Jewels of the Romanovs

Treasures of the Church

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Gospels Altar Book of Gospels
Printed in Moscow, 1703
Binding Russian, early 18th Century
Paper, silver, pearls, glass, velvet, silk embroidery
18 1/4 x 12 in (46.3 x 30.5 cm)
Yaroslavl State Museum-Preserve
Inv. No. YMZ-7383,

In Orthodox churches a copy of the gospels is processed through the sanctuary during the liturgy and placed upon the altar. Beautifully decorated gospels, such as this one, added to the splendor and solemnity of the Orthodox service. Gospels are traditionally decorated with images of the four Evangelists; from the top left corner, moving clockwise, we see the Apostles, Sts. John, Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the center is the representation of the "Deesis" - or intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, and St. John the Baptist before Christ enthroned. Christ raises His hand in blessing with an open Gospels on His lap. Two angels attend Him from behind the throne, and the artist has represented the Holy Spirit as a dove and God the Father in human form in heaven above Christ. The depiction of all of the figures follows ancient prototypes which harken back in the early days of Christianity and the art of Byzantium.

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