The iconostasis is an altar screen or wall which, in
an Orthodox church, separates the Sanctuary from the nave. The Sanctuary is
where the Eucharist is celebrated, which symbolizes the Divine world. It is
separated from the nave which is the part reserved for the believers and
symbolizes the human world. The iconostasis is the most distinctive feature of
an Orthodox church. It is richly decorated with icons, and usually consists of
four or more rows or registers.
here to see an example.
In the iconostasis, the row with the
Deisis, usually the second row from below, is the most important. The word
'Deisis' comes from a Greek word meaning 'prayer' or 'intercession'. In
iconographic language it represents a group of three persons: Christ, seated in
majesty in the center, with his Mother to his right and John the Forerunner to
his left. The persons are slightly bowed while raising their hands in a gesture
of humbly asking.
here to see a large image of the Deisis.
- Click the following link to see a
- Click the link 'Alexander Boguslavski' below for
further explanation and a schematic.
The Deisis, and with it the iconostasis, played an
important role in the development of iconography. As mentioned above, it was
limited to the group of three persons, in its early form. In later years
Theophanes the Greek profoundly changed this structure. He thereby replaced the
figures, which were traditionally showing the upperbody only, with the entire
person, on foot, with the total length of the persons over two meters tall.
Furthermore, he increased the number of persons in the composition of the
Deisis by adding Archangels, Apostles, Church Fathers and Martyrs. It can be
easily understood that an iconostasis with this larger array of angels and
saints is only seen in large churches.
The following links lead to
several other excellent images and texts :
The Deisis of the Archangels Cathedral (side chapel),
Encyclopedia - Iconostasis
The Iconography of the Russian Iconostasis
The Russian iconostasis
Iconostasis in 8 different churches
Iconostasis - 2, the iconostases shown in an image-cycle
at the top of the Welcome Page.
Included in there
Contemporary iconostasis, St. Seraphim
Orthodox Cathedral, Dallas, TX - Vladimir Grigorenko
The image provides access to 25
others. Make sure to read the note at the bottom of the page.
in the St. Simeon Stylites church, Moscow
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