Andrei Rublev – A Saint Icon Painter

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The history has seen several prominent Orthodox icon painters. However, the most famous among them is undoubtedly Andrei Rublev – a saint icon painter who shone brightly in contrast with the violent, dark, and brutish years of medieval Russia. The fact is that he didn’t paint religious icons for fame, profit, or glory. He rather preached the Gospel in paints. Thereby, all Orthodox icons by Andrei Rublev are not signed, but they are still very beautiful and distinctive at the same time. Moreover, thanks to this holy man, today we have a whole school of Eastern Orthodox iconography that is recognizable all over the world. So who was this unique person?

Andrei Rublev, the greatest Russian painter of Orthodox Church icons and frescoes, was born near Moscow in the 1360s. Unfortunately, biographical information about him and his life is very scant. It is assumed that he lived as a monk in the Holy Trinity Lavra founded in 1345 by Sergii Radonezhsky. It is here Andrei Rublev began to paint, striving to fulfill his high calling – let God speak to people through the religious icons. We don’t know where he learned Eastern Orthodox iconography, and who his teacher was. The first mention of Rublev’s work was in 1405. At that time, together with highly respected craftsmen Prokhor the Elder of Gorodets and Theophanes the Greek, Andrei created Russian Orthodox icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation, one of the greatest medieval churches in Moscow’s Kremlin. Chronicles tell us that three years later, in 1408, Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chyorny painted the magnificent Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir. Another joint work of these greatest Russian Orthodox icon painters is referred to 1425–1427, the time they painted the Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. It is also believed that Rublev painted one or more miniatures for the Khitrovo Gospels, a Russian illuminated Gospel Book from the late 14th century. The last years of his life, Andrei Rublev spent in the Andronikov Monastery of the Savior in Moscow where he created his last masterpiece of Eastern Orthodox iconography, the frescoes of the Savior Cathedral. He died on January 29, 1430. In 1988, Andrei Rublev was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

It is safe to say that fate was rather kind to this holy man. Although he never aspired to become famous, Andrei Rublev gained recognition for his unique Russian Orthodox Church icons while he was still among the living, which is confirmed by different historical chronicles of that time. Moreover, he is not forgotten after his death too, as his fame as a saint icon painter has survived through the centuries. Even in the 19th century and during the Soviet period, when the iconography art seemed to be forgotten, the name of Andrei Rublev was considered the standard of ecclesiastical art. No wonder, Rublev’s famous religious icons that represent the embodiment of canonical Eastern Orthodox iconography have always been highly valued throughout the world!

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