AND YET ANOTHER CRUCIFIXION

Hi again, Iconoholics. I am still fighting with the new WordPress formatting system and the new operating system on my computer, so the postings may look a bit odd for a while (or maybe they always did, but look even more odd now).

Anyway — today we will briefly examine an icon type very familiar to old readers — so for them it will just be an exercise in the “repetition is the mother of learning” policy. For new readers — and they seem to keep coming and subscribing here for some inexplicable reason — I should probably add a warning message to the subscription link:

LASCIATE OGNI SPERANZA, VOI CH’ENTRATE

Yes, that is from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Abandon All Hope, You Who Enter.

Be aware that once you begin the study of icons, there is no end — unless you can somehow break the addiction.  Good luck with that.

Anyway, here is the icon:

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(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The title inscription — instead of being at the top of the icon where it is usually found — is placed just above the main crossbeam in this example:

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The inscription reads:

ОБРАЗ РАСПЯТИЯ ГОСПОДА НАШЕГО IСУСА ХРИСТА
OBRAZ RASPYATIYA GOSPODA NASHEGO ISUSA KHRISTA
“IMAGE OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF LORD 0F-US JESUS CHRIST

In normal English, “Image of the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

On the signboard above the head of Jesus is the superscription borrowed from the biblical account:  I N TS I — which abbreviates the Church Slavic words for “Jesus (I) of Nazareth (N), King (TS) of the Jews (I) — Isus Nazoryanin’ Tsar Iudeiskiy.

The IC XC abbreviation at the ends of the crossbeam is the Greek Ιησούς Χριστός / Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ.”

Now we come to the inscription below the crossbeam. It is the standard

КРЕСТУ ТВОЕМУ ПОКЛАНАЕМСЯ ВЛАДИКО И СВЯАТОЕ ВОСКРЕСЕНИЕ ТВОЕ СЛАВИМЪ”
KRESTOU TVOEMOU POKLANAEMSYA VLADIKO I SVYATOE VOSKRESENIE TVOE SLAVIM”

“We Honor [literally “bow before”] Your Cross, Lord/Master, and Praise Your Holy Resurrection.”

You can see there is some abbreviation.

In the halo of Jesus is the standard inscription HO ON — “The One Who Is” — the equivalent of the King James Old Testament title of God, “I Am That I Am.” In Russian icons, however, the order of the letters and the form of at least one of them is changed, thus making different interpretations possible, particularly among the Old Believers.

Then come the “K” and “T” abbreviations for

КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear,” and ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod, with the sponge at its top.

Below that are the letters НИ КА for NIKA — meaning “He Conquers” in Greek. That is one of the standard Greek inscriptions kept in Russian icons.

Now we come to the final inscriptions on and below the cross:

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They are:

At the base of the upright we see these letters:

М  Л
Р  Б

They abbreviate

МЕСТО ЛОБНОЕ
MESTO LOBNOE

РАЙ БЫСТЬ
RAI BUIST’

meaning,

[The] Place [of the] Skull Paradise Became

In normal English, “The Place of the Skull became Paradise.”  Lobnoe is often more loosely translated as “Execution” or Judgment,” but Mesto Lobnoe refers to the place commonly called Calvary in English, from the Latin Calvariæ Locus, “Skull Place.”

That leads us to the final two inscriptions.

At the sides of the base of the cross are the letters

Г  Г

They abbreviate

ГОРА ГОЛГОФА
GORA GOLGOFA
“Hill [of] Golgotha”

“Golgotha” ultimately derived from the Aramaic Gagultâ, meaning “skull.”
Remember that Church Slavic (like Russian) has no “th” sound, so it is replaced with the “f” sound.

Just below the base of the cross is an opening in which lies a skull.  This follows the tradition that the Crucifixion happened at the center of the earth, and that was supposedly where the biblical first man, Adam, was buried.  So the skull is that of Adam.  And at the sides of the skull are the letters

Г  А


… abbreviating:

ГОЛОВА АДАМА
GOLOVA ADAMA

“[the] SKULL (literally “head”) [of] ADAM”

Some Crucifixion icons have a little plant at the base, a sprout of new life.

Here are the persons standing at left:

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They are: Svyataya Mariya Magdalina — “Holy Mary Magdalene,” Svyataya Marfa (“Holy Martha”) and the MP ΘΥ — abbreviating Greek ΜΗΤΗΡ ΘΕΟΥ / Meter Theou — “Mother of God,” i.e. Mary, mother of Jesus. That is another of the standard Greek titles kept in Russian icons.

At right are these figures:

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They are Svyatuiy Ioann” Bogoslov — “Holy John the Theologian” and Svyatuiy Login” Sotnik — “Holy Longinus the Centurion.”

At upper left is Solntse — “The Sun”:

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And at upper right is Luna — “The Moon.”

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Traditionally in Crucifixion icons, the sun is darkened, and the moon has become “as blood” — red.

Finally, at top center, is Gospod’ Savaof”— “Lord Sabaoth” — that is, God the Father.

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You would not believe how long it took me to get this simple posting done in the new formatting system and on my new computer. But at least you got your “fix” for the day.

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