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Flight into Egypt


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#1 Herman G.

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:08 PM

Attached File  Flight+into+Egypt.JPG   38.22K   64 downloads

Could someone explain what's occurring in this icon? Who are the four figures leaping from the city walls?

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:19 PM

Those are idols falling from their pedestals as Christ approaches the city of Hermopolis.

In " A History of the Monks in Egypt ", we are told the story of seven pilgrims who traveled to Egypt from Palestine in order to visit the holy sites. When they stopped in Hermopolis, the author records: We beheld also another holy man named Apollos in the Thebaid, within the limits of Hermopolis, to which the Savior along with Mary and Joseph came fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: 'Behold the Lord is sitting on a light cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt will be shaken by his presence and will fall on the ground.' For there we see the temple where, after the Savior had entered the city, all the idols fell on the ground upon their faces."

#3 Herman G.

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:06 AM

Those are idols falling from their pedestals as Christ approaches the city of Hermopolis.

In " A History of the Monks in Egypt ", we are told the story of seven pilgrims who traveled to Egypt from Palestine in order to visit the holy sites. When they stopped in Hermopolis, the author records: We beheld also another holy man named Apollos in the Thebaid, within the limits of Hermopolis, to which the Savior along with Mary and Joseph came fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: 'Behold the Lord is sitting on a light cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt will be shaken by his presence and will fall on the ground.' For there we see the temple where, after the Savior had entered the city, all the idols fell on the ground upon their faces."


Didn't know of the prophesy either, thank you for this!

Who is the boy leading the donkey? And who are the three people at the doorway?

#4 Antonios

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:11 AM


Herman, the icon you posted is a famous one from the Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery in Kosovo.

The following icon is a Russian Icon of the Flight into Egypt; the bottom section shows the idols of Egypt miraculously falling down before Jesus and being smashed (17th century).

Attached File  Icon_01012_Begstvo_v_Egipet._Nachalo_XVII_v.jpg   45.07K   59 downloads


Next is a painting from a non-Orthodox British artist Edwin Long called Anno Domini, 1883, which shows the arrival in Egypt/ In this painting the idols are still intact.

Attached File  Edwin_Longsden_Long_-_Anno_Domini.jpg   79.33K   62 downloads

The following is taken from an EXCELLENT website called A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons:

As part of the Church’s tradition, it is believed that during Christ’s flight into Egypt, statues to the native gods crumbled and fell at His presence; this led to the conversion of some of the inhabitants. This story is enshrined in the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God, which contains the following stanza addressed to Jesus:

By shining in Egypt the light of truth, Thou didst dispel the darkness of falsehood; for its idols fell, O Saviour, unable to endure Thy strength;



#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:14 AM

The young man is most likely St. James, the brother of the Lord. Perhaps Dame Olga can enlighten us as to the identity of the three figures in the door.

#6 Antonios

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:15 AM

Here is one from the Limbourg Brothers (?), 1408-09

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#7 Antonios

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:19 AM

Here's another one from Georges Trubert (1480)

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#8 Olga

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 12:05 PM

The young man is most likely St. James, the brother of the Lord.


It is indeed St James, as confirmed by this verse from the Praises at Matins for October 23, the apostle's feastday:

You were shown to be the Lord’s brother in the flesh by His own desire, O wise one, His disciple and an eye-witness to Divine mysteries, having fled with Him to Egypt, with Joseph and the Mother of Jesus. Pray with them, that we be saved.

Perhaps Dame Olga can enlighten us as to the identity of the three figures in the door.


This is the first time I have come across this detail in a Flight into Egypt icon. The four figures are dressed as nobles; the woman is wearing a crown, and is gesturing in supplication and homage towards Christ and His Mother. A quick look through the liturgical material I have doesn't seem to shed any light as to who these people are, but there are a couple of possibilities:

- they could be the rulers of Heliopolis, and are welcoming the holy strangers.

- they could be patrons/benefactors of the Decani monastery, who had a strong devotion to the Mother of God. It is not uncommon (though one could debate the propriety of this) for such patrons to be present in icons, as a pictorial equivalent of the brass commemoration plates or stained-glass panels seen in many western churches.

In the absence of further information, I would suspect the latter.

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 01:08 PM

The frescos at Decani follow certain cycles. In the south choir, the cycle is taken from The Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God and includes a representation of oikos VI which has this:

By shining in Egypt the light of truth, Thou didst dispel the darkness of falsehood, O Saviour. For, unable to endure Thy strength, its idols fell; and those freed from their spell cried to the Mother of God:

Hail, uplifting of fallen men!
Hail, downfall of demons!
Hail, thou who hast trampled on the delusion of error!
Hail, thou who hast exposed the fraud of idols!


So I think it must follow that the regal woman and the two men represent ‘those freed from their spell’ crying out their gratitude to the Mother of God.

#10 Herman G.

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 07:40 PM

Was there a female ruler in that area during the time?

#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:30 PM

I don't know - the figure may be symbolic.




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