LEARNING FROM A MISTAKE

Here is a 19th century icon with three “special needs” saints.

(Courtesy of Maryhill Museum)

At left is Svyatuiy Svyashchennomuchenik Kiprian” — “Holy Priest-martyr Kiprian/Cyprian,” who was prayed to for protection from evil spells and charms.

At right is Svyatuiy Prepodobnuiy Nifont” — “Holy Venerable Niphont/Niphon,” dressed in his monk’s garments and likely intended to be Niphont of Cyprus, who was prayed to for driving away evil spirits.

The most interesting one, however, is the fellow in the middle — whose image has lost a bit of paint from the face over the years.  And he is interesting for an odd reason.

He is dressed in the garments of a warrior saint.  And his title inscription is quite clear:

It reads:  SVYATUIY VELIKOMUCHENIK PANTELEIMON/”HOLY GREAT MARTYR PANTELEIMON.”

Note the punched ornamentation in the gold-leafed background.

The interesting thing about this is that Panteleimon was not a warrior saint.  He was an “unmercenary physician.”  So when this icon was painted, a very obvious mistake was made.  Either the warrior saint depicted should have been given a different and correct name inscription, or the name inscription should have had an “unmercenary physician” depicted below it instead of a warrior saint.

Now why was this very obvious error not noticed when the icon was painted or sold?  Well, there was a lot of illiteracy at the time, both among icon painters and icon purchasers.  That means it is not uncommon to find errors of one kind or another on old icons, and this image is a good example to teach us that.

The small figure blessing from the clouds above is Gospod’ Vsederzhitel’ —  Jesus as “The Lord Almighty.”

In the left border is a “family saint,” apparently the name saint of the person for whom the icon was painted — a woman.

She is Svatuiy Muchenitsa Ioustina — “Holy Martyr Justina.”

 

 

 

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