Nella prima domenica di Quaresima secondo il calendario giuliano, la Chiesa ortodossa ha celebrato, come da tradizione, la solennità del Trionfo dell’Ortodossia, memoria della fine delle lotte iconoclaste e del definitivo ritorno alla venerazione delle icone nell’843 d. C. In più occasioni il sito “I sentieri dell’icona” ha avuto modo di occuparsi di questa festa nella quale, fra l’altro, si celebra abitualmente la cerimonia della benedizione delle Sante immagini. Di seguito pubblichiamo invece, in lingua inglese, un breve contributo dedicato all’opera, risalente al tardo XIV secolo, che costituisce ormai un po’ il simbolo della ricorrenza religiosa.
Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on February 25th
The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is celebrated on the first Sunday of Great Lent. It is the celebration of the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
The theme of the day is victory of the True Faith. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4). Also, the icons of the saints bear witness that man, “created in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26), becomes holy and godlike through the purification of himself as God’s living image. The connection of the victory over iconoclasm with Lent is purely historical; the first Triumph of Orthodoxy took place on this particular Sunday.
Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
Late 14th century icon illustrating the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” under the Byzantine Empress Theodora and her son Michael III over iconoclasm in 843. (National Icon Collection British Museum)
The Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (also known as the Icon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy) is the festal icon for the first Sunday of Great Lent, a celebration that commemorated the end of Byzantine Iconoclasm and restoration of icons to the church in 843 (the eponymous “Triumph of Orthodoxy”), and which remains a church feast in Orthodoxy. It is the earliest known depiction of this subject, and thought to have been painted in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. It was purchased by the British Museum in 1988. The dimensions of the icon are: height: 37.8 cm, width: 31.4 cm, depth: 5.3 cm.
Painted in egg tempera on gold leaf over a wooden panel covered with gesso and linen in the late 14th century, its focal point is the famous icon, here intended to be understood as the physical icon itself, the Virgin Hodegetria, which was commonly believed to have been created by St Luke.
The Hodegetria is being held up by two angels while to the left stand Empress Theodora and her son Michael III, who were responsible for ending Iconoclasm in 843. To the right of the Hodegetria are Patriarch Methodios, Bishop Theodore and two monks. Beneath them are 11 saints and martyrs. Just below the Hodegetria are Theophanes the Confessor and Theodore the Studite jointly holding an image of Christ. To the far left is Saint Theodosia, the only female saint, holding an icon of Christ-Emmanuel. The fourth figure from the left, right behind Theophanes the Confessor, is identified as Saint Ioannikios. On the right, behind Theodore the Studite, stands a bishop identified by his garb while right behind him stand the brothers Theodorus and Theophanes Graptoi. The last two figures are identified as Saint Theophylaktos and Arsakios. Though they are all depicted together, many of them were not contemporaries.