THE UGRESH LEGEND

There are a number of icons related to Russian history.  This is one of them, painted near the end of the 18th century:

(Tserkovno-Arkheologicheskiy kabinet Moskovskoy Pravoslavnoy Dukhovnoy Akademii)

 

As you can tell, it is another of those icons using the motif of the “icon in a tree.”

If we look at the inscription at the base, we find it tells us what the scene represents:

Како Яавися Икона Свяыителя Николы Чюдотворца
Великому Князю Димитрию Иоанновичу Донскому
на Месте нзываемом Угреша В лето [date]
В походе на Мамая

“How the icon of Bishop Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared to Great Prince Dimitriy Ioannovich Donskoy at the place called Ugresh in the year 1379-9 in the campaign against Mamai.”

The date in Cyrillic letter numbers in the inscription appears to read 1379 — 9[th month, i.e. September] though the conventional date given for the event is September of 1380.

In any case, the legend is that Dimitriy had brought his soldiers out to do battle with the Tatar Khan Mamai.  But before the battle,  an icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker “miraculously” appeared in a tree.  That, of course was seen as a divine sign that Dimitriy and his army would be successful in overcoming the forces of Mamai.

Dimitriy is said (though that too appears to be just a legend) to have founded the Nikolo-Ugreshkiy Monastery on the site of the appearance, which came to be called Ugresh, because Dimitriy had supposedly exclaimed on seeing the miraculous appearance of the icon, “This all has warmed [ugresha] my heart” (Сия вся угреша сердце мое).

Here is a closer look at Dimitriy kneeling before the icon in the tree:

It is interesting to see how the painter has stylized the “hills”:

 

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GALINA

Even before identifying who is depicted in this icon, we can nonetheless immediately tell certain things about it.

First, because of the arched border decorated with geometric designs, and incised and painted to imitate enamel, we know it dates in the period from the latter part of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century.

Second, because it is painted in a semi- “realistic” manner, we can tell that it is a State Church icon and not an Old Believer icon.

Now as to who it depicts, well, there are lots of rather obscure female saints in the Eastern Orthodox calendar, and many of them are shown in just the same way, with the same kind of garments.  So her appearance does not tell us much.  And of course her features are entirely the product of the imagination, given that no one has the slightest idea what she really looked like.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The saint depicted is:

СВЯТАЯ МУЧЕНИЦА ГАЛИНА
SVYATAYA MUCHENITSA GALINA
“HOLY MARTYRESS GALINA.”

She is Galina of Corinth.

Given that there are no characteristics other than the generic in her iconography, the painter has given her same scroll text as held by the similar-appearing and more noted female saint Paraskeva Pyatnitsa — the so-called “Symbol of Faith” that begins:

“I believe in one God the Father Almighty… [etc. etc.]”

In icons of Paraskeva, however, it is more common for the unrolled scroll to extend upward from her hand, instead of downward.

There is not much to Galina’s hagiographic tale, given that she is included among a group said to have been martyred at Corinth in the 3rd century.

She was supposedly instructed in Christianity by the Elder (and later martyr) Kodrat (Quadratus).  It is said that in the persecution under Emperor Trajan Decius (249-251), a hegemon named Jason came to Corinth, where he imprisoned Kodrat and his disciples, one of whom was Galina (her name is given as Calla in one account).   It is said that she and the others were beheaded, and on the spot of their execution a clear spring of water burst forth out of the ground.

Well, that is one version.  Another says that she was martyred under Emperor Valerian (253-260).  In this account, instead of being beheaded, she and other women, along with the male martyr Leonidas, were thrown into the sea to drown.  However they did not sink, but instead walked on the waves, singing Christian hymns all the while.  So their persecutors caught up with them by boat, tied stones around their necks, and that way they were finally drowned and martyred.  Now as one can tell, her hagiography is not reliable as history.

There is another Saint Galina celebrated on a different day, but she is title Pravednaya (“Righteous”) or sometimes Blazhennaya (“Blessed”) rather than Muchenitsa (“Martyress”).  By tradition she was the daughter of Emperor Severus, and was moved to become a Christian by exposure to the noted saint Kharlampiy/Haralambos of Magnesia.  She can generally easily be distinguished from Galina the Martyress because “Righteous”  Galina is commonly depicted wearing a crown.