now not as standing frontal figures but as celebrants who bend towards the altar and hold out scrolls inscribed with the opening words of the 'secret' prayers, chosen from among the very texts assembled in the parchment 'liturgical' rolls described above.25 Their number was constantly being increased over the centuries: celebrants line the bema walls as well as the apse, and above them, rows of busts in medallions were added, as though all the bishops in the history of the church were imagined as present, concelebrating in a single sanctuary.
The bishops move towards a painted altar at the centre of the apse wall, or towards an image there of Christ's sacrifice that took a variety of forms: one such was the Hetoimasia or prepared throne, on or near which rest the instruments of the Passion (crown of thorns, lance, sponge) flanked by angels clad as deacons; another was the startling image of the Christ child lying on a paten or altar, covered with an aer as though He were the bread about to be divided.26 The first dated example of this graphic image is at the church of Kurbinovo of 1199.27 The image there is labelled the Amnos (lamb); from the thirteenth century on, it was also called the Melismos (meaning partitioning or fraction).28 With the growth of the prothesis rite and with the consecration of the host now thought to take place in the prothesis before the Great Entrance procession, rather than in the sanctuary, the image of the child Christ on the paten in the apse or in the prothesis gave way to that of the dead adult Christ stretched out on a tomb slab that evokes his tomb, an image, which, as we have seen, was to migrate to the epitaphios.29
The strongly Eucharistic thrust of the apse programme meant that other images spatially associated with it acquired Eucharistic overtones. The Mandylion, for example, the cloth relic bearing the imprint of Christ's face, became a sign of the Incarnation and as such was often found in connection with the Annunciation. It assumed Eucharistic significance, however, when placed in the apse in place of the Amnos.30
26 E.g. the Hetoimasia (with dove as well) at Nerezi: I. Sinkevic, The church of St. Panteleimon at Nerezi: architecture, programme, patronage (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2000), 35-6; Gerstel, Sacred mysteries, 37-47; A. L. Townsley, 'Eucharistic doctrine and the liturgy in late Byzantine painting', Oriens Christianus, ser. iv. 22 (1974), 138-53.
27 L. Hadermann-Misguich, Kurbinovo: les fresques de Saint-Georges et la peinture byzantine du XlIe siècle [Bibliothèque de Byzantion 6] (Brussels: Editions de Byzantion, 1975), 67-78.
28 R. F. Taft, 'Melismos and comminution: the fraction and its symbolism in the Byzantine tradition', Studia Anselmiana 95 (1988), 531-52.
29 Pott, Reforme, 169-94; Schulz, Byzantine liturgy, 64-7.
30 Gerstel, Sacred mysteries, 68-77.
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