The Martyrs SS Juliana and Anastasia. Detail
Art,  English

The Ukrainian Icon: Artistic Journeys of Faith and Cultural Identity

Credit introduction video: Religious Church video of Vimeo from Pixabay.

The text below is the excerpt of the book The Ukrainian Icon (ISBN: 9781639198979), written by Liudmila Miliayeva, published by Parkstone International.

For the Eastern Slavs, as for all Christian peoples, the cult of the icon was synonymous with Byzantium, the mighty medieval empire with Constantinople–” The New Rome”–as its capital. From the 4th century on, Byzantium exerted a political and religious influence on the whole of Christian Europe. In the Byzantine Empire the veneration of icons became an integral part of the Holy Liturgy, though the practice only won official approval after the dramatic events of the years of iconoclasm (8th-9th centuries). The struggle between the iconoclasts and the supporters of icons led to the formulation of a doctrinal justification for the icon’s role in religious ceremonies, and created an aesthetic of decorative art that has come to be known as the “Byzantine” style. It changed markedly through the centuries, but the religious painting of every Orthodox country preserved the “Byzantine tradition” for centuries to come.

The Virgin of Vladimir. 11th - early 12th century, The Ukrainian Icon
The Virgin of Vladimir. 11th – early 12th century. Detail. The Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

The Eastern Slavs were introduced to Byzantine culture in the 10th century. Their conversion to Christianity coincided with the most brilliant epoch of Byzantine art, which was reflected in the artistic culture of the young feudal state of Kievan Rus, in the physical appearance of Kiev, and in the country’s first stone church, the Tithe Church (989-96), so called because one tenth of the principality’s revenue went on its upkeep.

The conversion of the Great Prince of Kiev Vladimir (980-1015) helped Kievan Rus to become part of European civilisation, in which Byzantium at that time played a leading role. Kievan Rus attained a certain status in the Byzantine church hierarchy, and preserved its independence from the empire and its special political position. The river route “from the Varangians to the Greeks”, passing through towns such as Novgorod and Kiev, linked the Baltic to the Black Sea. The trade artery strengthened the power of every Slavonic tribe that lived in this vast territory, and Christianity assisted their unification and consolidation. They developed their own form of Byzantine culture. The absence of any language barrier facilitated the assimilation of theological concepts. Kiev’s Monastery of the Caves, founded in the mid-11th century, was subordinate to the Studios Monastery in Constantinople.

Christ Before Pilate. 1637-38, The Ukrainian Icon
Mykola Morokhovsky (?) Christ Before Pilate. 1637-38. The Fraternal Church of the Dormition, Lvov.

Under Prince Vladimir’s son Yaroslav the Wise, Kievan Rus experienced a cultural boom. Stone churches were built in Kiev, Chernigov, and far-away Tmudrakhan. But the most magnificent and impressive churches were the fresco- and mosaic-decorated churches of Kiev. The Kievans adapted the Byzantine model to create their own style, a style shaped by different historical traditions and social imperatives. The metropolitan St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (1017-51) and the above-mentioned Tithe Church (989-96), with their many domes and combination of frescos and mosaics, represented a departure from Byzantine tradition. The monumental painting was part of a complex theological agenda that asserted the electedness of the Kievan prince and his dynasty. The 11th-century Kievan writer Metropolitan Ilarion addressed the late Great Prince Vladimir in a sermon in the following words: “Arise. Look at the city, radiant in its grandeur, at its flourishing churches … a city protected by icons of the Saints…” A chronicler of the time writes of the benefits of literacy (Yaroslav the Wise founded a school): “Books are the rivers that water the universe, the source of wisdom”.

The Martyrs SS Barbara and Catherine. Mid-18th century, The Ukrainian Icon
The Martyrs SS Barbara and Catherine. Mid-18th century. National Art Museum, Kiev.

The “Lives of the Fathers of Kiev’s Monastery of the Caves”, a collection of stories from the history of the monastery and its inhabitants, narrates how the Kievans were taught to paint by Greek artists, how they honed their professional skills and mastered the fundamentals of composition and drawing using time-honoured standard images that possessed a religious canonicity. Their collaboration with the Byzantines instilled in them a deep reverence for iconography, initiated them into the mysteries of the creative process, and taught them how to paint frescos, icons, and miniatures. In the 10th and early 11th centuries, Kiev and the other towns of Kievan Rus produced reliefs (ill.), enamels, and gold, silver, and glass jewellery. In the 11th century Kievan mosaics (ill.), frescos (ill.), and illuminated manuscripts (for example, the Ostromir Gospels, 1056-7, ill., and Svyatoslav Miscellany, 1073, ill.) were already deservedly famous.

The Virgin Hodegetria. Early 17th century
The Virgin Hodegetria. Early 17th century. The Church of St Paraskieva, Lvov.

To get a better insight into the The Ukrainian Icon, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon AustraliaAmazon FrenchAmazon GermanAmazon MexicoAmazon ItalyAmazon SpainAmazon CanadaAmazon BrazilAmazon JapanAmazon IndiaAmazon NetherlandsParkstone InternationalKoboBarnes & NobleGoogleAppleOverdriveScribdBookbeat

The Ukrainian Icon 11th - 18th centuries (From Byzantine origins to the baroque)

Parkstone International is an international publishing house specializing in art books. Our books are published in 23 languages and distributed worldwide. In addition to printed material, Parkstone has started distributing its titles in digital format through e-book platforms all over the world as well as through applications for iOS and Android. Our titles include a large range of subjects such as: Religion in Art, Architecture, Asian Art, Fine Arts, Erotic Art, Famous Artists, Fashion, Photography, Art Movements, Art for Children.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap
%d bloggers like this: