Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Russian Orthodox Nativity icon


Today being Christmas for many Orthodox Christians, I am fondly remembering my visit a year ago to the beautiful St. Nikolas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Vienna.

If you enlarge my photo with a few clicks, a strange (to the Western eye) Nativity scene will open to you.
The fresco on the wall of St. Nikolas church shows a baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and another young Jesus being bathed by Mary's, shall we say, personal assistant.
Joseph is off to the side, looking worried.
And who is that guy in the black hairy coat?

There are some surprising answers in this rather "un-orthodox" post in a museum researcher's blog.
His post is titled "Have yourself a gloomy little Christmas: The traditional Nativity icon." 

If you prefer a more religious interpretation, see the blog "A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons."

By the way, some say the ox and ass stand close to the manger to warm the baby with their breath.
That I quite like!
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)


William Kendall said...

What a beautiful church!

Come Away With Me said...

Were you able to go inside? I enjoyed reading the two different explanations at the links you provided.

Dina said...

Sara, shalom. I came one morning and found a service going on in the small chapel on the ground floor. I peaked in from the vestibule, because I was not wearing a skirt or scarf. Afterwards I tried to ask a priest if I could take some pictures. No one there speaks English, and almost no German; only Russian. But the priest said in German, follow me. He hurried up the stairs and I ran after him. There the beautiful big sanctuary was revealed! No one there except one young woman praying on her knees in front of an icon and one old babushka at the desk where religious items were sold.
I took so many pictures of the marvelous icons, frescoes, and iconostasis. I should post some, eh?
You would love the place.

Sandi said...

I would love to see the photos you took! I hope you post them. :-)

What an amazing place. I have a soft spot in my heart for these old Russian churches. So much history there. The nativity, however, is difficult for my modern eyes. It does seem gloomy and weird. You know what it reminds me of? When Hollywood tries to make a religious movie, but is always a little bit "off" because they don't quite get it. I hope it doesn't sound arrogant (it does!) for me to suggest the artist doesn't quite get it. ;-) ah...well... ha ha...probably in his time this work was not odd, just profound.

Dina said...

P.S. And the funny part: I finally left the way I had come up, and found the church door locked! Oh God, I'm locked inside a Russian Orthodox cathedral, I thought! I went back upstairs and couldn't get the old Russian woman to understand my question, How do I get out?!
Fortunately two tourists wandered in and I noticed another door around the corner, to freedom.

Hels said...

The design of St Nikolas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Vienna is super, or perhaps all Russian Orthodox churches are special. The golden onion domes are my favourite element.

Graciel·la Vidal said...

A nice church and it was an interesting adventure for you.
Really this fresco is curious
Thanks for sharing all this.

Alice said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos of a lovely old church, and sharing your adventure inside the church.

Bill Nicholls said...

Beautiful looking church

♥ Łucja-Maria ♥ said...

Beautiful cathedral council in Vienna.
I saw him during the December trip.
Greetings from a very cold Poland.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

The cathedral is stunning Dina, the Nativity scene a wee bit different ☺