The venerable Zosima (died April 17, 1478) and Savvatiy (died September 27, 1434 or 1435) of Solovki were founders of the Solovetsky Monastery on Solovki islands. St. Savvatiy took monastic vows at the Cyril of Belozersk Monastery and then moved to the Valaam Monastery, from where, searching for a more secluded place for complete solitude, he and a monk named German, settled on Solovki island. Later German moved to the Onega river and Savvatiy stayed on the island alone. Anticipating the nearing death, he came back to the mainland and died in the village of Soroki. One year after Savvatiy’s death German and Zosima came to Solovki island. In 1452, the venerable Zosima became the first hegumen (abbot) of the Solovetsky Monastery of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The major source of the saints’ lives is their hagiography. Although the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy had never met in real life, their labors, joint postmortem apparitions and miracles impacted the development of the paired iconography, especially after their canonization by the 1547 Council.

The iconography of the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy is rich and diverse. An icon of The Hermitage of the Venerable Zosima and Savvatiy of Solovki, popular in the 17th century, was obviously created after the translation of the saints’ relics. More than 20 of such icons have survived to date, most of them being palm-sized and square-shaped. In the center of the composition is the Transfiguration Cathederal with the Savior or Transfiguration icon on the façade and with the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy kneeling before Christ in prayer. To the left of the cathedral or on either side of it the saints are shown lying in the graves. In the left part of the composition are the churches of the Assumption and St. Nicholas’ with one or two bell-towers and the monks. The hermitage is surrounded by the wall; the island is surrounded by the White Sea. Depending on the time the icon was painted, the hermitage walls can be made of wood (built ca. 1578), which is the evidence of an earlier iconographic version, or stone (built between 1582 and 1594). On a late 17th century icon from the Kolomenskoye Museum the walls are shown as made of stone in the bottom part and as made of wood in the upper part. The name of the iconography is mentioned for the first time in the 1597 monastery inventories: two icons are named as The Hermitage of Zosima and Savvatiy, the wonderworkers of Solovki. Apart from the above icons, the iconography is represented in many state and private collections (e.g. The State Historical Museum, The State Tretyakov Gallery, The State Russian Museum, The Yaroslavk Andrei Rublev Art Museum etc.)

The venerable Zosima is commemorated on April 30 (April 17, the old style); the venerable Savvatiy is venerated on October 10 (September 27, the old style). The first and second translation of the saints’ relics is celebrated on August 21 (August 8, the old style). They are commemorated in the Synaxis of the Solovetsky saints on August 22 (August 9, the old style), June 3 (May 21, the old style) in the Synaxis of the Karelian saints and in the third week after the Pentecost in the Synaxis of the Novgorodian saints.

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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