Icon of Triumph of Orthodoxy
Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey), Byzantine, about AD 1400
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An icon celebrating the restoration of Holy Images at the end of Iconoclasm.
The overthrow of Iconoclasm in AD 843 was seen as a triumph for the orthodox branch of the Christian church. This icon portrays the annual Festival of Orthodoxy celebrated on the first Sunday in Lent. It was painted in egg tempera on gold leaf on a wooden panel covered with gesso and linen.
The icon of the Virgin Mary Hodegetria appears at the centre of the top register on a stand draped with red and gold cloth. This, the most famous icon of Constantinople, was believed to have been painted by the Evangelist St Luke, and thus to be an actual life portrait of the Virgin.
The regent Empress Theodora and her young son, the emperor Michael III (reigned AD 842-67) appear on the left, wearing jewelled crowns and robes. On the right is the Patriarch Methodios (in office from 843-7) together with three monks.
The lower register depicts eleven saints and bishops, some of whom triumphantly display icons. All were active iconophiles, such as the female figure on the far left, identified as St Theodosia of Constantinople who, at the outbreak of Iconoclasm, reputedly tried to save the famous icon of Christ placed over the Chalke (Bronze) Gate of the Imperial Palace.
Byzantium was the thousand-year successor to the Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean. The first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great (AD 305-337), re-founded Byzantium as Constantinople (now Istanbul), joint capital with Rome.