Today’s icon type is a monastic subject, so it is not surprising that the earliest surviving example is found as a fresco in the Ferapontov Monastery church in the Vologda region of Russia, painted by Dionysiy about 1502-1503.

It is another of those “Vision” icons.  Here is an example from the Entrance into the Temple Monastery in Solvychegodsk, from the latter half of the 16th century:

It is called ВИДЕНИЕ ЕВЛОГИЯ — Videnie Evlogiya — “The Vision of Evlogiy” (Eulogios in Greek form).

The tale comes from the Skete Paterik (Скитский патерик), a very old collection of monastic and ascetic sayings, counsel, and stories.   Such an anthology is called a paterik in Russian and a πατερικόν/paterikon in Greek.

The story of Evlogiy is found in one version of the Paterik.  Originally, the story had a simpler form.  It said that a presbyter named Evlogiy had the ability to see the inner thoughts and intentions of monks attending the liturgical services — whether they did so piously or carelessly, with sincerity and diligence or without.  Later this simple tale became expanded into a vision of Evlogiy in which, at the blessing of the loaves at the end of the Evening Vigil service, he saw angels among the attending monks, anointing some with “myrrh,” censing others with incense,  distributing liturgical bread and symbolic spiritual rewards to the monks according to what they deserved for their efforts.  Some monks, he saw, received gold coins, some silver, and some only copper.  Some who had not the proper attitude and diligence during services left with nothing at all.

Evlogiy himself is seen at lower left, holding a scroll reading:

“не хвалитеся и не глаголите высокая в гордыни своей ниже да изыдет велиречие из уст ваших”.
Ne khvalitesya i ne glagolite vuisokaya v gorduini svoey nizhe da izuidet velirechie iz ust vashikh

“Do not glory and do not speak high in your pride nor let the speech leave your mouth.”

At bottom center we see two monks venerating the liturgical vessel containing the prosphora — the liturgical bread — representing the five loaves Jesus is said to have multiplied to feed the crowds in the New Testament (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:1-24).

Two angels at upper center hold scrolls reading:

“Друг друга тяготы носите и так исполните заповедь Христову”
Drug druga tyagotui nosite i tak ispolnite zapoved Khristovu

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the commandment of Christ,”

“Слово Христово да вселится в вас благодатно во всяко премудрость сердцах ваших”
Slovo Khrsitovo da vselitsya v vas blagodatno vo vsyako premudrost serdtsakh

“Let the word of Christ be established in you in all wisdom of your hearts.”





There are some odd accounts in the New Testament — among them that of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas on the Mount of Olives.

Here is one image:

We see the title in Greek at the top:  Ἡ ΠΡΟΔΟCΙΑ/HE PRODOSIA 

Notice that the Π is linked to the Ρ.

He Prodosia means “The Betrayal.”

Now in the account found in the gospel called “of John,” we find these Greek words used:

χιλίαρχος/khiliarkhos:  a khiliarkhos is a Roman military officer commanding one thousand men.
σπειρα/speira:  a speira is commonly a Roman cohort consisting of 600 to 1,000 men.

We read in John 18:12 of what is said to have happened on the Mount of Olives on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested:

Ἡ οὖν σπεῖρα καὶ ὁ χιλίαρχος καὶ οἱ ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων συνέλαβον τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἔδησαν αὐτὸν.

“Then the speira and the khiliarkhos and the subordinates/officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.”

A speira under a khiliarkhos?  That means the “band” of soldiers arresting Jesus was not just fifteen or twenty or thirty or forty men; according to this account, they must have been at least 600 to a thousand — just to arrest one person.

That is not the end of the strangeness.  There is the matter of the violence on the side of the disciples  Mark tells us vaguely (14:47):

“And one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

Luke is similarly vague as to who it was: (Luke 22:50):

“And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.”

Matthew is not much clearer (26:51):

“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.”

John, however, gives a surprising name (18:10):

“Then Simon Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

Why does Peter even have a sword, if the disciples of Jesus are just a peaceful band?  And further, why do we find this mysterious exchange between Jesus and his disciples, just before going out to the Mount of Olives,  in Luke (22:35-38):

And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, and money, and shoes, did you lack anything? And they said, Nothing.  Then he said to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his money: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.  For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.  And they said, Lord, look, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.”

Why do the disciples of Jesus need swords?  Is Jesus trying to make himself look like a rebel against Rome, and so be arrested as a criminal?  Or is there perhaps some connection here between the accounts of Jesus and Jewish rebellion against Rome that we do not understand?

And why, when we find the disciples of Jesus named in Luke (6:14-16) do we find what most scholars consider to be a zealot among them — a zealot in the political sense, meaning a rebel against Rome — or is he, as some suggest, merely “zealous” in the religious sense?

“Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”

And is Judas Iscariot really to be understood as Judas Sicariot — Judas the “dagger man,” one of the terrorist assassins known as Sicarii, rather than being simply ish Keriot — “man of [the village of] Keriot?

And why do so many of the things that happen in the Gospels seem chronologically out of place when compared to what is known from secular sources of historical figures and events?

For what it is worth (and what it is worth is still not quite clear), there is an interesting study of the matter by Lena Einhorn, who has written two books on the topic:

The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Lyons Press, 2007)

A Shift in Time:  How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus (Yucca Publishing, 2016)

Einhorn herself admits her conclusions are an unproven hypothesis, but her books are nonetheless interesting for her examination of the apparent historical peculiarities in the chronology in the New Testament.

Iconographically, it is interesting that the image at the top of this posting shows Peter cutting off the ear of a boy servant —

— while other images — including the Western rendering here by Duccio di Buoninsegna — depict the servant as an adult male (at the far left of the image):




Depending on whether you want to learn to actually READ icons or not, you will either find this posting quite interesting or else unutterably boring.  In any case, here we go.

Today we will look at a Greek-inscribed image of  a rather generic-looking saint called in Greek Ὁ Άγιος Ιωαννίκιος ο Μέγας ὁ εν Ολύμπω/Ho Hagios Ioannikios ho Megas Ho en Olympo — “[The] Holy Ioannikios the Great, the-one in Olympus.”  You may also find him as Όσιος Ιωαννίκιος ὁ Μεγάλος/Hosios Ioannikios ho MegalosHosios Ioannikios ho Megalos.  You will recall that Hosios is the Greek title for a male monk-saint — the equivalent of the Slavic Prepodobnuiy, which is customarily loosely rendered as “Venerable.”  And ho Megalos here has the same meaning as ho Megas — “the Great.”

In Russian iconography he is called Преподобный Иоанникий Великий/Prepodobnuiy Ioannikiy Velikiy, which means simply “Venerable Ioannikios the Great.”

It is not so much the saint that interests us today as reading his inscriptions, which are good practice.  Here is his image:

If you have been a faithful reader of this site (you all are, aren’t you?), then you will easily be able to translate the title inscription.  Here is what we see at top left:


That is obviously a common abbreviation for ἉΓΙΟC/Ho Hagios, “The Holy.”

Below that we find:


ΙΟΑΝΝΙΚΙΟC/IOANNIKIOS, the saint’s name.  Notice that the second letter of the name is the old form of the letter Omega, but I have used the common modern form in representing it.

At right we see:

— which you have probably already read as HO MEGAS and have translated as “The Great.”

Now we come to the interesting part — the scroll inscription.  As you already know, saints in icons speak through scrolls, just as cartoon characters speak through cartoon bubbles.  Here is the inscription:

It reads (with spaces added, ligatures separated,  and abbreviations completed in lighter type):


From past reading here, you already should know several of the words — those I have put in bold type here:


Here are those you don’t know, with their definitions:


We can read the whole inscription like this:

Ho Elpis mou ho Theos;
Kataphyge mou ho Khristos;
Skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion


The Hope of-me the God;
Refuge of-me the Christ;
Protection of-me the Spirit the Holy

And in normal English — the way we would translate it — it means:

My Hope is God;
My Refuge is Christ;
My Protection the Holy Spirit.

This inscription — which is a common inscription on icons of Ioannikios — is a variation on what was said to be a frequent prayer of his:

Η ελπίς μου ὁ Πατήρ, καταφυγή μου οὙιός, σκέπη μου το Πνεύμα το Ἁγιον, Τριάς Ἁγία, δόξα σοι.

He elpis mou ho Pater, kataphyge mou o Huios, skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion, Trias Hagia, doxa soi.


The help of-me the Father, refuge of-me the Son, protection of-me the Spirit the Holy, Trinity Holy, glory to-you

In normal English,
“My help is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

In Eastern Orthodoxy, it has become a Trinitarian prayer that is often inserted into longer prayers.

Let’s look now at a late printed icon of Ioannikios that is inscribed in both Greek and Church Slavic:

We see his title written beside his head, first in Greek, then in Church Slavic, both of which you should now be able to read.  But what about his scroll text?

As we shall see, it is nothing to worry about.  It reads (I am using a modern Russian font):

Упование мое
Отец, прибежи-
ще мое Сын,
покров мой Ду-
х Святый, Тро-
ице Святая
слава Тебе.

Upovanie moe Otets, pribyezhishche moe Suin, pokrov moy Dukh Svyatuiy, Troitse Svyataya, slava Tebye.

“My hope is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

So it turns out to be precisely the same inscription — with a slight lengthening — that is common on Greek icons of Ioannikios — only here in Church Slavic.

If you can endure a bit more of this, we should probably take a look at another Greek inscription on a fresco of Ioannikios:


You will easily recognize the triliteral abbreviation at left as Ho Hagios — “The Holy,” but it is the rest of the title inscription that concerns us here:

Though a bit worn, we can fill it in as reading:



“Thaumaturge” is just the word borrowed into English from Greek, but in Greek it means simply “Wonderworker,” someone who works miracles.

So we see that there is another title for Ioannikios the Great:  “Ioannikios the Wonderworker.”

As for the hagiographic life of this Ioannikios, some say he was born in 754 or 755, others in 762 — in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  As a boy, he tended his parents’ pigs, and was illiterate.  He joined the army, and is said to have been an Iconoclast (an opposer of the use of icons), but later in life converted to the opposite belief, becoming an Iconophile (an advocate of icons).  Troubled by the slaughter he saw in battle, he left the army and became a monk at the Antidion Monastery on Mount Olympus.

As a monk, he was said to have miraculous abilities, and could levitate and become invisible.  He predicted when a number of people would die.  He had power over wild animals, and could overcome snakes and dragons (the dragon part alone tells us that as with all Eastern Orthodox hagiography, we should maintain a healthy skepticism).

He is said to have died in 846 c.e.


At the request of a reader, here is a brief discussion of “All Saints” icons:

In the Greek Orthodox calendar, the first Sunday after Pentecost/Whitsunday is Ἡ Κυριακή των Ἁγίων Πάντων/He Kyriake ton Hagion Panton — “The Sunday of All Saints.”  In Russian Orthodoxy, it is Неделя всех святых/Nedelya vsekh svyatuikh, with the same meaning.

If you are a long-time reader here, you will perhaps recall that we have seen a generally simple form of the icon of All Saints as part of the “Week” icon (, in which it represents Saturday in the seven days of the week.

“All Saints” (Ὁι άγιοι Πάντες/Hoi Hagioi Pantes) icons do, however, exist on their own.

Greek iconography tends to prefer the “circle” form, which looks like this:

In the center we see Jesus enthroned.  He holds the opened Gospels.  If we look at an example of the same image in a more recent icon of the same type, we can see the text more easily:

It reads:

Δεῦτε, οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου, κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμα[σμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου].

Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

At upper left is the Prophet Daniel, and at upper right King Solomon.  Some examples have King David (called the Prophet David) at left instead of Daniel, in which case he holds a scroll with a text taken from Psalm 32 (33 in KJV numbering):

Αγαλλιάσθε δίκαιοι, εν Κυρίω· τοις ευθέσι πρέπει αίνεσις.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous; praise becomes the upright,
which is also a part of the liturgy for All Saints Sunday.

Solomon holds a scroll with a text from Wisdom of Solomon 5:15, one of the readings for the Sunday of All Saints:

Δίκαιοι δὲ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ζῶσι, καὶ ἐν Κυρίῳ ὁ μισθὸς αὐτῶν, καὶ ἡ φροντὶς αὐτῶν παρὰ ῾Υψίστῳ.

But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High.

At the base of the icon, we see the Forefather Abraham seated in Paradise at left, holding a soul in his bosom.  Some examples include a similar image of the Forefather Jacob at right, also holding souls, as in this icon:

You will recall these fellows from the previous posting on the icon of the Forefathers in Paradise (  To the right of Abraham is the image of the “Repentant Thief,” holding his cross.

In the circle around Jesus are the various ranks of saints.  At his feet is the altar table we find in icons of the Hetoimasia — the “Preparation of the Throne,” the throne being represented as an altar.  To its left stands Adam, and at right Eve.

At the top of the circle we see angels with the cross and symbols of the Passion, and above them two more angels holding open the doors of Heaven.

Russian icons of “All Saints” are commonly in the “square” form rather than the Greek “circle,” as we see in this example from 1616:

At top is Jesus in the “Deisis” form, with Mary at left and John the Forerunner (Baptist) at right, and many angels on both sides  Below him and between two angels is the “Hetoimasia” — the altar table “throne” prepared for judgment.  The rest of the icon consists of the saints, separated into their ranks or choirs (Slavic лики/liki), just as we saw in the posting on “Week” icons mentioned above.

“All Saints” icons commemorate all saints from the beginning of time to Judgment Day, and the image of the Patriarchs in Paradise is included as representation of the rewards of sainthood.


A reader kindly shared some photos of the dome fresco in the katholikon (main church) of the Pantokrator Monastery at Mount Athos.  The much earlier frescos in the katholikon were painted over in 1854 by Matheos Ioannou of Naoussa, so what we see is comparatively recent.

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)

Our purpose in looking at this fresco today is to examine the Greek inscription.  Long-time readers here already know that icons of God the Father painted as an old man are extremely common throughout Eastern Orthodox iconography, with a history going back many centuries.

Here is a closer look at the inscription:

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)
It reads:

Ὁ ΑΝΑΡΧΟC ΠΑΤΗΡ — HO ANARKHOS PATER — “THE BEGINNINGLESS FATHER.”  So the image represents God the Father.

The Pedalion (The Rudder, a treatise on  Orthodox Church canons by Nicholas the Hagiorite, 1749-1809) says:

ὁ άναρχος Πατήρ πρέπει να ζωγραφίζεται καθώς εφάνη εις τον προφήτην Δανιήλ ως παλαιός ημερών.

The Beginningless Father should be painted as he appeared to the Prophet Daniel, as the ‘Ancient of Days.‘”

You will recall from a previous posting here ( that there is an ongoing controversy in Eastern Orthodox circles as to whether the “Ancient of Days” type should be used to represent Jesus, or whether it should be God the Father.  But in the study of icons we pay no attention to modern doctrinaire quibbles over what this or that person thinks painters should have done.  Instead we simply go with historical reality — with what a painter actually did in a given case.  And in this case the image is quite clearly identified as the “Beginningless Father” — God the Father.  You will recall that in Russian iconography, God the Father is commonly titled “Lord Sabaoth.”

Note the triangle halo with the faint HO ON  (“The One Who Is” ) inscription in it — an inscription generally found on icons of Jesus.  The triangle with its three points is of course a “Trinity” symbol, and more often found in late Orthodox iconography.


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:

“[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.


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:

“[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.