The belief that silent, prayerful exercises could put an individual in touch with the divine 'uncreated' light that appeared on Mount Tabor when Christ was transfigured was a monastic ideal, but some scholars suggest that leading icon-painters, too, were 'hesychasts themselves or were somehow associated with them'.22 Lack of evidence makes it impossible to substantiate this claim, although in general contacts between Russian and foreign Orthodox artists increased during this period. Under the Greek metropolitan, Theognostos (1328-54), for example, many artists from Constantinople came to Moscow. By the end of the century a Greek colony and church were established in the city.

The Trinity cathedral (1422-23) of the Trinity-St Sergii monastery offers a good example of how art and liturgy worked in a monastic setting associated with hesychasm. St Sergii's biographer Epifanii the Wise recorded that the saint consecrated his cathedral 'so that contemplation of the Holy Trinity might conquer the fear of this world's detestable discord'.23 Sergii was buried there. The church is a simple, single-domed structure, with decorative ogee-shaped gables known as kokoshniki beneath the dome, which create a pyramidal effect, one of the hallmarks of early Moscow architecture. It attracted pilgrims, who could participate in round-the-clock prayers over the saint's relics. It was for this church that Andrei Rublev is said to have painted his icon of the Old Testament Trinity, to hang on the iconostasis (fig. 12.2).24


The iconostasis (or icon screen) remains integral to Russian Orthodox worship in church.25 In Byzantine churches columns with curtains or a low openwork rail known as the templon separated the nave from the sanctuary. In time this feature developed into a two-storey screen, which in Russia from the late fourteenth to the early fifteenth century evolved into an even higher frame hung with icons. In the seventeenth century the framework would acquire distinctive architectural features, such as gilded, twisted and vine-entwined columns, cornices, and variously shaped apertures to house the icons. In large cathedrals the iconostasis had five horizontal tiers. At the top was a row of icons representing the Patriarchs ofthe Old Testament (from Adam to Moses), often with an icon of the Old Testament Trinity at the centre. Below them

22 Uspenskii, Theology, 11, 261.

23 Ibid., 256; Likhachev, Kul'turaRusi vremeni AndreiaRubleva.

25 N. Markina, 'The iconostasis', in The art of Holy Russia: icons from Moscow 1400-1660 (London: Royal Academy ofArts, 1998), 69-75; N. Labrecque-Pervouchine, L'iconostase: une évolution historique en Russie (Montreal: Bellarmin, 1982).

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment