The Archangel Michael is Archistratigos – the commander of the Army of God. The Book of Revelation describe a war between the heavenly host led by the Archangel Michael and the satanic host: "...there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan” (Revelations, 12: 7–9). For this reason the Archangel Michael is considered to be the patron of the “militant church”, i.e. all those loyal to God who fight against evil. According to non-canonical sources (The Gospel according to Nicodemus, The Descent of the Virgin into Hell etc.), the Lord commends to Michael the souls of the righteous, therefore he is venerated as the protector of the souls of the dead at the Final Judgment.
Byzantine art depicts the Archangel Michael as a winged young man with a halo. His voluminous hair is supported by a headband, whose ends freely wave, thus showing the archangel’s readiness to listen to God’s will. He can be depicted wearing a chiton and a himation, or as the archistrategos of the heavenly host in an armor suit, or as the guardian of the Heavenly King wearing dalmatic, tippet and boots decorated with gold and stones. He may hold a labarum with the words of the thrice-holy hymn inscribed thereon, a branch, a scroll or a thin measuring rod. He may also hold a staff – the symbol of his being God’s messenger – or a mirror - a transparent sphere looking at which angels see the reflection of God who they don’t dare to look at. The mirror typically carries the initial letters of the Savior (IC XC), ), or sometimes a depiction of the Infant Christ Emmanuel or the Golgotha Cross. One of the earliest depictions of the Archangel Michael is the mosaics at the Triumphal Arch in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in-Classe in Ravenne (ca. 549 AD).
In medieval Russian art the images of the Archangel Michael are often encountered in monumental paintings of the churches where he is depicted wearing the Heavenly King’s suit, such as on the mosaics of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (the 1040s). Besides, large temple icons were painted for the churches in his honor, such as the icon of St. Michael from State Tretyakov Gallery collections (ca. 1300). With the appearance of the high iconostasis, an icon of the Archangel Michael was included in the Deesis tier. The icon was placed to the left of the Savior, therefore the figure of the archangel is represented righward in a devotional pose. Such is a full-length image of the Archangel Gabriel of the last quarter of the 14th century from the Deesis tier of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.