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The Icon Debate

Religious Images in Russia in the 15th and 16th Centuries


Aleksandra Sulikowska

The book explores the subject of Russian icons and their changes as well as the discussion on art that unfolded in Russia in the 15th and 16th centuries. Taking the representation of the Old Testament Trinity, attributed to Andrei Rublev, as its point of departure, it discusses and analyses the key issues of the iconography of the Holy Trinity and the process of the emergence and the dissemination of the imagery of God the Father and the New Testament Trinity in Russia. These issues are framed in the context of the debate that took place at the time within the Muscovite Orthodoxy, which concerned heresy, the relations with other denominations, the identity of the Russian Orthodox Church and the place of the icons in the existing canon.


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Conclusion. Ruthenian Theological Reflection After the Fall of Constantinople


311 Conclusion. Russian Theological Reflection After the Fall of Constantinople The fall of Constantinople in 1453 marked the end of the Byzantine Empire and – in a broader perspective – the end of a culture that had strong links to Russia. To quote Averintsev, ‘these links were essentially a connection to world culture in the most literal sense. Constantinople was “the world” for the whole culture of Ecumene […] It was here that the universal norms of aes- thetic taste and aesthetic creation, which were far from provincial norms and limitations, had its origins […] Constantinople played the role of a worldwide teacher where pupils would flock to study.’1294 While the fall of the Byzantine Empire was a profound loss for the whole Orthodox world, reactions to its demise were anything but uniform. The followers of Orthodoxy in the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth strove to maintain contact with the patriarchate ‘in captivity’, acknowledging its highest authority (at least on the symbolic level). The approach of Russia, on the other hand, while based on a sense of connection between the two states and a belief in the legitimate succession of Moscow as Constantinople’s heir was ambiguous. Paradoxically enough, it found its expression in the attempts at severing the ties with the Byzantine tradition. If, then, we were to agree with Averintsev that the Byzantine Empire ‘played the role of a teacher’ for Russia,1295 we should also note a new, hitherto unknown tone of superiority or even contempt which emerged in the Russian statements concerning the...

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