41)

So Origin considers both Gerasa and Gadara errors, and introduces yet a third possibility — Gergesa, the “land of the Gergesenes.”

These are the kinds of problems one encounters with the Biblical accounts.

It is possible that the whole story of the possessed man and the pigs is simply an allegory having to do with the occupying Romans.  In Mark, Jesus says to the demon possessing the one man,

“Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”

Then Jesus asks the possessing demon his name, and he answers strangely:

My name is Legion: for we are many.”
Λεγιὼν ὄνομά μοι, ὅτι πολλοί ἐσμεν·
Legion onoma moi, hoti polloi esmen

Now a “legion” was the term at that time for a unit of about 5,000 Roman soldiers.  There was a Roman legion called Tenth Fretensis that played a major role in the first Jewish Roman war (66-73), and its symbol was the boar (wild pig). It was the Tenth Fretensis that destroyed the monastery at Qumran, near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were eventually discovered.  It participated in the Siege of Jerusalem, camping on the Mount of Olives.

Regarding Matthew’s two demoniacs in place of Mark and Luke’s one demoniac, we already know that Matthew liked to double Mark’s numbers; for example, not only does he double the number of demoniacs here, but he also doubles the number of blind men healed (Matthew 20:29-30 compared with Mark 10:46).

In any case, the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox commemoration of the event —  placed on the 5th Sunday After Pentecost — generally depicts two possessed men — going with Matthew’s doubling — and tends to ignore or gloss over the discrepancy in location.  One does, however, sometimes find only one demoniac depicted, as in this Bible illustration:

Gadara

Here is a rather standard depiction in a modern sketch by Photis Kontoglou.

The inscription reads:
Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC ΙΩΜΕΝΟC ΤΟΥ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΙΖΟΜΕΝΟΥC
HO KHRISTOS IOMENOS TOU DAIMONIZOMENOUS
“CHRIST HEALING THE DEMON-POSSESSED.”

At the base we see several miniaturized pigs ridden into the waters of the Sea by demons.

The Kontoglou image is much the same as  — indeed, appears to be based upon — this earlier 14th century Slavic-inscribed fresco from Vysokie Dechany (Serbia) of the scene, with the title reading “Christ Heals the Two Demon-possessed.”

xcistsyelidvab

Here is Jesus with his disciples at left:

xcistsyelidvadet1

And here the two possessed men at right:

xcistsyelidvadet2.jpg

And here are the pig-riding devils:

xcistyelidvadet3

 

 

KNOW YOUR ANGELS….

A reader recently asked about the “middle” division of angels.  Perhaps that is something others wish to know too, so I may as well review the whole topic.

In icons, there are three divisions of angels, and each has three ranks of angel.  All together form the nine choirs/orders of angels.  Here they are, in descending rank:

First Choir/Order (Slavic лик/lik, plural лики/liki, Greek: τάγμα/tagma, plural τάγματα/tagmata):

Seraphim (Slavic: серафимы — Greek: σεραφὶμ); six wings
Cherubim (Slavic: херувимы — Greek χερουβὶμ); four wings
Thrones (Slavic: престолы — Greek θρόνοι); winged rings/wheels, with eyes in the wings.

Second Choir:

Dominions (Slavic: господства — Greek κυριότητες)
Virtues (Slavic: силы — Greek δυνάμεις)
Powers (Slavic: власти — Greek ἐξουσίαι )

Third Choir:

Principalities (Slavic: начальства (начала) — Greek ἀρχαὶ)
Archangels (архангелы — Greek ἀρχάγγελοι)
Angels (ангелы — Greek ἄγγελοι)

Here is an 18th century icon (showing some Western influence, as you may notice).  It depicts various angelic appearances in the border images, and as the title in the text block tells us, the nine ranks of angels as the central image:

First, let’s dispose of the angelic appearances in the border, which include:

  1.  The Appearance to Moses;
  2.  The Vision of Daniel;
  3.   Appearance of the Trinity to Abraham;
  4.   Prophecy of Ezekiel;
  5.   Appearance of Michael to Joshua Son of Nun (Isus Navin);
  6.   Penalty of King David;
  7.   Michael troubles the pool (of Siloam);
  8.   Jacob Wrestles with the Angel;
  9.  Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Khonae;
  10.  Dispute over the body of Moses;
  11.  Archangel Michael frees Peter from prison;
  12.   The Angel appears to the women at the tomb of Jesus;
  13.   The Angel leads a soul to Paradise;
  14.   Archangel Michael appears to Pakhomios
  15.   The saving of the Hebrew Youths from the Fire
  16.   Archangel Michael blocks the path of Balaam.

That — along with the image of a church at the bottom — completes the “angelic” border images.

As you know from a previous posting, the large central image at the top is the Coronation of Mary — a type borrowed into Eastern Orthodox iconography from Roman Catholic art.  The “triangle” halo on God the Father is also a Western borrowing.

Here are the central ranks of angels:

The symbols held by the various ranks of angels differ from example to example.  In the icon above, we see that the “thrones” are  depicted as normal angels, but holding a throne as their symbol (though in other icons, they are shown as winged wheels).  The Seraphim hold their hands in an attitude of prayer and adoration.  The Cherubim hold open books.  The Dominions hold scepters The Virtues hold mirrors.  The Powers hold spears/lances. The Principalities hold crowns.  The Archangels hold scales.  And the Angels hold souls in the form of infants.

The icon pattern below — titled “Image of the Holy Nine Ranks of Angels”  is somewhat different:

Here the Seraphim are shown as six winged, the Cherubim as four winged, the Thrones are dressed as bishops, the Dominions hold censers and mirrors, the Virtues are depicted as warriors with swords, the Powers are crowned and hold scepters, the Principalities hold staffs, the archangels merely gesture, and the Angels hold scrolls and books.

In addition, the nine Archangels are shown again with their names in a ring around the central image of “Lord Sabaoth” (God the Father), Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a dove, arranged in the “Fatherhood” (Paternity) icon type, called in Slavic Otechestvo.

In the icon below — ОБРАЗ ДЕВЯТИ ЧИНОВ АНГЕЛЬСКИХ/OBRAZ DEVYATI CHINOV ANGEL’SKIKH — “IMAGE OF THE NINE RANKS OF ANGELS” — with the Archangel Michael as the central image, we see the ranks arranged somewhat differently:

From top to bottom at left, we see Cherubim, Angels, Dominions, and Guardian Angels:

From top to bottom at right, we see Seraphim, Virtues, Thrones and Principalities:

At top center, we see the Archangels in the usual “Sobor” (Assembly/Council) form:

So we can see this icon has substituted “Guardian Angels” for the “Powers” Rank.

That is a brief summary for reference of the types and ranks of angels in Eastern Orthodox iconography.

 

WHO ARE THEY? WHERE ARE THEY COMING FROM? WHY ARE THEY HERE?

I watch the statistics on this site from day to day, and am always surprised by how many people read it (I suppose I could remove the cause, but not the symptom).  The number of followers seems to keep rising, with even more new people recently.

I am also frequently puzzled, because I can see how many people read certain postings from day to day.  Some days a large number of people will read one or another posting from the archives — apparently all coming here due to some kind of discussion involving that posting — taking place on another site somewhere — but just what that discussion is and precisely where it takes place is generally a mystery to me.

I also generally know nothing about the majority of subscribers, because many like to subscribe with the minimum of personal information.  Because some do contact me, I know there are art restorers, museum staff, dealers in old icons, artists, and quite a miscellaneous grouping of others among the now many readers of this site.  I always appreciate getting a note from new readers, telling me a bit about them and why they are reading such an esoteric site as this (recognizing your problem is the first step toward overcoming it).

I am quite an informal fellow, so no one need feel shy about leaving me a message now and then.

Now back to the usual topic.  Here is an 18th century icon from the Prophets Tier of an iconostasis at Kizhi, Russia:

If we look at the title inscription, we can see that the writer got a bit grand by writing the Greek word Hagios, meaning “Holy” (but in Cyrillic letters), instead of the usual Slavic Svyatuiy (and it is abbreviated).  The next word is Slavic — the abbreviated word Prorok, meaning “Prophet.”  And you should have no trouble, if you are a long-time reader here, in transliterating the third word — the prophet’s name — as Iezekiil — Ezekiel in English.  So the title inscription reads:

Hagios Prorok Iezekiil
“Holy Prophet Ezekiel.”

As you can see, Ezekiel is pointing to an image of a door.  And if we look at his scroll, we see it reads:

АЗЬ ТЯ ВИДЕХЬ ДВЕРЬ ЗАТВОРЕНУ
AZ TYA VIDEKH DVER ZATVORENU
“I SAW YOU [AS] A CLOSED DOOR”

In the book of Ezekiel, we find this at 44:1-2:

Then he brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary that looks eastward; and it was shut.  And the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it, and it shall be shut.

That gate is the “door” in the icon inscription.  In some Slavic translations, we find instead the word врата/vrata, meaning “gate/gates.”

Though it originally had nothing at all to do with a Marian interpretation, Eastern Orthodoxy developed the notion that this excerpt from Ezekiel was a prophecy and prefiguration of the supposed virgin birth of Jesus.  Mary as a virgin is seen as the “closed door/gate” shut and not opened, through which Jesus was born.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 390 c.e.) wrote:

Who is this gate, if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity.”

We often find this “Closed Door/Gate” title of Mary in Eastern Orthodox writings.  So that is why we see a door in the icon of the Prophet Ezekiel.