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Title The Origin of the Iconostasis in Early Christian Churches in the Holy Land
Author email
About author Fanny Vitto — field and research archaeologist. Israel Antiquities Authority; POB 586, Jerusalem 91004, Israel.
In the section Eastern Christian Art DOI10.18688/aa177-2-23
Year 2017 Volume 7 Pages 222231
Type of article RAR Index UDK 72.033; 82(091) Index BBK 63.3(0)4; 83.3(0)4; 85.11

A typical feature of Eastern Orthodox churches is the iconostasis which separates the inner sanctuary reserved to the clergy from the nave occupied by the laity, preventing the faithful from glimpsing atthe sacerdotal proceedings behind the screen. In its present form, it is of relatively recent origin, the product of an evolution in design and liturgical function throughout the history of the church. The precursor of the iconostasis was a low screen which enclosed the altar area in the early Byzantine churches but did not exclude the worshippers from a full view of the clergy celebrating. Dozens of screens made of marble or limestone have been discovered in the provinces of Palaestina, southern Phoenicia and Arabia. They are carved with a number of motifs that recur with only minor variations. Among the most common motifs are the Latin cross, the Maltesecross within a laurel wreath, the stephanostaurion, and a cross standing on three semi-circles symbolising the hillock of Golgotha. The latter is sometimes flanked by a pair of sheep or deer. In the 6th century AD, chancel screens also began to appear in synagogues where they are decorated with Jewish motifs. A further stage in the development of chancel screens in churches is the templon, an architrave at a higher level resting on colonnettes. In Russia, the intercolumnar spaces of the templon remained free of icons until the 14th century. Wooden icons began to be inserted in the intercolumnar spaces of the templon in the late 14th and 15th centuries when the great icon painters started to paint full-length figures on icons of monumental proportion. The creation of the iconostasis as a solid wall is due to a combination of cultural and theological factors, including the Hesychast doctrine which favoured the contemplation of icons. 

Reference Vitto, Fanny. The Origin of the Iconostasis in Early Christian Churches in the Holy Land. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles. Vol. 7. Ed. S. V. Mal’tseva, E. Iu. Staniukovich-Denisova, A. V. Zakharova. — St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Univ. Press, 2017, pp. 222–231. ISSN 2312-2129.
Publication Article language english
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