The iconographic variants of Parasceva Pyatnitsa commonly depicts her waist-length or full-length. According to tradition, the Great Martyress Parasceva is depicted wearing a red omophorion, with a crown upon her head and a cross and a scroll in her hands; on some icons she is portrayed holding a scroll in the left hand instead of an alabaster vase. The text inscribed on the scroll is most commonly the Symbol of Faith. The icon-painter’s guide prescribes to depict St. Parasceva in the following way: «И святыя великомученицы Парасковии нареченныя Пятницы, риза киноварь, испод лазорь, на главе плат бел, а в руце свиток, а в нем писано: «Господи Иисусе Христе Боже мой, всяк, иже призываяй Тя мною рабою Твоею, избави его от всякия беды и отпусти ему грехи его, а в левой руке крест». (“The holy great martyress Parascovia, named Pyatnitsa, is dressed in a cinnabar robe, azure underwear, a cloth on the head, a scroll in the hand, which reads ‘My Lord Jesus Christ, let all those who ever calls You by naming me, your servant, release them of troubles and grant them remission from their sins’ and a cross in the left hand.”)

The hagiographic cycles of Parasceva are very diverse; the earliest image of the saint is a Pskovian icon dating back to the 15th – early 16th century with 18 borders scenes (located now in the State Historical Museum in Moscow). The traditional life narrative begins with the saint’s birth. The Life of St. Parasceva, included in the Great Menation Reader by Metropolitan Macarius, begins with a story of her pious life with the parents, so her life cycle may begin with a scene depicting Parasceva being led by her parents to the temple to worship icons. On some icons, the first border scene portrays Parasceva preaching Christianity to pagans and giving her property away to the poor.

Most of the life cycle scenes are dedicated to the saint’s torments. The imprisonment of Parasceva following the arrival of hegemon Aetius who was sent by the Roman emperor to persecute Christians is followed by a border scene depicting the trial at which the saint testifies about Christ before the hegemon. Enraged by St. Parasceva’s unshakeable faith, Aetius orders to have her beaten her by ox veins. Then Parasceva was hanged on a tree and cruelly beaten by iron rods. The next border scene shows the Mother of God healing Parasceva in a prison cell and putting the crown of thorns on her head. The saint was brought again to the hegemon and ordered to worship the pagan idols but she crushed the idols which are often shown on the icons as Roman statues falling from the pedestals. St. Parasceva is again subjected to torture – she is burnt alive, crucified on the cross and beheaded. Crowds of people came to her entombment. On some icons the saint’s hagiographic cycle ends with death of Parasceva’s torturer who falls off the horse and dies.

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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