2. The Portable Icons
Christ Pantokrator. Around 1363.
A considerable number of portable
icons of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period have been preserved
and are today kept in the sacristy and in the icon store of the
monastery, constituting one of the “most remarkable selections of
portable icons on Mount Athos.” A few of them are even considered
to be votive offerings of the founders, as is also the icon of Christ
Pantokrator exhibited in the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg on
the frame of which the figures of Alexios and John are depicted
opposite each other. Among these votive offerings are two large
double-sided icons dating back to the fourteenth century.
A total of ten items belong to the fourteenth century. One of them
is that of Christ Pantokrator, related in its iconographical style
to the above-mentioned icon depicting the founders. The second one
is that of St Athanasius the Athonite which is the oldest portable
icon showing the founder of coenobitic monasticism on Mount Athos.
The third one is a double-sided icon. On one side is St John the
Baptist and on the other is an iconographically unique representation
of the Mother of God holding the Christ Child in her arms with St
John the Forerunner looking toward the Virgin. To the same period
belongs a painted cross. At its centre is Christ crucified, with
the Virgin Mary depicted on one of its arms and St John the Theologian
on the other. Above Christ, at the top of the upright, is the Preparation
of the Throne, an allegorical representation of the Second Coming.
About the same number of icons date from fifteenth century, the
products of Greek and Slavic workshops. Of special artistic value
are three pieces. One icon of the Presentation of Christ in the
Temple, one lyperon and a Great Deesis.
Another group of exceptionally important portable icons belong to
the Cretan School of the sixteenth century, with a prevalence of
austere but serene ascetic figures. The most important icons in
this group are the one of Christ Pantokrator, one of the Blessed
Virgin “The “Joy of All” in the katholikon and one of the Transfiguration.
All three icons are attributed to Theophanes Strelitzas, known as
Bathas, and are considered to be works from the period of his artistic
maturity, a time when he was also working in the monastery of Great
Lavra (1535). Attributed to the same artist is another icon of the
Transfiguration, as well as an icon showing the Baptism, both connected
with the artist’s time at the neighbouring monastery of Stavronikita
where he worked with his son Simeon (1545/6).
John the Forerunner and Theotokos Vrefokratousa (“holding
the Holy Infant”). Around 1363.
St Athanasius the Athonite. Around 1363.
The icon of the Lamentation, which shares certain characteristics
with the treatment of the same theme in the katholikon of Stavronikita,
and the icon of the Crucifixion, belongs to another group of icons
related to the work of Theophanes. Also of particular importance are
two double-sided icons with many tiny painted figures, the work of
the Chania artist Ambrosios Emboros from about 1600, and an icon of
St George with scenes from his martyrdom that also comes also from
a Cretan workshop. The painters of these icons clearly follow the
artistic style of Theophanes, but there are also significant differences
The entire sixteenth century carved-wood epistyle is a piece of work
exceptional in its quality and value. It contains a series of icons
with 31 scenes from the Dodekaorton, the cycle of the Passions, the
Miracles of Christ and the life of the Blessed Virgin, all of them
lying artistically between the Cretan School and the so-called School
Many notable portable icons date back to the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries and are mainly the work of local Athonite painters of the
school of Dionysius of Fourna. Today, most of the portable icons (about
700) are kept in the monastery’s icon-store housed on the fifth floor
of the tower.
Epitaphios. Around 1600.