One of the rarest theological Orthodox icons - Pure Soul (according to the revelation of John the Theologian)

One of the rarest theological Orthodox icons - Pure Soul (according to the revelation of John the Theologian)


Original icon: 19th century. Now kept in the State Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

An allegorical image representing a scene from the Revelation of John the Theologian - the worship of a righteous soul to Christ. The plot has been known in Russian art since the second half of the 16th century; from the 17th century found in both Old Believer and Greek Orthodox iconography.

The icon seeks to comprehend the essence of sin and virtue and their eternal confrontation in the world. The pure soul is represented in the form of an inspired maiden in a royal robe with a crown on her head. In her hands are flowers and a jug of tears that extinguish the flame. Below is the dragon and serpent defeated by her and the tamed lion, symbolizing the defeated passions. The sinful soul sits in a dark cave.

The inscription on the icon explains its symbolism: “The pure soul, like a beautifully adorned maiden, stands above the sun and the moon under her feet, with a royal crown on her head. She stands before God and prays, and the prayer from her lips ascends to heaven, extinguish the fiery flame with tears, and consume sinful patience, bind the lion with fasting, tame the serpent with humility, the hater of the devil will fall to the ground like a cat who cannot tolerate her kindness.” Thus, through tears, prayers, humility and kindness, the Soul goes to heaven.


Art critic and the largest collector of Russian popular prints, Dmitry Rovinsky, believed that the plot “Pure Soul,” popular among popular print artists, apparently repeats the plot of monumental paintings of temples and royal chambers (for example, the wooden Kolomna Palace, dismantled in the second half of the 18th century). An early (17th century) fresco depicting the “Pure Soul” can be seen on the surviving fragment of the painting of the porch of the Trinity Cathedral of the Ipatiev Monastery (Kostroma). An engraving on the same topic illustrating the Kiev Akathist of 1629 is also known.
1. The soul is depicted as a girl in royal attire, with a crown on her head. She often has a pair of wings.
2. In her right hand she holds a flower, which is a symbol of purity and purity.
3. In the Soul’s left hand is a jug, from which it pours water on the fire - these are tears of repentance that extinguish the flame of passions.
4. From the mouth of the Soul comes a prayer to the Lord, depicted by a red line.
5. In heaven, represented by a cloudy hemisphere, Christ sits. On either side of him are the Pure Soul and the Guardian Angel, their figures reminiscent of the Mother of God and the Archangel Michael in prayer.
6. Next to the Soul is an image of the sun. According to the text of the parable, the Soul “stands above the sun,” that is, surpasses it in radiance.
7. Under her feet is the moon. The images of the sun and moon, on which the maiden stands, refer us to the description of the Woman clothed with the sun from the Revelation of John the Theologian.
8. In the Soul’s hands is the leash with which she tied the lion - a symbol of fasting with which she tamed her pride.
9. Paired with a lion is a winged serpent. The symbolism of these animals as personifications of sin is found in the Psalter: “You will tread on the asp and the basilisk, you will trample the lion and the serpent” (Ps 90:13).
10. With her righteous life, the maiden soul brings down the devil himself, who is depicted as a dark winged figure with rearing hair. According to the text of the parable, “the devil fell like a cat.”
11. In the lower right corner, opposite from the location of the pure Soul, a sinful soul is depicted suffering in hellish torment, which is expressed by the dark opening of the cave.


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