Assai spesso gli amici de “I sentieri dell’icona” hanno chiesto delucidazioni sulla cosiddetta Croce dei patriarchi, la grande fusione bronzea – con il Crocifisso al centro e, intorno, le scene delle Feste liturgiche con una corona di Arcangeli a delimitare la parte alta – che costituisce uno dei simboli della comunità dei Vecchi Credenti russi. Trovare testi esplicativi sull’argomento non è, però, sempre facile. A fornire qualche spunto ha provveduto di recente il blog con il testo, in lingua inglese, che proponiamo ai lettori del nostro sito.

Today we will look briefly at another type of cast metal icon. This type is distinguished from other similar icons of the crucifixion by its very large size, by the number of individual types joined to make it, as well as by the row of 19 to 21cherubim extending along the very top. When I say “other types joined to make it,” I mean literally that. A Great Patriarchal Icon combines forms used to make other individual icons into one very large cast icon. One can see in the casting where the individual forms were pieced together.


At center we can see the form for a standard “house cross” Crucifixion, with its side panels showing Mary and the “Mother of God” at left and the Apostle John and the Centurion Login (Longinus) at right. Around it are placed the various types for the Major Church Festivals, as well as an icon of St. Nikolai/Nicholas, Marian images, and other saints and angels. This type of easily-recognized, very large metal icon has a specific name. It is called a Большое Патриаршее распятие — Bolshoe Patriarshee Raspyatie — a “Great Patriarchal Crucifixion.” In English it is sometimes just referred to as a “Great Patriarchal Icon” or “Great Patriarchal Cross.” But in the slang of the everyday Russian icon trade, it is often called a большая-лопата — bolshaya lopata or большая патриаршия лопата — bolshaya patriarshiya lopata — a “Great Shovel” or a “Great Patriarchal Shovel,” because of its shovel-like shape. These “Great Patriarchal Crucifixion” icons were, as one might suspect, the product of Old Believer workshops, and were produced largely in the Moscow area in the 18th and 19th centuries, but of course in fewer numbers than the more common and less expensive smaller Crucifixion metal icons.