Oana Iacubovschi, An Overlooked Representation of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in the Metropolitan Church of Suceava. Literary Sources and Iconographic Context

Oana Iacubovschi - Institute of South-East European Studies, Bucharest
TOME LV 2017
p. 225-261
Online publication date: 
The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, iconography of the Moldavian churches in the 15th and 16th centuries, liturgical books, the panegyric of Saint Basil of Caesarea on the Forty Martyrs

Noting the unprecedented representation of the Sufferings of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in the naos of the old metropolitan church of Suceava, in a place that was generally dedicated to the holy emperors Constantine and Helena, accompanied by holy martyrs, the present article aims to explain the painters' decision to change the almost canonical iconographic syntax of the western wall of the naos, as elaborated in the Moldavian mural painting of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Martyrdom of the Forty and its message in the reconfigured iconography of the naos of the metropolitan church are compared to earlier representations of the same topic in monumental programs of the Balkan and Byzantine region. Finally, the research addresses the literary tradition related to the Forty Martyrs – an essential component of their cult -, which proved to have played an important role in the reception of the image in the sixteenth century mural painting of Saint George church in Suceava.