Variety of Saint Michael Icons in Russian Iconography
Holy angles and bodiless powers are Biblical characters of enormous importance. Each of them oversees important earthly and divine matters and symbolizes certain virtues and characteristics. The same can be said about the Chief Commander Michael also referred to as the Archistrategos, the main defender of Christian Faith in the battle against Satan. His name is interpreted as “the one like unto God,” so it’s not surprising that Saint Michael icons occupy a special place in the Russian iconography.
St. Michael Iconography
There are numerous variants of Saint Michael icons in the Russian iconographic tradition. In some of them, the Archangel Michael is depicted as having the Devil pressed down under his feet (with Satan sometimes taking the appearance of a dragon or a serpent). In other instances, the Archangel Michael is depicted together with the Archangel Gabriel or saints. His most typical representation is the one of a fully armored warrior with a sword, helmet, and shield. There are also Russian icons with the image of St. Michael holding weights and weighing the people’s souls on the Day of Judgment. Besides, St. Michael can be found in the Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon; he stands on the left side of Mary and Jesus, while Gabriel stands on the right.
It is also worth noting that three icons of St. Michael are regarded as possessing the miraculous power because of his personal intervention into their creation – The Archangel Michael of Mantamados, Panormitis, and Nenita.
Icon of Mantamados – Deviation from Tradition
The overwhelming majority of Saint Michael icons in the Orthodox tradition depict the archangel in the warlike clothing, with or without the defeated Satan. In most of them, St. Michael is wearing red as a symbol of glory and courage; the images are flat, two-dimensional. However, one Orthodox icon departs from this tradition and represents a three-dimensional image of St. Michael’s upper-torso part; it is the Mantamados icon of Mytilene, Lesvos. The image on this Saint Michael icon is very realistic, with St. Michael’s armor holding traces of the recent battle – a mixture of blood and dirt from the battlefield.
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