The Dormition

The Dormition or Assumption of the Virgin is described in the apocryphal writings and expositions of St John the Theologian, Bishop John of Soluneia, St Andrew of Crete, Patriarch Herman of Constantinople, St Cosmas of Maiuma and St John of Damascus. These writings formed the basis for the legend of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which was included in such religious collections as the Prologue, Synaxarion and Menologion. The Akathist to the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin is believed to have been translated into Old Church Slavonic by Isidore Buchir in the fifteenth century.

The Dormition of the Mother of God is the last of the twelve major festivals of the Russian Orthodox Church and is celebrated on 15/28 August. Because the subject is closely linked to the rites of the Orthodox service, icons depicting the Dormition were an obligatory feature of the iconostases in Russian churches, where they were traditionally placed in the festival row.

The scene known as the Koimesis depicts Mary “asleep in death” on a bed. Christ holds a swaddled baby representing the soul of the Virgin, surrounded by a multi-coloured radiance. The outlines of the radiance evoke associations with the gate through which Mary’s soul enters Heaven. Apostles, angels and saints gather around the bed of the Mother of God. King David is depicted in the background as a reminder that Mary was descended from his line.

In the fifteenth century, there was a tendency in the Novgorod school of icon-painting to curtail the number of characters, even when this contradicted the religious texts or traditional iconography. In the simpler version of the Dormition, artists broke one of the oldest iconographic traditions and failed to depict the disciples at Mary’s bed.

Random articles