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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Icon painted in egg-tempera and gold leaf on wood; set in a carved wooden frame, partly openwork. Subject: 25 scenes taken from or related to the Akathistos Hymn. At top, the Virgin and Child flanked by two angels with, in the field, two buildings, ladder, lamp, lily and rose. Below, in six registers of four, twenty-four scenes, from top left: Annunciation to the Virgin repeated three times, Doctrine of the Virginal Conception, Visitation, interview of Joseph with the Virgin, Nativity, Journey of the Magi, Adoration of the Magi, return of the Magi to their own country, Flight into Egypt, Presentation in the Temple, Christ teaching the Doctors, three women and seated Virgin and Child, Christ and the Trinity, Christ adored by angels, Virgin and Child with five orators, Anastasis, Virgin and standing figures, an icon of Christ, Virgin and Child before a cavern, Christ tearing the Bill of Costs, author of the hymn before the Virgin and Child, celebration of an icon of the Virgin and Child.


  • Date

    • 17thC-18thC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 578 millimetres (including frame)
    • Width: 390 millimetres (including frame)
  • Curator's comments

    See: M. Adey, "An icon illustrating a Greek Hymn", Burlington Magazine,34,1919, pp. 45-55; An Exhibition of Icons. 24th April - 10th June 1962. Temple Gallery, no. 10.

  • Bibliography

    • Cormack, Vassilaki & Dimitriadou 2013 (forthcoming) bibliographic details
  • Condition

    2003 examination: crack running from centre top of frame, well into the painted surface of the icon. Deep cracks in bottom of frame. Frame very dirty.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated events

    • Associated Event: Akathistos Hymn
    • Associated Event: Doctrine of Virginal Conception
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Purchased by Mr C.J. Hope-Johnstone during 1917 whilst on Foreign Office duty on the island of Scio

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • IC 23 (Icon Collection number)


If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

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Object reference number: MCB4348

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