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Stratum Plus. 2000. № 6

A. A. Peskova (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

Saint Nicholas of Myra in the Iconography Programme of the Ancient Russian Encolpia of XI-XIII cc.

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Pages: 266-284


The article analyses images on the ancient Russian breast crosses-reliquaries of St. Nicholas of Myra, one of the most esteemed saints in Russia. The iconography of the ancient Russian encolpia is studied against the background of the Byzantine tradition. The iconography passed through two stages in its development. At the first stage (XI-XII cc.), the central images of Christ and the Virgin are supported by images of saints of the oecumenical church of the highest order and the holy warriors (most often St. George), and St. Nicholas. The exception are encolpia with the central image of St. Boris and Gleb. At the second stage (early XIII c.), encolpia have images of creators of liturgy – St. John, Basil, Gregory, the anargiri Cosma and Damian and other protectors. The study covered a very extensive material (over 1000 objects) to reveal that the changes in the contents and composition of the images on the ancient Russian encolpia reflect: 1. The highest level of respect to St. Nicholas in the ancient Russia (equally to the Apostles, Evangelists, and holy warriors) shown already at the first stage (late XI-XII cc.) of cross-encolpia manufacturing. In Byzantium, a similar tradition can be traced on crosses-reliquaries and processional crosses since IX-X cc. 2. Focus of attention on protective and healing power of St. Nicholas, made null and void after introduction of such saints as Cosma and Damian, St. Sisinius and Sihail, St. Panteleimon, St. Nikita (XIII c.) into the iconographic programme of Nicholas’ encolpia.

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