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.

A paired image of the saint became an essential part of the centerpieces of their hagiography icons that were widespread in the second half of the 16th century. The iconography of the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy is rich and diverse. Some icons contain several dozen border scenes showing life events and miracles of the saints, with each iconographic program being noted for its own set of scenes. A special feature of the 17th century northern iconography is the presence of border scenes representing the local life. The Pomorian churches preferred to display icons with marine scenes, for example, The miraculous rescue by Sts. Zosima and Savvatiy of the man who sailed on sea on a pan is displayed on an icon of the first half of the 17th century with 18 border scenes from the Trinity church in the village of Nyonoksa on the White Sea coast (The Archangelsk Museum of Fine Arts). In 1788, icon-painter V.Chalkov from the Solovki hermitage painted two paired icons of Sts. Zosima and Savvatiy (formely kept at the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Solovki Monastery, now located at the Kolomenskoe Museum in Moscow) containing the most detailed hagiographic cycles (totaling 68 border scenes).

The first two hagiography icons of the Solovki wonderworkers were painted by Novgorodian masters in 1545: “The Mother of God with the praying venerable Zosima and Savvatiy of Solovki and monastery monks, with border scenes of the saints’ lives” with one icon numbering 32 border scenes and the other 28, representing events in the saints’ lives, the living and posthumous deeds and miracles (now kept at the State Moscow Kremlin Museum). An extensive hagiographic cycle of 55 borders scenes is displayed on the icon of the mid – second half of the 16th century from the Solovki Monastery (now kept at the State Historical Museum); the border scenes are located around the centerpiece in two rows: 9 compositions at the upper row are dedicated to Savvatiy – a brief account of his coming to the river Vyg and Valaam island; Zosima and German choose a place to built the hermitage; the remaining 47 border scenes illustrate Zosima’s activity, 26 show the foundation and construction of the Solovetsky Monastery by St. Zosima and 20 border scenes display the posthumous miracles of Zosima and Savvatiy (miracles on the sea, the healing of sick people).

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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