A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

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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.

SPIT, SMEAR, WASH

The sixth Sunday after Easter, in the Eastern Orthodox Calendar, commemorates the rather lengthy story found in John 9 — the healing of the man born blind.  It seems to be a long allegory in nature, finishing up with the implied lesson:

Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind‘”

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’

Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

In the story, Jesus, passing by, sees a man born blind.  His disciples ask him a question that has troubled interpreters ever since:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

For such a question even to be asked, there had to be a belief among some that the soul can exist before birth — before it is united with the body — and that the soul can “sin,” which then may affect the body at birth.

We find this notion in the apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon (8:19-20):

παῖς δὲ ἤμην εὐφυὴς ψυχῆς τε ἔλαχον ἀγαθῆς,
μᾶλλον δὲ ἀγαθὸς ὢν ἦλθον εἰς σῶμα ἀμίαντον.

For I was a clever child, and had a good spirit.
Rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.

We already know from his “Logos” doctrine that the writer of John shared some Hellenistic notions with Philo of Alexandria.  One of Philo’s concepts was the pre-existence of souls.  We find it, for example, in his On the Confusion of Tongues, XII:

For this reason all the wise men mentioned in the books of Moses are represented as sojourners, for their souls are sent down from heaven upon earth as to a colony; and on account of their fondness for contemplation, and their love of learning, they are accustomed to migrate to the terrestrial nature.

We find the notion also in Josephus, for example in his War of the Jews 8:5:

The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter; but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies.

Josephus attributes that view to the Essenes (2:8:)

For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward.”

In any case, in the account given in John, Jesus says that the man was born blind neither due to his own sins nor those of his parents, but rather “that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”  In other words, he is blind so that Jesus can use him to demonstrate the power of God.

Jesus uses a rather odd healing method here.  He mixes his own spit with earth, rubs the wet clay mixture onto the blind man’s eyes, then tells him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam.  The man does so, then returns, able now to see. Similarly,  In Mark 8:23 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him.  In Mark 7:32-35 he heals a deaf man, and also cures his speech impediment by spitting on his tongue.

A rather typical example of the icon type for the Sunday of the Healing of the Blind Man — Κυριακή του τυφλού/Kyriake tou typhlou — is this one, from the 16th century and the Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece:

The inscription is not difficult:

If we fill out the abbreviation and separate the words, it reads:

Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC ΙΩΜΕΝΟC ΤΟΝ ΤΥΦΛΟΝ
Ho Khristos Iomenos Ton Typhlon
“Christ Heals the Blind [man]”

At left we see Jesus applying the wet clay to the blind man’s eyes:

And at right we see the blind man gaining his sight as he washes the clay from his eyes in the Pool of Siloam:

Note that the pool is represented in the form of a cruciform well, much as we see the well often depicted in icons of the Samaritan “Woman at the Well” story, commemorated on the Sunday preceding this one.  In icons we often find this cross shape used for wells and pools, of course for symbolic reasons.

This icon type of Jesus healing the blind man completes the group of six Pascal (post-Easter) Sundays in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar.  The icon type following this one in that now completed liturgical sequence is that of the Ascension of Jesus.

THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION’S — WELL, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Two postings back, I discussed the prevalence of slavery in the New Testament and its survival in Christianity (see https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/jesus-slaves/).  Today we will look at an interesting related issue.  Be cautioned — this requires careful reading, because it can be rather confusing — a confusion that is reflected in iconography.

There is an icon type depicting the healing story found in Matthew 8:5-13:

In it, a Roman centurion (we see him with Jesus in the above image) comes to request healing for his παῖς/pais:

“[Jesus] Having entered into Capernaum, there came to him a centurion [ἑκατόνταρχος/hekatontarkhos], beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my pais [παῖς] is lying in the house paralyzed, terribly tormented.’  And he [Jesus] says to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’

But the centurion, answering him, said, ‘Lord [Kyrie], I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only speak the word and my pais will be healed.  For even I — a man — am under authority.  I have under me soldiers, and I say to this one, Go! and he goes, and to that one, Come! and he comes, and to my slave [doulos] Do this! and he does it.’   Jesus hearing him was amazed, and said to those following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel.'”

Now the question is, what did the Centurion in the story mean by pais?  The usual English translation will say (euphemistically) that the pais here is his servant, however that is not at all clear from the context.  Indeed, when the Centurion is telling Jesus how he just gives a command and is obeyed by his soldiers, he adds that all he has to do is say to his slave (doulos) “Do this!” and the slave does it.  Now again, in most English translations, both pais and doulos are commonly and euphemistically translated as “servant.”

A doulos, however, is not a servant as we understand the term.  A doulos is quite literally a slave, and the legal property of his owner.  Pais, however, can mean a child, a boy; it can also be a term used for a male slave (just as slave owners in the American South used the term “boy” when referring to a male slave, with the appellation surviving even in post-slavery times as an implied disrespectful deprecation in the southern United States when used for men of African descent).  A pais may even signify the male sex partner of the slave owner (those who favor this interpretation point out that in New Testament times, centurions were not allowed to marry, though of course some had female sex partners).

So, was the pais of the Centurion in “Matthew” his son?  Was he asking Jesus to heal his boy?  Or was he asking him to heal his slave, and if so, why does he use pais in one place, and doulos in another, as though he is speaking of two different persons?  I will leave the “male sex partner” possibility for others to ponder.

In any case, how is it that most English translations  — given this uncertainty — render pais here as “servant” and not “boy”?

The answer is that the translators go to the parallel story in the gospel called “Of Luke.”  As you know, “Mark” is considered to be the first gospel written of the New Testament four, and both “Matthew” and “Luke” are expanded, edited versions of Mark, adding additional material (notably birth and resurrection appearance stories at beginning and end, as well as other material in the main body of the text).

Mark, however, has no tale of a centurion coming to Jesus and asking for healing.  But there is a version of the story in “Luke” 7:1-10:

“And when he [Jesus] had finished all his words in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capernaum.  And a certain slave [doulos] of a centurion was ill, about to die, who was precious to him.

And hearing about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, begging him to come cure his slave [doulon].  And coming to Jesus, they begged him earnestly, saying, ‘Worthy is he to whom he will grant this, for he loves our nation, and built a synagogue for us.’  And Jesus went with them.

And when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.  Therefore I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my pais shall be healed.  For I a man am appointed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, Go! and he goes, and to another, Come! and he comes, and to my slave [doulo] Do this! and he does it.’

And having heard these things, Jesus was amazed by him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I did not even find such faith in Israel.'”

Now obviously this is just a variation on the same story, though in Luke’s version, the Centurion does not himself come to Jesus, but instead sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come.   But in the Lukan version (unlike “Matthew”) it is quite clear that the Centurion’s doulos and his pais are one and the same person — his slave.  And that is why translators, reading Luke, make the Centurion’s pais in Matthew his “servant” and not his boy (though as we have seen, doulos really means “slave.”

We have, however, also seen that there are differences in the two stories, and so we cannot know for certain that the pais in Matthew was the Centurion’s slave and not his own son.

In fact the matter is only further confused if we take a look at another story, found in the gospel “Of John,” 4:46-54:

“So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he had made the water wine.  And there was a certain royal official [βασιλικὸς/basilikos], whose son [υἱὸς/huios] was ill in Capernaum.

He, hearing that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, asked that he would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.  Jesus therefore said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.’

The royal official [basiliskos] says to him, ‘Lord [Kyrie], come down before my child [παιδίον/paidion] dies.’

Jesus says to him, ‘Go, your son [υἱός/huios] lives.’

The story continues for a few more lines, but that is the essence of it.

Now it seems this tale in “John” is just another variant of the same tale told in Matthew and Luke.  The Centurion becomes a “royal official,” and the pais of Matthew  becomes quite clearly the “son” of the official in John.  In fact when the official asks Jesus to come before his son dies, he uses the word παιδίον/paidion, which is just a diminutive form of παῖς/pais.

So that leaves us still not knowing what “Matthew” intended the pais of the Centurion to be, though it may well have been his son, as in John, and not his slave.  Luke makes it quite clear that in his story, the pais is a slave.  But in John, the official’s paidion is quite clearly his huios, his son.

Now, those brave and patient souls among you who have read all of that, will now know the confusion that lies behind the presence of two quite different images in Eastern Orthodox iconography.  We have already seen the first, which shows the Centurion beseeching Jesus to heal his pais, which is generally interpreted to be his slave by the admixture of Luke’s version of the story with that of Matthew.

John’s story, however, results in quite a different icon type, in which the Centurion (not just “royal official”) has Jesus heal his son.

Here is an example from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos:

We see Jesus and his disciples at left, and the Centurion at right, beside the bed on which his son lies.

The Greek inscription reads:

Ὁ Χριστός ιώµενος τον ὑιον του εκατοντάρχου
Ho Khristos iomenos ton huion tou [h]ekatontarkhou

“Christ Healing the Son of the Centurion.”

Now in Eastern Orthodoxy, Matthew’s tale of the healing of the Centurion’s “servant” is read on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost.  John’s tale of the Royal Official’s (“Nobleman’s”) son is read on Monday of the 3rd week In Pascha.  They are treated as two quite separate “miracles.” But in practice — including in iconography — they are often confused, as we see from the Dionysiou fresco, in which we find the Centurion (not “royal official/nobleman”) of Matthew and Luke, but the Centurion’s son (from the Gospel of John) is the one being healed, not his slave.

If your head is spinning after all that, relax, sit down, have a nice hot cup of herbal tea.

 

COOKING WITH APPLES

You may remember the tale associated with the popular Greek female saint Irene Chrysovolantou — that the Apostle and Evangelist John sent her — via some sailors — three apples from Paradise.  You will find the story here:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/irene-and-her-apples/

This motif of the three apples from Paradise is also found in the hagiography of the saint depicted in this fresco from Meteora:

We can see enough of his title  inscription to translate it:

At the top is the usual Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC  — Ho Hagios abbreviation, meaning “[the] Saint.” Here it is represented by just the three letters O A Γ.

Then comes the name of the saint, written here as

ΕΥΦΡω
CΙΝΟς

When we join the parts, it forms Euphrosinos, but it is more commonly written as Ευφροσυνος  —  Euphrosynos.

Notice the ligature (“joining”) of the letters E and Υ (E and U in English) as:

If we look to the right of his head, we find his secondary title:

It reads

Ὁ ΜΑΓΗΡος — HO MAGIROS

The common spelling of this is Ὁ ΜΑΓΕΙΡΑC — HO MAGEIRAS, but as we know from past experience, Greek spelling on icon images often varies, though the pronunciation is usually much the same.

HO MAGIROS/MAGEIRAS — means “the cook,” so we have identified this saint as “Euphrosynos the Cook.”

The tale associated with him — his “hagiography” — relates that he worked as the cook in a kitchen in a monastery.  He took a lot of abuse from the other monks (as cooks often do from those they serve), but through it all he remained patient and humble, though the others did not think much of him.

Now as the tale goes, a priest in the monastery wanted to know what life was going to be like for the “righteous” in the next world.  He prayed fervently for God to show him.

One night the priest had a dream.  In it, he found himself in Paradise, and who should he see there but the abused cook from his own monastery kitchen!  He was quite amazed, and asked Euphrosynos how he managed to be there.  The cook replied that it was just through the goodness of God.

Surrounded by all the beauty of the Garden of Paradise, the priest asked the cook if he might have something from Paradise to take back with him.  The cook picked three juicy apples from a tree, wrapped them in a cloth, and gave them to the priest.

The priest woke suddenly when the semantron (that “gong” board used in old monasteries) was struck.  He found himself in his own room, still thinking of his strange dream.  But he smelled a wonderful fragrance, and found something wrapped in a cloth beside him.  When he opened the cloth, he found there the three apples the cook had given him in Paradise.

The priest hurried to the cook, and when he found him, he asked him where he had been the night before.  The cook replied simply that he had been where the priest had been.

The excited priest went off to tell the rest of the monks about what a holy person the cook they were always complaining about really was, but when the monks went to honor him, he was nowhere to be found, and they never saw him again.  All that was left were the three fragrant apples from Paradise.  Whoever ate them was healed of all physical problems.

Now if we look more closely at this story, we find it is severely lacking in details.  The story does not say when it happened, or precisely where.  Some say it happened in a monastery in Palestine, others say Alexandria in Egypt, and still others say it happened in a monastic community on Mount Athos in Greece.  It is just a kind of pleasant folk tale, the religious equivalent of a fairy tale (which many lives of saints actually are), and it served much the same purpose, both entertaining and teaching a lesson.

Now you know why icons of Euphrosynos picture him holding a branch with three apples on it.  And you also know why icons of Euphrosynos the Cook are commonly found in Greek monastery kitchens, and in many ordinary Greek restaurant and home kitchens as well.  Euphrosynos has become the patron saint of Greek cookery.

We have one more little detail to notice — the little cross with letters on the garment:

If you are a regular reader here, you will recall that IC XC abbreviates Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ,” and the NK abbreviates the Greek word NIKA, meaning “He Conquers.”

 

CONFUSING THE SAINTS

It is not surprising that the physical features of images of the bulk of Eastern Orthodox saints found in icons are simply imaginary.  Though there are some saints (like Seraphim of Sarov) whose icons bear a reasonable likeness of their actual physical appearance in life, the features of most icon saints were just “made up” at some point, leaving us with generic figures distinguished largely by the kind of garment worn, as well as by the shape, length, and color of hair and of beard (when present).  So we are left with imaginary images of a great many saints, identified specifically by the title inscription given to each depiction.

It is as though one were to decide to make a picture of the famous King Arthur of British legend.  We might decide to give him neck-length dark hair, make him a young man, clean-shaven.  We could then give him a crown, and put the title “King Arthur of the Britons” on the image to distinguish it from all other images of young, clean-shaven, dark-haired men wearing crowns.  Then if we were to say, “This is how Arthur is to be painted from now on,” it would be much the same as with icons.   These imaginary, generic icon depictions became standardized by being passed down over the years, though one still finds some disagreements in painter’s manuals on how this or that saint is to be painted.

Here is a fresco from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos, painted in 1547 by Tzortzis Phouka:

The title inscription tells us this is Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΜΑΚΑΡΙΟC Ὁ ΡωΜΑΙΟC — HO HAGIOS MAKARIOS HO ROMAIOS — “[The] Holy Makarios the Roman.”  His life is vaguely placed in the 4th to 5th century.

His name Makarios means “Blessed” in Greek.  But in iconography, Makarios can often mean confusion, because there were at least twenty saints by that name, and sometimes not only bits of their lives but also their representation in icons can become rather confused.

To give you an idea, here is a portion of another depiction — also a fresco:

It looks like the very same person, doesn’t it?  We even see the title Ὁ [Ἁ]Γ[ΙΟ]C ΜΑΚΑΡΙΟC — HO HAGIOS MAKARIOS — “HOLY MAKARIOS.”  But if we stop there, we will be mistaken, because what follows “Makarios” in the title inscription identifies him as Makarios Ὁ ΕΓΥΠΤΙΟC — HO EGYPTIOS — “The Egyptian.”  This Makarios is said to have lived in the 4th century.

Well, Makarios the Egyptian — also known as Makarios the Great — is not the same as Makarios the Roman.  We must also be careful to distinguish Makarios the Egyptian — who is also known as Makarios the Great — from his contemporary Makarios the Alexandrian, who obviously was an Egyptian too, but not THE  Makarios the Egyptian.

Now to confuse matters even further, though Makarios the Great/the Egyptian is often depicted as here, with a long beard and covered in hair, just like the first image of Makarios the Roman — Makarios the Great/the Egyptian may also be found in quite a different form, in a monastic habit.  There is even an icon type showing him standing with a “cherubim” (cherub), an incident from the hagiographic story of his life:

Because of this scene, even though the Greek inscription on the icon identifies him only as Ho Hagios Makarios, we know this is intended to be Makarios the Egyptian/Makarios the Great.

Similarly, there is an icon type of Makarios the Roman, depicting him with an element that identifies him specifically as “the Roman” just as clearly as the “Cherubim” identifies Makarios the Egyptian/the Great.  Here it is in an 18th century icon from the Skete of St. Anna on Mount Athos:

We see this Makarios — called Makarios ho Romaios here — “Makarios the Roman” — sitting in his cave with two lions.  Those two lions are the identifying element from his hagiography (aside, of course, from the ho Romaios in his title inscription).

But there is yet more confusion.  We have just seen Makarios the Roman with his lions, but there is another Makarios the Roman who has nothing to do with lions, and is from a much later date.  He is Makarios/Macarius the Roman “of Novgorod,” who is said to have died in northern Russia in 1550.  His icons show him much the same as other monastic founders of that region.  So now we have to distinguish this later Makarios the Roman “of Novgorod” from the earlier Makarios the Roman “of Mesopotamia.”

All of this is just to give you an idea of how easily things may be confused in iconography, and how careful one must be when identifying saints in icons, particularly when part or all of a title inscription may be missing.  Icon painters sometimes made mistakes, confusing one saint with another of the same name, and so in general, the best thing to do is to go by the title inscription — the name written by the saint, rather than strictly by the physical appearance.  When a title inscription is missing or incomplete, it is often impossible to identify a saint simply by appearance — except in the case of the most distinctive saints.

 

 

AN ESSENTIAL NICHOLAS TEXT

As you know, people often write to me asking for help with the identification of icons.  One such recent request involved this image:

(Bequest of Edith Waetjen)

It is a late Russian icon, and if you are a long-time reader here, you will recognize the subject as  Svyatuiy Nikolai Chudotvorets — “Holy Nicholas the Wonderworker — that is, St. Nicholas of Myra, who was believed to be a miracle worker.  Nicholas was extremely popular in Russia, and countless icons of this type were painted.  In this example we see the usual elements — the circle enclosing Jesus at left, giving Nicholas his Gospel book, and that of Mary at right, bestowing the bishop’s stole (omophorion) on Nicholas.

I particularly want to take a look at the Church Slavic text held by Nicholas, because it is the most common text used on his icons.  As students of icons you should learn to recognize it, because it will enable you to translate a great many icons of Nikolai/Nicholas.   Here it is:

It reads:
VO VREMYA ONO STA ISUS NA MESTE RAVNE I NAROD OUCHENIK EGO I MNOZHESTVO MNOGO  LIUDEI OT VSEYA IOUDEI I [I]EROUSALIMA [I] PO[MORIYA TYRSKA I SIDONSKA….]

Rather literally,

“At that time Jesus stood on a level place and the group of his disciples and a multitude of many people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon….”

The King James version gives it as:
And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon….