The iconography combines two diachronous events concerning the transfer of the Mother of God’s relics from Jerusalem to Constantinople: the placing of the robe (omophorion) in the Hagia Soros (“holy reliquary”) chapel in the Blachernae and the placing of the Holy Virgin’s belt in a separate chapel at the Church of Chalkoprateia. Before the 12th century, the belte of the Theokotos (or part thereof) had been removed to the Blachernae, which probably explains why the veneration of both sanctuaries was combined in one iconography.

The transfer of the roble (omophorion) of the Theotokos took place in Byzantium in 473 AD under the Emperor Leo I and the Patriarch Gennadius I. It is described in full detail in the “Panegyric on the occasion of the deposition of the robe” that would later serve as a basis for a historical version of the feast iconography representing the veneration of the sanctuary. The historical version of the deposition of the belt iconography is nearly the same as that of the deposition of the robe. The iconographic version representing the two events had possibly existed in Byzantine art, from which it was borrowed by the Russian iconography.

In the center of the icon is a throne upon which the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Emperor of Byzantine lay the omophorion and the belt of the Theotokos. Behind the patriarch stand a bishop and a monk (or a deacon with a candle), behind the emperor are the empress and noble ladies. The icons vary in the composition of the worshippers and their mutual disposition. On a 1485 icon of the Deposition of the Robe and the Girdle of the Mother of God from the Church of the Deposition of the Robe in the village of Borodava, the royal couple at the throne is depicted in the same fashion as the veneration of the robe in the Hagia Soros church as described by Constantin Porphyrogenitus.

A border scene of the Western copper gates of the Nativity Cathedral in Suzdal (the late 12th century) is the earliest image of the Deposition of the Robe in Russian medieval art.

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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