AN OLD BELIEVER “JOY TO ALL WHO SUFFER”

Today we will take a thorough (so get your tea and biscuits/cookies) look at an icon type discussed in a previous posting:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/a-very-popular-marian-image-the-joy-of-all-who-suffer/

Today’s example is very useful in learning to read inscriptions, so I will dwell on those in some detail, in order to help those of you who are just beginning to learn to translate Church Slavic inscriptions.

First we should look at the title inscription at the top:  It begins at left, and continues at right:


ѠБРАЗ ВСЕМ СКОРБЯЩИМЪ
OBRAZ VSEM SKORBYASHCHIM”
IMAGE [of] TO-ALL SUFFERING

РАДОСТЬ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
RADOST’ PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
JOY           MOST-HOLY       GOD-BIRTHGIVER

If we put it all together we get:

ѠБРАЗ ВСЕМ СКОРБЯЩИМЪ РАДОСТЬ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
OBRAZ VSEM SKORBYASHCHIM” RADOST’ PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“IMAGE OF THE JOY TO ALL WHO SUFFER MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”

Now as you can see, the final translation has been put into normal English.  This type is also often called in English the “Joy of All Who Suffer” Mother of God.

Here is the icon:

(Courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art)

At top center we see ГОСПОДЬ САВАѠФЪ/GOSPOD’ SAVAOF” — “LORD SABAOTH” — God the Father.  He blesses with his right hand and holds a cross-topped orb — the symbol of universal rule and authority — in has left:

Now the position of the fingers in his blessing hand tells us that this is an Old Believer icon, which is not surprising, given its stylized form.

Below and to the left of Lord Sabaoth, we see this:

It is of course the sun, and we see the Church Slavic word СОЛНЦЕ/SOLNTSE — “SUN” just above it.

On the right of the icon is the moon — ЛУНА/LUNA — among the stars.

It is common in Russian iconography for the sun and moon to be given faces — anthropomorphized.  You may recall that the other icon type in which the sun and moon are commonly found is the Crucifixion, but in that type the sun is darkened and the moon is blood red, in contrast to this type, in which the sun and moon are represented normally.

If you are a long-time reader here, you will recognize the central image of Mary and the child Jesus as a version of what is called in German the Strahlende Madonna — the “Radiant Madonna.”  And you may recall that in some versions of this icon type, Mary is shown without the child Jesus on her arm:  Here both are crowned, and Mary has a string of painted jewels in her halo:

The abbreviation above her is the standard Greek ΜΡ ΘΥ, identifying her as Μήτηρ Θεού / Meter Theou — “Mother of God.”  While all other inscriptions on Russian icons are generally in Church Slavic,  Russian iconography nonetheless kept this abbreviation as the identifying mark of Mary.  And as you can see, it also kept the standard Greek abbreviation used to identify Jesus in Russian icons:  IC  XC for Ιησούς Χριστός / Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ.”  Each abbreviation has the curved horizontal line indicating abbreviation above it.

If we look at Jesus in the arms of Mary, we can see that his halo contains the usual inscription used for him in the cross outline visible behind his head.

The Greek form of the halo inscription is Ὁ ѠN — HO ON — meaning “The One Who Is” — a title of God found in Exodus 3:14.  The letters are read top-left-right, as they usually also are in Bulgarian icons.  In Russian icons, however, the left letter is commonly changed from Ѡ to Slavic  Ѿ  — pronounced “ot” — which enables them to read the inscription left-top-right while giving it various fanciful interpretations.  That is what we see here.  Some like the letters to represent the members of the Trinity, interpreting them as abbreviations for the Three-Hypostatic Godhood, represented in the letters as  Ѿ (ot) for Ѿтеческий/Otecheskiy — “Of the Father’s”; О for Оум/Oum — “Mind”; and  Н for Непостижимъ Сыин/Nepostizhim Suin — “Unfathomable Son.”

Still others read it as abbreviating
От небес приидох — Они же Мя не познаша — На кресте распяша
Ot nebes priidokh — Oni zhe mya ne poznasha — Na kreste raspyasha
“From heaven I came — They knew me not — On the cross I was crucified.”

Now for some practice in reading saints’ names.  Let’s begin with those just to left of Mary, beginning at the top:

At the very top, we see this saint wearing a monk’s garments:

ПРД ЗОСИМЪ СОЛ
PRD ZOZIM” SOL
The first and last words are abbreviated.  In full the title is:

ПРЕПОДОБНЫЙ ЗОСИМЪ СОЛОВЕТСКИЙ
PREPODOBNUIY ZOSIM” SOLOVETSKIY
“VENERABLE ZOSIM/ZOSIMA OF SOLOVETSK”

You may recall that he is one of a pair of saints often found in icons:  Zosim and Savvatiy Solovetskiy — the founding fathers of the Solovetskiy/Solovkiy Monastery and the patron saints of beekeeping. Remember that Prepodobnuiy (literally “most-like” — meaning most like Christ, or most like Adam before the Fall) is commonly translated into English as Venerable — and that this is the masculine form, the common title for a monk.

Below him we see at left:

ПРД ФЕОДОСИЯ
ПРЕПОДОБНАЯ ФЕОДОСИЯ
PREPODOBNAYA FEODOSIYA
“VENERABLE FEODOSIYA/THEODOSIA”

Now as you can see, the PRD here abbreviates PREPODOBNAYA — the female form of Prepodobnuiy, and it is the common title for a nun.  And as we see, Feodosiya is wearing a nun’s garments.  Presumably she is Theodosia of Constantinople.

Now oddly enough, the writer has given the saint at right the PRD abbreviation too — which he usually does not have, because he was not a monk.  So we will omit it here.  He is:

ВАСИЛИЙ БЛАЖЕННЫЙ
VASILIY BLAZHENNUIY
“VASILIY THE BLESSED.”

BLAZHENNUIY is a title commonly used for “Holy Fools,” those called “Fools for Christ’s Sake.”  And this Vasiliy/Basil is the same fellow for whom the St. Vasiliy/Basil Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow is named. Vasiliy was prayed to for safety from fire, for the cure of eye problems, and for help when beginning a new task in a workshop.

Next come two very familiar saints:

At left is:
СВЯТЫЙ ПАВЕЛЪ АПОСТОЛ
SVYATUIY PAVEL” APOSTOL
“HOLY PAVEL/PAUL APOSTLE”

So he is the Apostle Paul, from the New Testament.  He is often prayed to for protection of children from death.  And beside him is

СВЯТЫЙ ПЕТРЪ АПОСТОЛ
SVYATUIY PETR” APOSTOL
“HOLY PETR/PETER APOSTLE”

And that is St. Peter from the New Testament.  Notice that he holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in one hand, and also a scroll reading:

ТЫ ЕСИ ПЕТР НА СЕМ КАМЕНИ
TUI ESI PETR NA SEM KAMENI
“YOU ARE PETER: ON THIS ROCK”

The words are taken from Matthew 16:18:
ты еси Петр, и на сем камени созижду Церковь Мою, и врата адова не одолеют ей:
Tui esi Petr, i na sem kameni sozizhdu tserkov’ moiu, i vrata adova ne odoleleiut ey
“You are Peter; on this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not Prevail against it.”

Peter was prayed to for relief from fevers, and Paul — like the Holy Fool Vasiliy — for help when beginning a new work in a workshop.

Then we have two saints robed as bishops, with the bishop’s stole (Slavic omofor/Greek omophorion around their necks and the Gospel book in their hands:

At left is:

СВЯТЫЙ  ХАРЛАМПИЙ СВЯЩЕННОМУЧЕНИК
SVYATUIY KHARLAMPIY SVYASHCHENOMUCHENIK
“HOLY KHARLAMPIY/KHARALAMPOS PRIEST-MARTYR”

Kharlampiy was prayed to for protection from plagues and sudden death

СВЯТЫЙ АНТИПИЙ
SVUYATUIY ANTIPIY
HOLY ANTIPIY/ANTIPAS

Antipiy was prayed for in case of toothache.

On the right side of the icon, we find these saints:

At top, dressed in the garments of a monk, is

ПРЕПОДОБНЫЙ НИКИТО
PREPODOBNUIIY NIKITO
“VENERABLE NIKITO/NIKITA”

“Nikita” is the more common spelling, but in icons it is not unusual to find spelling variations — usually phonetic. We find here the relatively common substitution of “o” for “a.”  It is a spelling change frequent in Russian icons because the unstressed “o” in Russian sounds rather like “a.”

At left below him, dressed in warrior’s garments and holding the cross of martyrdom, is:

СВЯТЫЙ ГЕОРГИЙ ВЕЛИКОМУЧЕНИК
SVYATUIY GEORGIY VELIKOMUCHENIK
“HOLY GEORGE GREAT-MARTYR

He is the famous saint of “St. George and the Dragon” icons.  He was often prayed to for the protection of flocks.

To the right of George is:

СВЯТАЯ АННА ПРАВЕДНАЯ
SVYATAYA ANNA PRAVEDNAYA
“HOLY ANNA RIGHTEOUS”

This is the Anna who in apocryphal sources such as the Protoevangelion of James was the mother of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Her title Pravednaya/Righteous (male form Pravednuiy) is often used for saints considered to be in some way “Old Testament”  — and Anna and her husband Joachim were predecessors of the Gospel.  Notice that Svyataya is the female form of  male Svyatuiy (“Holy”).  Anna was often prayed to for conceiving children.

Next comes a pair of brothers often found together in icons:

At left is:

СВЯТЫЙ КОЗМА БЕЗСРЕБРЕНИК
SVYATUIY KOZMA BEZSREBRENIK
“HOLY  KOSMA/COSMAS UNMERCENARY”

СВЯТЫЙ ДOМЕАНЪ БЕЗСРЕБРЕНИК
SVYATUIY DOMEAN” BEZSREBRENIK 
“HOLY UNMERCENARY DOMEAN/DAMIAN”

The title Bezsrebrenik means literally “without (bez-) silver (-srebre/серебро) guy (-nik).  It is generally used for physicans who treated patients without asking payment.  Note that as we saw in the name “Nikito,” in Russian icons the letters o and a are often interchanged in the spelling of Domean/Damian.  The two were prayed to for educational matters and of course for healing.

The last two saints on the main part of the icon are both dressed as bishops, with omophorion and Gospel book:

At left is one of the most frequently found saints in Russian iconography, after Mary and Jesus.  he is:

СВЯТТВЙ НИКОЛАЕ ЧУДОТВОРЕЦ
SVYATUIY NIКOLAE CHUDOTVORETS
“HOLY NIKOLAE/NICHOLAS WONDERWORKER”

Nicholas the Wonderworker is Nicholas of Myra, who later morphed into the American Santa Claus.  His name is generally found as Nikola or Nikolai — and in regions such as Belarus as Mikola.  He was often prayed to for safety on the water and protection from drowning.

Last, to his right, is:

СВЯТЫЙ ИОАННЪ ЗЛАТОУСТ
SVYATUIY IOANN” ZLATOUST
“HOLY JOHN CHRYSOSTOM”

His name in Slavic means literally “Golden (zlat-) Mouth (-oust).”  He is one of the “Three Hierarchs” often found together in Russian icons.  He was an archbishop of Constantinople and a noted orator, but also, unfortunately, a virulent anti-Semite.  It was thought helpful to pray to John Zlatoust/Chrysostom when in despair.

You perhaps noticed that the titles on this icon are arranged in the halos like this:

SVYATAYA ANNA PRAVEDNAYA
“HOLY ANNA RIGHTEOUS”

Ordinarily, however, they are like this:

SVYATAYA PRAVEDNAYA ANNA
“HOLY RIGHTEOUS ANNA”

Of course the outcome is the same, but the second form is that generally found in icons.

Though we will not look at them individually, in the outer left and right borders of the icon — commonly the location of saints for whom the members of the family were named, we find these:

Left, from top:

Holy Vasiliy/Basil
Venerable Makariy/Makarios
Holy Great Martyr Dimitriy/Demetrios
Venerable Feodor/Theodore

At right, from top:

Holy Great Martyr Artemiy/Artemios
Holy Martyr Anastasia
Venerable Vasiliy/Basil
Venerable Maria/Mary of Egypt

Now the inscription in the rectangle at the base:

On Marian icons, we often find an inscription with lines from a Marian hymn or a prayer to Mary.  In this case it is the former.

At the beginning, we see these words in red:

ТРОПАРЬ ГЛАСЪ Д
TROPAR’ GLAS”   D
TROPARION VOICE 4

Note that the letter Д (D) here is used as a number.

A troparion is a brief hymn found in liturgical texts.  By “voice” is meant “tone” — and by that is meant a musical mode.  There are traditionally eight modes  — categories of melodies — in Eastern Orthodox hymns.

So we know this text is a hymn, and by its context, most likely a Marian hymn.  But which one is it?

Well, here is the text in a modern Russian font (note that the letter ъ is often omitted at the end of some words in modern form):

Тропарь, глас 4.

К Богородице прилежно ныне притецем грешнии, со смирением припадающе и покаянием, вопиюще из глубины душевныя, Владычице помози милосердовавши на ны, и потщися яко изгибаем от множества грехов. Не отврати раб Своих тощ, Тебе бо Едину Помощницу имамы.

“To the Mother of God let us sinners now earnestly run, with humility falling down in repentance, crying from the depths of the soul:  O Lady, mercifully help us, and make haste, for we perish from the multitude of sins. Turn not your servant away empty, for you are our only hope.”

It is from the “Canon to the Most Holy Mother of God.”

Do not expect to always find the same text on icons of the “Joy to All Who Suffer.”  The text used varies from example to example.  And keep in mind that the wording on Old Believer icons often differs somewhat from that used in the “revised” State Orthodox Church liturgical books.

Perhaps you might like to hear a “State Church” setting by A. Arkhangelskiy of this Troparion:

Well, that’s it for today.  Now go for a walk to work off all those cookies you have eaten while reading this.

GETTING STONED

Here is a fresco with a Greek inscription:

It is not difficult to tell what is happening; it is a stoning.  But who is the victim?  And what does the title inscription say?  Well, both questions are answered when we read what is written:


It says:

Ὁ ΛΙΘΑCΜΟC ΤΟΥ ἉΓΙΟΥ
HO LITHASMOS TOU HAGIOU
ΠΡѠΤΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC CΤΕΦΑ-
PROTOMARTUROS STΕPHA-
ΝΟΥ
NOU

It is an easy one.

You already know that Ὁ /HO is the masculine definite article — “the.”
And you know the word lithos from use in English words such as lithograph and lithosphere, both involving the word “stone.”  So you can probably easily deduce that  ΛΙΘΑCΜΟΣ/LITHASMOS means “stoning.”  And you remember (I hope) that ΤΟΥ/TOU is the male form of “of/of the.”

That leaves us with ΠΡѠΤΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC /PROTOMARTYROS.  Well, you know many English words beginning with proto-, like prototype and protoplasm.  And if you know what those mean, you will know that proto– here means “first.”  And it should be simple for you to guess that ΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC/MARTYROS means “martyr.”

So up to this point we have:

The Stoning of the Holy First Martyr …

All we need now is the last word in the inscription, which gives his name:

ΣΤΕΦΑΝΟΥ/STEPHANOU

It is not hard to see that STEPHANOU is the “of” form of the Greek name Stephanos, and that the English equivalent is  “Stephen.”

So the inscription is:

“The Stoning of the Holy First Martyr Stephen.”  Or if you wish, you can use “Protomartyr” instead of “First Martyr.”

In the fresco, stephen anachronistically wears the colored band called an orarion, part of the costume of a protodeacon.  It is customarily embroidered with these words:

ἉΓΙΟΥ  ἉΓΙΟΥ  ἉΓΙΟΥ  / HAGIOU HAGIOU HAGIOU / HOLY HOLY HOLY

Here is a Russian icon of the same fellow:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The title inscription is:

СВЯТЫЙ ПЕРВОМУЧЕНИК АРХИДИАКОН СТЕФАНЪ
SVYATUIY PERVOMUCHENIK ARKHIDIAKON STEFAN
“HOLY        FIRST-MARTYR          ARCHDEACON  STEPHEN”

Stephen is dressed anachronistically — this time in Russian robes.  He holds a censer in his right hand and a stone (symbolic of his means of martyrdom) in his left.

You will find the account of Stephen in Acts 6-7.

ANOTHER LOOK AT A COMMON ICON TYPE

In a previous posting, we saw this image in the center of a multiple icon:

(Courtesy of Zoetmulder Ikonen: Russianicons.net)

As you know if you are a long-time reader here, it is an example of the icon type known as the “Image Not Made by Hands”:

ѠБРАЗ НЕРУКОТВОРЕННЫЙ
OBRAZ NERUKOTVORENNUIY
Literally, “IMAGE NOT-HAND-MADE”

— which by tradition (fiction, not history) was the first icon, supposedly created miraculously by Jesus when he pressed a cloth/towel to his wet face, and the image of his face appeared on the cloth.

It is a very common type in Russian icons, both as a primary and a secondary image, and I have discussed it more than once in postings you will now find in the archives, among them this one:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/10/13/an-ubiquitous-image-an-uncommon-inscription/

and this one:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/the-real-origin-of-the-eastern-orthodox-icon/

As  you will know from those past postings, the inscription at the base of the cloth reads  С[ВЯ]Т[ЫЙ] ОУБРУСЪ/SVYATUIY OUBRUS/OUBROUS/UBRUS — meaning “Holy Cloth/Towel.”  There are variations in spelling, which is common in Russian icons.

When used as a primary image — which it very often was — the cloth is frequently held by angels, as in this example from the latter part of the 19th century:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

My point in discussing it again today is simply to give you another title inscription variant to add to your Church Slavic vocabulary.

Here is the title inscription on the icon:


It is written very clearly, and only the last word is abbreviated.  In full, it is:

НЕРУКОТВОРЕННЫЙ УБРУСЪ ГОСПОДЕНЬ
NERUKOTVORENNUIY UBRUS  G[OSPO]D[E]N’
NOT-HAND-MADE CLOTH [of the] LORD

In normal English, “The ‘Not Made by Hands’ Cloth of the Lord.”  The “Not Made by Hands” part refers of course to the image on the cloth, not to the cloth itself.  One does not often see it titled this way, but now when you do, you will recognize the variation.

You should be able to recognize all the other standard abbreviations found in this icon — the IC XC borrowed from the Greek Ιησούς Χριστός/Iesous Khristos “Jesus Christ,” which in Russia is found as Исус Христос/Isus Khristos among the Old Believers and as Иисус Христос/Iisus Khristos in the State Orthodox Church.  And by now you should know the Ὁ ѠΗ (ΗΟ ΟΝ) inscription commonly found in the halo of Jesus, meaning “The One Who Is” — the Septuagint translation of the title of God that is rendered in the King James Version of  the Bible as “I Am That I Am” (Exodux 3:14).

It is important also to remember this abbreviation:

It is the letters А  Г  (A-G), which abbreviate Ангел Господень /Angel Gospoden’, meaning “Angel [of the] Lord.”  It is an abbreviation found in countless icons with angels.

Finally, you probably noticed that this particular icon is a combination of traditional stylization and “Westernized” naturalism.  It keeps the old form found in traditional painting, while using more natural folds to the cloth and robes, and more naturalistic coloring and color transitions, though still showing some of the more stylized traits of traditional painting.

Incidentally the expression “not made by hands” is also found in a different context the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 5:1:

Here it is in Church Slavic:
Вемы бо, яко аще земная наша храмина тела разорится, создание от Бога имамы, храмину нерукотворену, вечну на небесех.
Vemui bo, yako ashche zemnaya nasha khramina tela razoritsya, sozdanie ot Boga imamui, khraminu nerukotvorenu, vechny na nebesekh.

And in Greek:
Οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι ἐὰν ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους καταλυθῇ, οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἔχομεν, οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
Oidamen gar hot ean he epigeios hemon oikia tou skenous kataluthe, oikodomen ek Theou ekhomen, oikian akheiropoieton aionion en tois ouranois.

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

TEST YOURSELF: A MULTIPLE ICON

Here is a little self-test:

If you have been a diligent student of the postings on this site, you should be able to identify everything in this multiple icon.  A multiple icon is an icon with several separate types placed together on a single panel.  This example has four main types, a smaller central type, and of course the saints used as border images.

(Courtesy of Zoetmulder Ikonen: Russianicons.net)

If you are not able to identify everything, here is a brief summary, beginning with the image at upper left:


The inscription reads
СВЯТЫЙ НИКОЛА ЧУДОТВОРЕЦ
SVYATUIY NIKOLA CHUDOTVORETS
“HOLY NICHOLAS [the] WONDERWORKER”

Aside from the inscription, one can tell from the facial characteristics (form, hair, beard), the costume, and from the accompanying figures of Jesus at left and Mary at right that this is an image representing St. Nikolai/Nikola/Nicholas of Myra.  You will recall that Jesus is giving Nicholas the book of the Gospels, and Mary is presenting him with his bishop’s stole (omofor/omophorion).  If you notice that Nicholas is not shown full-face, but rather as though turning from the left, you may remember that such a Nicholas — though often with a harsher expression than here — is called Nikola Otvratnuiy (Никола Отвратный) — “Nicholas the Turner” — and was thought to ward off evil.

Now you will have read in a previous posting that “Nicholas the Turner” is an icon type that appeared among the Old Believers in the 18th century, so that tells us something important about this icon too; and what it tells us is confirmed by the hand.  As you see, the fingers are held in the blessing position used by the Old Believers, and that confirms that this is an Old Believer icon.

Upper right:

Of course you know that the MP ΘY letters in two circles at the top abbreviate the Greek words Meter Theou — which are common on Russian icons of Mary.

From the title inscription, we can tell that this is identified as the
ЗНАМЕНИЕ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
ZNAMENIE PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
the “‘SIGN’ MOST-HOLY GOD-BIRTHGIVER”
or in normal English,
The “‘Sign’ Most Holy Mother of God.”

And of course that is Jesus in the circle on her breast.

You may recall that the “Sign” icon is one of the famous “palladium” icons, considered to be city protectors, and that its legendary history says it saved the citizens of the great trading city of Novgorod in the northwest of Russia from the invading Suzdalians.

Lower left:


The inscription identifies this Marian icon type as the

УМЯАГЧЕНИЕ ЗЛЫХ СЕРДЕЦ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ
YMYAGCHENIE ZLUIKH SERDETS PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI
“SOFTENER [of] EVIL  HEARTS MOST-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD”

It is sometimes also translated loosely as the “Melter of Hard Hearts.”  It is important to remember, however, that this type is not the only Marian icon type to be found under that title.

Next comes a New Testament Scene that is also an annual Eastern Orthodox Church commemoration:

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you can probably identify it without the inscription below.  Here is that inscription:

ОУСЕКНОВЕНИЕ ЧЕСТНЫЯ ГЛАВЫ СВЯАТАГО IОАННА ПРЕДТЕЧА
USEKNOVENIE CHESTNUIYA GLAVUI SVYATAGO IOANNA PREDTECHA
“CUTTING-OFF [of the] HONORABLE HEAD [of] HOLY JOHN [the] FORERUNNER.”

And that is what the scene depicts:  the execution of John the Forerunner (John the Baptist) and the presentation of his head to Salome.

Such an icon type was particularly important to Old Believers because it called to mind the terrible persecution they suffered under the State Orthodox Church.

In the center of the icon we find the image of — as the red title inscription tells us here — the
НЕРУКОТВОРЕННЫЙ ОБРАЗ ГОСПОДЕНЬ
NERUKOTVORENNUIY OBRAZ GOSPODEN’
“NOT-MADE-BY-HANDS IMAGE [of the] LORD”

It is the image traditionally considered the “first icon” in Eastern Orthodoxy, because the old legend that developed over time said that Jesus once pressed a wet towel to his face, and his image was miraculously imprinted on it.  It is the “Abgar” image sent by tradition from Jesus to King Abgar of Edessa.


You will notice the other inscriptions written on the cloth — first the IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ,” and below the face, this inscription:

СВЯТЫЙ ОУБРУСЪ
SVYATUIY UBRUS
“HOLY CLOTH”

So in Eastern Orthodoxy, the “Holy Cloth” is the cloth after Jesus supposedly transferred the image of his face to it.

Finally, there are four border saints in this icon:

First comes the
AНГЕЛЪ ХРАНИТЕЛ
ANGEL KHRANITEL
“ANGEL GUARDIAN”

In ordinary English, the “Guardian Angel.”  It is important to know that this is a generic figure who represents the Guardian Angel supposedly assigned to each person —  It is often found as a border image, but is also found as an icon type on its own.  He holds a sword in one hand and a cross in the other:


The others are:

2.  St. Alexandra;

Venerable Sergiy;

St. Feodora/Theodora;

Such border saints as these three are generally found in icons as the “angel” saints of the members of the family for whom the icon was painted — the saints after whom each person was named.

A purchaser — in this case an Old Believer — could choose the icon types to be represented on such a multiple icon, and of course could tell the painter the names of his family members to include in the border, represented there by their “name” saints.  And again, the “Guardian Angel” served as the generic figure representing each angel assigned individually to protect a family member.

Now you will find all this information — including a longer discussion of each main type shown — in the site archives.

 

USING VYAZ TO IDENTIFY A MONASTERY

Today we will look at an icon primarily for its Vyaz inscription.  Learning to read these “condensed” inscriptions is very important  — in fact essential — for serious students of icons, but it is not difficult.

We can see that this icon is a kind of schematic image (without natural perspective) of a group of buildings within a wall, and we can see a few monks and clerics standing within it:

The small inscriptions in red identify the various buildings, but we need not bother with those.  Our interest today is in the large title inscription at the top, which identifies the image.

Here it is, in two parts due to its length:

It reads:

ОБИТЕЛЬ  СВЯТЫЯ ЖИВОНАЧАЛНЫЯ ТРОИЦЫ…
OBITEL’  SVYATUIYA  ZHIVONACHALNUIYA  TROITSUI…

…ПРЕПОДОБНАГО ОЦА НАШЕГО ИГУМЕНА СЕРГИЯ РАДОНЕЖСКАГО
…PREPODOBNAGO OTSA NASHEGO IGUMENA SERGIYA RADONEZHSKAGO

Let’s look at it word by word:

OBITEL‘:  An obitel’ is a cloister — a monastery.  Notice that the third vertical on the omega-like O is shortened, so that the Б (b) can be fitted in above it and above the shortened first vertical in the letter И (i).

S[VYA]TUIYA:  “Of the Holy.”  Note the omitted letters in the abbreviation, shown in brackets in the transliteration.  Also note the form of the final “ya” sound, made by a letter combining I and A — represented by Я in the modern Russian font.

ZHIVONACHALNUIYA –  “Life-initiating,” commonly translated as “Lifegiving”; the “of” form is used here — without abbreviation

 

TR[OI]TSUI:  “TRINITY”; again in the “of” form.  The Т is placed above the Р (R), and the first vertical on the Ц (ts) is greatley shortened to fit close to the first two letters.

PR[E]P[O]D[O]BNAGO:  “Venerable” — the loose English translation of the word meaning “most like,” and used as the title for monks.  Note the strong abbreviation.  Note also the transformation of the second vertical in the letter П (p) curving it out to make the Р (r) — thus getting two letters out of one.  Note also how the Д (d) is written above the word — here in the “of” form.

OTSA:  “FATHER” — meaning here a spiritual father.  Here it begins with another omega-form O.  There is another joined letter, made by shortening the second vertical in the Ц (ts) to make it also the lower vertical in the final letter A.  In the “of” form.

NASHEGO:   “OF US” — rendered as “our” in English.  By now you should be accustomed to seeing verticals shortened to fit other letters in.  The first three letters – НАШ (nash) are a very good exmaple of that.

IGUMENA:  “HEGUMEN” — a clerical title used for the head of a monastery, like an abbot in Catholicism.  the second vertical on the beginning letter И (i) is drastically shortened to make room for the Г (g) above it.  Note the form of the third letter — the “ou/oo” sound — found as У in the modern Russian font.  In the “of” form.

SERGIYA:   “SERGIY/SERGEI — in the “of” form.

RAD[ONEZHSKAGO]:  “OF RADONEZH.”  It is very common for only the beginning letters of a “place” title to be used, with the rest omitted in the abbreviation.

So we see the inscription identifies this icon as:

ОБИТЕЛЬ  СВЯТЫЯ ЖИВОНАЧАЛНЫЯ ТРОИЦЫ ПРЕПОДОБНАГО ОЦА НАШЕГО ИГУМЕНА СЕРГИЯ РАДОНЕЖСКАГО
OBITEL’  SVYATUIYA  ZHIVONACHALNUIYA  TROITSUI PREPODOBNAGO OTSA NASHEGO IGUMENA SERGIYA RADONEZHSKAGO

“The Monastery of the Holy Life-giving Trinity of Our Venerable Father Hegumen Sergiy/Sergei of Radonezh.”

It is the most noted monastery in Russia — even today.  And now you also know why there is a little icon of the “Old Testament Trinity” separating the two parts of the inscription.