Posted 05 November 2010 - 05:54 PM
The top tier is called the Patriarchs Tier or Forefathers Tier. It includes icons of saints from Abraham to Moses flanking an icon of the Old Testament Trinity (discussed below) and represents the original Old Testament Church, presaging the New Testament Church. ...
The next lower tier is the Prophets Tier. It consists of icons of the Old Testament prophets with open scrolls inscribed with their prophecies concerning the coming of Christ centered on an icon of the Virgin of the Sign and represents the Church of the Old Testament paving the way for the Church of the New Testament. ...
The middle tier is the Church Feasts Tier. It consists of icons of the primary church Holy Days depicting events of the New Testament Church and, particularly, the lives of Christ and the Virgin. ...
The next tier is the Tchin or Deisis Tier. It grew out of the original triptych of Christ, the Virgin and John the Baptist. Deisis means "prayer" and, accordingly, the Virgin, John the Baptist and the other saints are shown standing in prayer before Christ. Tchin means "order" and thus the addition of the angels, apostles, Church Fathers and others to the original three figures is meant to reflect the proper order of the world in the fulfillment of the New Testament Church - united in common movement toward Christ in prayer in a strict orderly succession, interceding on behalf of the sins of the world. The Deisis Tier is the most important part of the iconostasis and represents the goal of every church service - prayerful standing before the throne of God. ...
The bottom tier of the iconostasis is Worship Tier. Its name came from the ancient practice of removing the current feast day icon or the icon for the current month from there to the pulpit for worship and the fact that these icons are more accessible to the worshippers for veneration: kissing, candle-burning, and meditation. It is more varied and local in character than the other tiers of the iconostasis. The Worship Tier consists of various icons and three doors ...
From this person's references, it looks like a lot of that description was based on Ouspensky and Lossky's work The Meaning of Icons.
Posted 06 November 2010 - 12:45 AM
Posted 07 November 2010 - 11:49 PM
As for which saints or feasts are chosen beyond these "essentials", it is up to the parish concerned. There is great variation to be found.
Posted 11 November 2010 - 11:20 PM
There is a big difference between the Balkan and the Russian orthodox iconostasis. The former is older but simpler. The Russian on the other hand is more developed and sophisticated.
The traditional Balkan iconostasis has only three tiers (tier = chin in Slavonic): 1) (top) Great Feasts, 2) (middle) Deesis or Apostles’ tier and 3) (bottom) Royal tier. Occasionally beneath the Royal tier there is another one with scenes from the Hexameron.
The Deesis tier of the Balkan iconostasis consists of the triptych “Christ, Theotokos and St John the Baptist” surrounded by the icons of the twelve apostles. Sometimes next to Theotokos and St John there are two archangels. Usually (unlike in the Russian tradition) in the Balkan Deesis tier there are no icons of martyrs, hierarchs, etc.
The most important part of the Russian iconostasis is the Deesis tier. In the Balkan version the Deesis chin is smaller (traditionally all the images are half-length). There the biggest and the most impressive tier is that of the Royal icons (Olga has already given a very informative description above).
In most of the new churches in Bulgaria, Greece and elsewhere (built in the late 19th - 20th Century) could be found a different type of iconostasis. Only the Royal icons are the same. On the top there is a mixed tier with images of various saints and feasts. Above the Royal doors there is always an icon of the Last supper. I am not sure about the origin of this new program. It could be an invention of the Greek Orthodox Church (?) but this is just a suggestion. I can’t tell either why the old type is abandoned.
As for the term “chin” it means: group, order, choir, row, grade, etc. In Old Slavonic the word (in plural of course) is used for the ranks of a hierarchy. For example: the chins of the angels, the chins of the saints or the chins of the clergy. As the iconographic programs of the church and the iconostasis reflect the Divine order (taxis) all rows of images could be called chins. So there would be a Royal chin, a Deesis chin, a Feasts chin and so on. In the Russian iconostasis in particular the Deesis row includes various groups (chins) of saints and obviously for that reason it is referred to as a Chins tier. This term could not be applied to the Balkan Deesis row which is also called "of the apostles".
Iconostasis.JPG 64.31K 33 downloads
Posted 06 November 2013 - 04:36 AM
I recently bought a cardboard icon and I would like to know what feast it represents. The icon has the Theotokos with the Christ child on a throne. Surrounding the throne are ten angels under a large green-tiled church. Below this, on the left side, is a bearded saint holding a scroll, and three other saints including one wearing a crown. On the right side are a number on nuns, below the throne, looking up are a large number of saints of all different kinds. There is a Greek inscription---5 letters on one side that I think might be omega, tau, zeta, epsilon, epsilon, and on the right side 8 letters that I think might be rho, alpha, delta, gamma, zeta, tau, zeta, theta. Does anybody know this icon?
Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:09 AM
Carolyn, your icon is actually Russian, not Greek, as the letters of the inscription correspond to the Slavonic title of the icon: О тебе радуется (All creation rejoices in you). The title in Greek would be ΕΠΙ ΣΟΙ ΧΑΙΡΕΙ. There is some similarity between the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, so your mistake is quite understandable.
The title of the icon is from the following hymn to the Mother of God, composed by St John of Damascus, and which is sung during the Liturgy of St Basil the Great in the same place as It is Truly Meet at the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom:
Here is an example of the icon, which is the festal icon for the Assembly (Synaxis, Sobor) of the Mother of God, commemorated on December 26:
The saint holding an unfurled scroll at the centre of the icon, just to the left of the Virgin's throne, is St John of Damascus, easily distinguishable in his "trademark" white turban with black markings. It is almost certain that what is written on his scroll is the text of the hymn, or at least, the beginning of it. He is also shown in a position of honour, closest to the throne, because of his writing of a very great number of canons and hymns to the Mother of God, borne out of his immense love and devotion to her, and which are sung to this day in every Orthodox church.
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