WATER AND HONEY

Here is today’s icon type:


To find out what it is, we need only read the title inscription on the banner that is at the top:

As you can see, it is rather long — so we shall take it part by part:


The first word is ОБРАЗ, with the final З written lying just above the A.  If you have been reading this site for some time (or you can go to the archives for older postings), you will recognize ОБРАЗ/Obraz as the word for “image.”  The saints below are Vasiliy Velikiy (Basil the Great) and the Meter Theou (Mother of God);

The following words are: ПРОИСХОЖДЕНIЕ (ПРОИСХОЖДЕНИЕ) — PROISKHOZDENIE;
ЧЕСТНАГО — CHESTNAGO (remember that the -ago suffix indicates an “of” form);

И ЖИВОТВОРЯЩАГО КРЕСТА –– I ZHIVOTVORYASHCHAGO KRESTA, with the IC XC abbreviation for Jesus just below);

ГОСПОДЬНЯ НА ИСТОЧНIКЬ (ИСТОЧНИКЬ ) — GOSPOD’NYA NA ISTOCHNIK’, with John the Forerunner and Grigoriy Bogoslov (Gregory the Theologian) just below;

Now if we put the whole inscription together, we get:

ОБРАЗ ПРОИСХОЖДЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНАГО И ЖИВОТВОРЯЩАГО КРЕСТА ГОСПОДЬНЯ НА ИСТОЧНИКЬ

OBRAZ PROISKHOZHDENIE CHESTNAGO I ZHIVOTVORYASHCHAGO KRESTA GOSPOD’NYA NA ISTOCHNIK’

“[THE] IMAGE [of the] PROCESSION OF THE HONORABLE AND LIFE-CREATING CROSS [of the] Lord to the WELLSPRING.”

So this icon type is the “Image of the Procession of the Honorable and Life-creating (we can say “life-giving” in English) Cross of the Lord to the Wellspring” (or in English we can just say spring or fountain).

We can call it:
The Image of the Procession of the Honorable and Life-giving Cross of the Lord to the Fountain.”  It represents the origin of a minor church festival that takes place on August 1st (August 14th in the “new style” calendar).

The festival has a rather confused origin, being associated with four different events.

The first two were victories in battle:

1.  The victory of the Russian forces of Great Prince Andrey Bogoliubskiy against the Bulgarians on August 1st, 1164; an icon of Mary and an image of the cross were used by the Russians in the Battle.

2.  The victory of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel (1143-1180) over the Saracens — also on August 1, in which an icon of Mary and an image of the cross were also said to have been used.

3.  The annual practice, in the city of Constantinople, of taking what was supposed to be the wood of the cross of Jesus from the Royal Treasury on July 31st, and carrying it through the streets to dispel disease, placing it on the altar of the Church of Holy Wisdom, then, on the following day, taking it to the Dormition Church, and letting it be venerated by the people.  Then on August 14th it was taken back to the Imperial palace.

4.  There was also a custom in Constantinople of consecrating the waters and the springs, generally on the 1st of each month, and with this the celebration of the supposed “true cross” was also associated.

In any case, what we see in the icon is the blessing of the waters in Constantinople with the cross, as depicted in this portion, with the Emperor and Empress and a crowd of people and clerics looking on as the cross is used to bless the  waters in a stone wellspring from which a stream flows:

All kinds of people come to the sanctified water flowing from the wellspring, reminiscent of the crowds coming to the waters in the Живоносный источник/Zhivonosnuiy Istochnik/”Life-giving Fountain” type.  Here we see one fellow dipping water from the stream, two others giving it to a prostrate ill woman, and a crippled man with pads on his legs and hands:

Here an ill girl, holding her cup, is brought to the stream in a wheelbarrow;


At right, a boy bathes in the waters as a standing man drinks them from a glass.  And at far right, a demon is expelled from the mouth of a possessed man:


All of this elaborate scene takes place outside the walls of Constantinople.  Note the figure holding the icon of Jesus, with its decorative cloth hanging below it.


If we return to the sky above, we see Jesus blessing from Heaven, with Mary at left and John the Forerunner at right:

Below him are three cherubim, with their title in Slavic separated among the three halos, like this:

ХЕРУ   ВИ  МИ

Херувими/Kheruvimi — “Cherubim.”

Below those three is an angel identified only as a “Holy Angel of the Lord” (with “Holy” and “Lord” abbreviated).

There is some variation from example to example of this type, most notably in who dips the cross into the wellspring in the central scene.  While in this example it is done by a поп/pop — a “priest,” as the Filimonov Podlinnik describes him, in others the cross is dipped by a standing “Angel of the Lord,”

proiskhsangel.jpg

in some by an “Angel of the Lord” flying down,

proiskhozdangelskres.jpg

and in others by three “Angels of the Lord.”

proiskhtrangeli.jpg

The use of an angel is reminiscent of the story of the angel troubling the waters of the Pool of Bethesda in John 5, 1-5, and some icons of that type (the icon for the Sunday of the Paralytic) depict the angel.  Also, some examples depict the wellspring as cross-shaped instead of square or rectangular, as found also in some icons of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman — the “Woman at the Well.”

In Russia, this festival became associated also with the “Baptism” — the conversion — of Russia (actually, originally Kievan Rus, not what we know today as Russia) to Orthodox Christianity in 988 c.e.  On this day there is a lesser blessing of the waters in Russia.  Also, on August 14th now, “Honey Savior” (Медовый Спас/Medovuiy Spas) is celebrated.  It is a pre-Christian festival that was carried on into Christian times.  “Honey Savior” is the first of three such ancient autumn festivals, the following two being “Apple Savior” on August 19th and “Nut Savior” on August 29th.  On “Honey Savior,” people bring their honey from the hives to the church to be blessed, and believe it should not be eaten before that time.  So August 1st is, in folk belief, the beginning of autumn.

Because of its association with the “Baptism of Russia,” August 1st was also Мокрый Спас/Mokruiy Spas — “Wet Savior” — the day on which the waters were blessed, and people took their horses and cattle to the rivers and streams to be bathed.

“OH, NO! NOT MORE GREEK!” OR “YAY! MORE GREEK!”

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:

Γ
ὉἉ

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

Below that we find:

ΙΩΑΝΝΙ
ΚΙΟς

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:
Ὁ ΜΕ
ΓΑC

— 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):

Ἡ ΕΛΠΙΣ ΜΟΥ Ὁ
ΘΕΟC ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ
ΜΟΥ Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC CΚΕ
ΠΗ ΜΟΥ ΤΟ
ΠΝΕΥΜΑ ΤΟ ἉΓΙ
ΟΝ

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

HO ELPIS MOU HO
THEOS KATAPHYGE
MOU HO KHRISTOS SKE-
PE MOU TO
PNEUMA TO AGI-
ON

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

ΕΛΠΙC/ELPIS/HOPE
ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ/KATAPHYGE/REFUGE
CΚΕΠΗ/SKEPE/PROTECTION

We can read the whole inscription like this:

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

Literally,

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.

Literally:

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:

dd

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:

ΙΩΑΝ[N]IΚΙΟ[C]
Ὁ ΘΑΥΜΑΤΟΥΡΓΟC

IOANNIKIOS HO THAUMATOURGOS
“IOANNIKIOS THE THAUMATURGE/WONDERWORKER

“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.

TWO PROPHETS IN THE WESTERNIZED MANNER

Today we will look at two images from a Russian iconostasis.  Both are painted in the late фряжская манера — Fryazhskaya manera — literally the “Frankish Manner,” which was how Russians designated icons painted in the more realist manner borrowed from Western Europe, which as we have seen in previous postings, strongly influenced State Church icon painting from the latter part of the 17th century.

Here is the Prophet Nahum ( Пророк Наум — Prorok Naum)

(Courtesy of the Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA)

Here is a closer look at the face:

The inscription above his head reads СВЯТЫЙ ПРОРОК НАУМЪ — SVYATUIY PROROK NAUM — “Holy Prophet Nahum.”

Here is the text on his scroll:

It reads:

ТАКО ГЛАГОЛЕТЪ ГОСПОД БУДЕТЪ ВЬ ПОСЛЕДНИЕ ВРЕМЕНИЯ ЗНАМЕНИЯ В СОНЦЕ ЛУНЕ И ЗВЕЗДАХЪ

TAKO GLAGOLET GOSPOD BUDETS V POSLEDNIE VREMENIYA ZNAMENIYA V SONTSE LUNE I ZVESDAKH

“Thus says the Lord.  There shall be in the last times signs in the sun, moon and stars.”

Oddly enough, the text is not from the Old Testament Book of Nahum.  Instead, It is adapted from Luke 21:25-26:   “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

Many people are not aware that John the Baptist — more commonly called John the Forerunner in icons — is considered a prophet in Eastern Orthodoxy, and is often called the last of the Old Testament Prophets, even though he appears in the New Testament.  Here he is, also painted in the Fryazhskaya manera, which we can call simply the “westernized manner.”

(Courtesy of the Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA)

Here is a closer view of the face:

If you have been reading here for some time, you will easily be able to translate the name inscription above his head.  The last letter of the last word in this example differs from the standard, which is ПРЕДТЕЧА — PREDTECHA — “Forerunner.”  As already mentioned, in icons John is more often called the “Forerunner” than the “Baptist,” though the latter is also found.

Here is John’s scroll:

It is adapted from the Gospel attributed to Matthew by combining two texts.  First is:

ПОКАИТЕСЯ ПРИБЛИЖИБОСЯ ЦАРСТВИЕ НЕБЕСНОЕ
POKAITESYA PRIBLIZHIBOSYA TSARSTVIE NEBESNOE

It is from Matthew 3:2:

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.”

The second text is from Matthew 3:10:

УЖЕ БО И СЕКИРА ПРИ КОРЕНИ ДРЕВА ЛЕЖИТЪ
YZHE BO I SEKIRA PRI KORENI DREVA LEZHIT
“For already the axe at the root of the trees is laid.”

 

AN EASY ICON

Today’s Russian icon is an easy one, and you should have no trouble reading the title inscription of the fellow depicted.  The only problem is a small one — the abbreviation Пр (Pr.) before the name.  It can abbreviate Prepodobnuiy (roughly “Venerable”) or it can abbreviate Pravednuiy (“Righteous”), but here it abbreviates Prorok (“Prophet”), because this is an icon of King David, and in Eastern Orthodoxy David is listed among the prophets.  So the inscription in full would read Svyatuiy Prorok David —  “[the] Holy Prophet David.”

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)
(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The scroll texts on icons of the prophets can be a real bother, because one never knows what text a painter will choose.  And if a text is hastily written, or if the spelling is too far off, it can be quite a trial at times to decipher.  Fortunately the text on today’s icon presents no major difficulties because we have seen it before.  If you want to see where, go to this posting:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/the-blessed-silence-icon-and-lots-of-noisy-talk-about-it/

The text on the scroll of today’s icon is:

Изъ чрéва прéжде ден­ни́цы роди́хъ тя́.  Кля́т­ся Госпóдь и не раскáет­ся: [ты́ иерéй во вѣ́къ по чи́ну Мелхиседéкову.]  It is taken from Psalm 109:3-4 in the Slavic Bible, which is Psalm 110:3-4 in the KJV.  It reads slightly different than the KJV in the Slavic and Septuagint versions:

I have begotten you from the womb before the morning.  The Lord swore, and will not repent: [You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek.“]

This is interpreted in Eastern Orthodoxy as referring to the birth in eternity of Jesus as the Logos — the Word — from God the Father, not to the earthly birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The image of the Prophet David is found in a number of other icon types, among them the traditional Resurrection icon and icons of Mary called “The Praise of the Most Holy Mother of God” — and of course in the Prophets’ tier of the iconostasis in Russian Churches.

This is a good time for me to again take a look at readership of this site.  Obviously there are a lot of readers of the site now, surprising as it may seem (as the old saying goes, recognizing your problem is the first step toward overcoming it).  So if you are one of those who read here regularly, please send me a note and tell me who you are and why you are here — even if you have written to me before.  I already know there is much variety in the readership, including art restorers, museum staffers, and even — much to my surprise — a number of icon painters and clergy, even though this is not a “religious” site and does not take a “religious” approach to icons, seeing them rather as cultural and historical art objects.

So take a moment and send me a few words and tell me who you are and why you like to read the information I provide on the rather esoteric subject of icons.  I am always curious why people are here.   I appreciate your presence, whoever you are and whatever your reason.  And of course I am always open to suggestions for subject matter.  Just click on the comment button at the bottom of this or any message, and your note will get to me privately (comments on this site are all seen only by me, unless otherwise requested).

And by the way, quite a number of people from various countries read here, so don’t hesitate to write if your use of English is unusual or very basic.  I will probably understand anyway.

David

 

THREE 4TH-CENTURY FELLOWS

The 4th century (the 300s c.e.) was an important time for the development of Christianity.  That is when it was legalized in the Roman Empire and also when it was given the favor and support of the Emperor Constantine.  It was also significant in the development and standardization of Christian dogma.  And it was the beginning of the time of reversal, when Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being themselves the persecutors of non-Christians and those who did not toe the favored line doctrinally within Christianity.  It was the time of the first great church council — the Council of Nicaea, out of which came a fundamental dogmatic statement of later mainstream Christianity — the Nicene Creed.  It was a time when the notion of “heresy” — of scorning other ways of Christian belief — became firmly established in the Imperially-favored church.  It was the beginning of the solidification of “official” Christian dogma, in contrast to the earlier wide variations in belief and practice.

As I hope you know by now, some icon types are fixed groupings of certain saints.  Today’s image — a Russian icon — is one of them.  It depicts three historically-important figures in the development of Eastern Orthodoxy.  This example is a little unusual in that the three are commonly depicted on the same panel, but here they are shown as a three-panel set.  Nonetheless, the type remains the same.

If you have been reading this site for some time, you should recognize immediately that this is an Old Believer rather than a State Church icon.  The two clues are the stylization of the figures, and of course the position of the fingers of the blessing hand, with the “two-fingered” blessing that is the mark of Old Believers quite clear in the central panel.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)
(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The figures shown are, from left:  Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and  John Chrysostom.  Each is dressed in the robes of a bishop, with the standard omophorion (the long stole) about his neck; and each holds the book of the Gospels, and a little cloth beneath it to show veneration.  The arrangement of the three varies from example to example.

The Greeks call them Οἱ Τρεῖς Ἱεράρχαι — Hoi Treis Hierarkhai; in Russia they are generally called either Три святителя — Tri Svyatityelya — “The Three Bishops,” or Три учителя — Tri Uchityelya — “The Three Teachers.”  In English the type is commonly found as “The Three Hierarchs.”

Basil is called Василий Великий in Slavic — Vasiliy Velikiy — “Vasiliy the Great.”  Gregory is  Григорий Богослов — Grigoriy Bogoslov — “Gregory the Theologian.”  And John is Иоанн Златоуст — Ioann Zlatoust — “John the Golden-mouthed.”  In Greek they are Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας — Vasilios ho Megas, Γρηγόριος ὁ Θεολόγος — Gregorios ho Theologos —  and Ιωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος — Ioannes ho Khrysostomos, all with the same meanings as in Slavic.

Just who were these guys?

Basil the Great lived in the 4th century (300s c.e.).  He began his career in law, then became a monk and the abbot of a monastery, and eventually founded more and wrote an enduring rule of life for the monks.  In 370 he was made a bishop.  He is often given credit for the victory of the “Nicene” view of the Trinity over that of Arius.  His name is given to the form of Eucharistic liturgy called the “Liturgy of St. Basil.”  Basil died in 379.

Gregory the Theologian also lived in the 4th century.  He is sometimes called Gregory Nazianzen, after a Cappadocian city.  He studied in Athens for six years, and was a school friend of Basil the Great.  He later spent several years with Basil in a monastery.  Like Basil, Gregory was active in the struggle against the views of the Arians.  He was for a time Patriarch of Constantinople, but there was controversy over his appointment, and he eventually withdrew.  Gregory died in 390.

John Chrysostom was born in the 4th century, but lived into the early 5th.  He became a hermit in 375 c.e., and a priest in 386.  He became known as an excellent speaker –thus his name — but he was also virulently anti-Semitic.  In 397 he was made archbishop of Constantinople.  An intolerant fellow, John supported the destruction of non-Christian temples and shrines, and his mouth got him into so much trouble that he was banished into exile, and died in 407.  His name is attached to the common liturgy celebrated in Eastern Orthodoxy, the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.”

There is another icon type depicting the three, but you are unlikely to come across an actual painted icon of it, unless in a museum or monastery, because it is a very uncommon type.  Here is a pattern for it from the transfers of old Russian icons made by Vasiliy P. Guryanov:

It is commonly called Беседа трех святителей (Beseda trekh svyatiteley), meaning “The Conversation of the three Hierarchs/Bishops.”  An alternate title for it is “The Blessed Fruits of Doctrine”  It is a symbolic icon showing Basel seated at upper left, Gregory below left, and John at center right.  Each holds a scroll, and is imparting teachings symbolically seen in the form of curling and streaming waters, which some are seen receiving and drinking in cups.  The subject is found in the monastic fresco at Lesovo in Macedonia, and appeared in Russia in the 16th-17th century.  There is an apocryphal text with many questions and answers (some quite odd) from the three shown in the icon, titled The Conversation of the Three Hierarchs.  In it, Basil asks a question, and Gregory answers “Вода — учение книжное, а морем называется мир” — “The water is the teaching of books, and the sea is called the world.

If we look at the very long vyaz’ title at the top of the icon, we can see it expands the common title a bit:

It reads :  “The Conversation of the Three Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom.”

Here is another transfer from the same icon, this time with the portions having light highlights shown in read, for the convenience of painters:

The two words written at the base read ПИСМО ГРЕЧЕСКО  — Pismo Grechesko — meaning “Greek Painting.”

Here is a painted example:

(Perm Gallery of Art)
(Perm Gallery of Art)

 

 

READING THE SAINTS

If you have been keeping up with my previous postings on reading Church Slavic icon inscriptions, you are likely now the icon expert in your town — perhaps even your county or an even larger region.  So you should have little trouble reading today’s icon, which shows an assembly of various saints.

Such mixtures of saints were generally chosen by the purchaser of the icon, who often included not only family “name saints” but also the chief saints to whom the members of the family prayed for help with this or that problem.

Today’s icon is a good example for reading practice, not only because it shows different kinds of saints, but also because some of the inscriptions are a little worn or damaged here and there, so the reader has to fill in the missing parts:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)
(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Notice the variation in how the saints are labeled on this icon.  Some have their titles in the icon border, while others have it in or above the halo:

Let’s begin with the angel at the upper left side.  His inscription (partly worn) reads:

Ст Аггель Хранитель
St  Angel’  Khranitel’
In full,
Svyatuiy Angel’ Khranitel’
“Holy Angel Guardian”
Or as we say in English,
“The Holy Guardian Angel.”

Did you remember that the letter combination гг (gg) in Church Slavic is pronounced like “ng”?

You will recall that the Guardian Angel in icons is a generic figure representing the Angel believed to watch over each person.

The saint at left in the nun’s habit is:
Ст Прпдб мчнца Евдокиа
In full:
Святая Преподобная Евдокия
Svyataya Prepodobnaya Evdokiya
“Holy Venerable Evdokia”

I hope you recall that Prepodobnaya does not literally mean “Venerable”; that is just the English term commonly used, because literally Prepodobnaya means “Most-like,” that is, most like Christ, or some say most like humans before the “Fall.”
When you see the combination “ev” in a saint’s name, it often represents the Greek form “eu,” and “k” often becomes “c” in the English form of the name.  So if we were to put Evdokiya’s name into English form, it would be “Eudocia.”

Beside Evdokiya is:

Ст М Иоустиния
Святая Мученица Иоустиния
Svyataya Muchenits Ioustiniya
Holy Martyr Iustinia/Justinia

Iustinia is in the standard garb for a female.

To her right is:

Cт Сщнмчн Киприанъ
Святый Священомученикъ Киприан
Svyatuiy Svyashchenomuchenik Kiprian
Holy Priest-martyr Kiprian/Cyprian

Cyprian’s specialty is protection from demons, sorcery, and witchcraft.

 

Ст Мчнкъ Трифонъ
Святый Мученикъ Трифонъ
Svyatuiy Muchenik Trifon
Holy Martyr Trifon/Triphon

Note the cross in Triphon’s hand.  A white cross is generally held by martyr saints in icons.  You may recall that Triphon is the saint associated with a falcon and with geese, and is prayed to for problems with geese and rodents, etc.

Ст В М Артемий
Святый Великомученикъ Артемий
Svyatuiy Velikomuchenik Artemiy
Holy Great-martyr Artemiy/Artemios

Artemiy is dressed in Roman armor and holds a martyr’s cross and a lance.  His specialty is intestinal problems.

Ст Василий Велики
Святый Василий Великий
Svyatuiy Vasiliy Velikiy
Holy Basil [the] Great

Basil is dressed in bishop’s robes, with an omophorion around his neck, and the Gospels held in is left hand.  Basil’s specialty is aid with studies.

In the photo below, we see Jesus at the top in the clouds, with his usual abbreviation IC XC, Iesous Khristos in Greek — “Jesus Christ”:

Now the saints on the right side of the icon:

The female at top:

Ст Мчнца Агафия
Святая Мученица Агафия
Svyataya Muchenitsa Agafiya
Holy Martyr Agafiya/Agaphia

Agafiya is dressed in the standard garments for a female.

Ст Сщнмчн Зиновий
Святый Священомученикъ Зиновий
Svyatuiy Svyashchenomuchenik Zinoviy
Holy Priest-martyr Zinoviy/Zenobios

Ст В М Варвара
Святауа Великомученица Варвара
Svyataya Velikomuchnitsa Varvara
Holy Great-martyr Barbara

Barbara is dressed as royalty, wearing a crown, and holding a martyr’s cross.  Her speciality is aid in avoiding sudden death.

Прпдбна Мария Егип
Преподобная Мария Египетская
Prepodobnana Mariya Egipetskaya
Venerable Mary of Egypt

You will recall that Mary was a desert-dwelling ascetic, usually shown near-naked.  Her specialty is chastity and help in finding lost things.

The last two saints on this icon are:

Ст В М Димитрий Солу
Святый Димитрий Солунский
Svyatuiy Dimitriy Solunskiy
Holy Dimitriy/Demitrios of Salonika/Thessaloniki

Dimitriy/Dmitriy is one of the most prominent warrior saints.  His specialty is chastity, and he is a popular protector of the young.

Прпд Ануфрий Великий
Преподобный Ануфрий Великий
Prepodobnuiy Anufriy Velikiy
Venerable Anofriy/Onufriy/Onuphrios

As is obvious, Onufriy was another of the desert-dwelling ascetics.  He wears “leaf shorts,” a covering made of leaves.  His name is usually written with an “O,” but here the writer has used an “A” because it has the same pronunciation as an unstressed “O” in Russia.  One often finds this o/a confusion in Russian icon inscriptions.

This is not a very interesting page for the more advanced in reading icons, but for those still learning to read the letters of Church Slavic and basic inscriptions, it should be helpful.  And it should remind you how very repetitive these inscriptions are, so as I always say, a little learning goes a long way, enabling you to read many more icons than one would expect from the small amount of effort necessary to learn such basics.

For those who want to see closer views of the saints full-figure, here is the icon in three segments:

Left:

Center:

Right:

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CHURCH SLAVIC ALPHABET

Today we will take another look at the letters of the Church Slavic alphabet, which one MUST know to read icon inscriptions from Russia and other Slavic countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia, etc.

I will repeat that it is VERY IMPORTANT not to confuse Church Slavic, which is also called Church Slavonic, with OLD Church Slavonic.  OLD Church Slavonic is an earlier and somewhat different form of the language.  But to read Russian and other Slavic icons, we want CHURCH SLAVIC/SLAVONIC, not OLD Church Slavonic, which will just confuse you.  I emphasize this because some readers here have already had problems from mixing the two.

So here is the CHURCH SLAVIC alphabet — the one we use for reading Russian icons.  Do not be intimidated by it.  It is actually easy to learn.  Just remember that for reading icon inscriptions, all you need to remember is the letters and their sounds.  All the little “rules” at the end are just for your information, and you need not bother with them unless you want to learn to write Church Slavic calligraphy.

(Courtesy of Matthew Bielawa’s Halga: Genealogy of Halychyna/Eastern Galicia site: http://www.halgal.com)

Now for some notes and clarifications on that:

If you are using Church Slavic as pronounced in Russia, then the letter Г sounds like hard “g” in English “go.”

 

There are two forms of the “z” letter (as in English “zoo”); the first form is used for some words, but the second is the most commonly used.  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the second form is used for both (З).

There are two forms of the “i” letter, pronounced like “ee” in English “see”; the first is used before consonants, the second is written before vowels, as well as used before consonants in words derived from Greek.  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the first form is used for both (И ).

There are two forms of the “o” letter, pronounced like “o” in English “so.”  The first is used at the beginning and middle of words.  The second, which looks like Greek omega, is used to begin a prefix, and used in some words derived from Greek, as well as in other grammatical situations (not important to remember for reading).  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the first form is used for both (O)

There are two forms of the “ou” letter, pronounced like “oo” in English “moon.”  The first is used to begin words, the second is used within or at the end of words.  The second form is just the o and y of the first form combined.  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the form У is used for both.

There are two forms of the “ya” letter, pronounced like “ya” in English “yard.”  With few exceptions, the first is used to begin a word, and the second is used within or at the end of a word.  As you can see, the first is an i followed by an a; the second is rather like an Roman A, but with the added i placed just below the crossbar.  An easy way to remember it is to think of it as “ia,” pronounced “ya.”  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the Я form is used for both.

There are two forms of the “f” letter, pronounced like “f” in English “for.”  The first is the usual form, derived from the Greek letter phi.  The second is used for words derived from Greek (etc.), and is actually the Greek letter theta, but in Slavic it is pronounced “f” instead of “th.”  When written in modern Russian Cyrillic, the Ф form is used for both.

Finally there is this letter.  It is pronounced “v” as in English “vat” when used after “a” or “e.”  But elsewhere it is pronounced “ee” as in “see,” primarily in words derived from Greek, etc.  When written in modern Russian, the form  И is used.

For reading, you do not have to remember all the little details of where one or the other form is used.  You just have to remember its sound, so you can transliterate it.  Of course if you want to write calligraphic  VYAZ’, the linked form of Church Slavic letters, then you will want to keep these little rules in mind.

PLEASE REMEMBER that the writers of many icon inscriptions did not follow the standard placement rules for using these letters.  They often just went with the phonetic sound of a letter and their personal whims.  And of course one finds words misspelled.

Just for completeness, you may wish to know what those little accent marks are that one sees above words in Church Slavic inscriptions.  You do not need to know them to read, but if you want to pronounce Church Slavic correctly, they are helpful.  The marks are:

´  The acute accent, which leans to the right; it is placed over a vowel at the beginning or middle of a word.  It often indicates the emphasized syllable.

`  The grave accent (pronounced “grav” to rhyme with “slav”) leans to the left; it is placed over a vowel at the end of a word.

ˆ  The circumflex accent, which looks like a little half moon when written.  It is placed above a vowel to distinguish dual and plural nouns from an identical singular form of the noun

Further, there is a mark that looks like a circumflex accent facing left.  It is used over a vowel that begins a word, and is sometimes followed on the same letter by an acute or grave accent.  All of this will mean little to you if you just want to read Church Slavic (except for the dual/plural-singular distinction), but for those who just want to learn to read enough Slavic to read common icon inscriptions, you can safely ignore this accent information unless you want to impress (or more likely bore) your friends.

You already know that an abbreviation in Church Slavic is indicated by a horizontal, curved line that looks a little like the Spanish tilda (~), written above the abbreviated word.

Let’s take a look at a Church Slavic prayer to see alphabet and accents in use:

Here it is transliterated and rather literally translated:

Ts[a]riu n[e]b[e]snuiy, outyeshiteliu, d[u]she istinui,
O-Tsar      heavenly,      comforter,     spirit     of-truth
izhe vezdye suiy i vsya ispolnyayaiy,
who everywhere are and all fill,
sokrovishche bl[a’gikh’ i zhizni podateliu,
treasury      of-blessings and of-life giver,
priidi i vselisya v’ nui
come and abide in us
i ochisti nuiy ot vsyakiya skvernui,
and cleanse us from every impurity
I spasi, bl[a]zhe, dushui nasha 
and save, Good-one, souls of-us

In better English:

“O heavenly Tsar, comforter, spirit of truth, who are everywhere and fill all, treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save, Good One, our souls.”

You can see that in the word Ts[a]riu (O Tsar) has an abbreviation mark above it.  Such a mark is called a titlo (plural titla).  It is rather angular here:

Above the word nebesnuiy we also see a an abbreviation mark, a titlo, but it is more curved than angular here.  A little letter c (“s” in English) is written under its curve, to show it is inserted into the word below.  And as you see from my transliteration, the reader must supply the two missing e letters:

Note also the И letter at the end of nebesnuiy.  I customarily transliterate it as “iy” or “y” when it has the little half moon facing upward accent above it.

And the second to last letter in nebesnuiy I customarily transliterate as “ui” (others often use “y”).  It is like an “ee” sound, but not quite; it is more like the sound in the English word “me” when pronounced with an American southern accent, like a quickly spoken muh-ee, with the first “uh” as in “push” gliding swiftly into the stronger “ee.”

Remember, as mentioned previously, that there there is a letter combining the “o” and “t” sounds, and is pronounced “ot” as in English “note.”  It means “of” or “from,” and you will see it often in icon inscriptions:

You will also want to be aware of the letter pronounced “ye” as in English “yea” (rhymes with “say”).  In modern Russian Cyrillic it is not distinguished in form from an ordinary е:

Finally, remember that the “oo” sound is written somewhat like a “v” or “u” atop an “o.”  It combines the letters o and u, as in the word dushui (“souls”):

Please note the two letters that do not really indicate sounds.  They are Ь and Ъ .

Ь just indicates that the previous letter is “soft,” that is, you pronounce it with an added little “ye” sound that is just hinted at, not fully spoken.  And Ъ just means the previous consonant does not have that added litte “ye” sound.  The technical terms for these effects are “palatized” or “soft” for the first and “non-palatized” or “hard” for the second.  I often omit them in simple transliteration here, but they can indicate a difference in meaning, so more fully,  Ь is transliterated as ‘  and Ъ as “.

 

Thanks again to Matthew Bielawa for kindly letting me borrow from his genealogy site.