The venerable Zosima (died April 17, 1478) and Savvatiy (died September 27, 1434 or 1435) of Solovki were founders of the Solovetsky Monastery on Solovki islands. St. Savvatiy took monastic vows at the Cyril of Belozersk Monastery and then moved to the Valaam Monastery, from where, searching for a more secluded place for complete solitude, he and a monk named German, settled on Solovki island. Later German moved to the Onega river and Savvatiy stayed on the island alone. Anticipating the nearing death, he came back to the mainland and died in the village of Soroki. One year after Savvatiy’s death German and Zosima came to Solovki island. In 1452, the venerable Zosima became the first hegumen (abbot) of the Solovetsky Monastery of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The major source of the saints’ lives is their hagiography. Although the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy had never met in real life, their labors, joint postmortem apparitions and miracles impacted the development of the paired iconography, especially after their canonization by the 1547 Council.

The earliest example of the saints’ iconography is an icon that was brought by a merchant named Ivan and his brother Feodor from Novgorod after the translation of the saint’s relics from the river Soroka to Solovki. A palm-sized icon of the Venerable Zosima and Savvatiy of Solovki dating back to the first half of the 16th century, now located in the State Moscow Kremlin Museum, has a 19th century silver plate on the back carrying an inscription “Икона первописанная по преставлении преподобнаго отца Зосимы в 5 лето учеником его бывшим игуменом Досифеом 3-м 1478 года” (First icon of the venerable Father Zosima painted five years after his passing away by his former hegumen Docepheus the Third in 1478).

The venerable Savvatiy is traditionally portrayed wearing full clerical vestments (inner rason, robe, belt, mantle, analabos on the chest and schema on the shoulders) and little boots, with the right hand raised in blessing and a scroll in his left. A 18th century painter’s guide that belonged to G.D.Filimonov gives the following description of the saint:` “Savvatiy looks old and gray-haired, his beard is chest-length and broader than St. Blaise’s, straight hair, a clerical robe, mantle and koukoul”).

There are several iconographic versions of the saints. They are contained in the inventories of the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Solovetsky Monastery: the icons of Zosima and Savvatiy with the Sign of the Theotokos above them and the monastery below; The full-length figure of the Savior with the kneeling Zosima and Savvatiy; The full-length figure of the Mother of God with the venerable Zosima and Savvatiy kneeling before Her in prayer, with the miracles around; The Synaxis of the wonderworkers of Solovki. The images of the saints are encountered in almost every Northern old-believer church or chapel. These are largely replicas a 17th century iconographic version of a full-length image praying to the Mother of God of the Sign on heavens. Between them, in the upper part, is a panoramic view of the monastery. Also widespread among the Pomorian old believers was another icon of the saints Easter Sunday, with the kneeling Zosima and Savvatiy with the monastery in hands.

The venerable Zosima is commemorated on April 30 (April 17, the old style); the venerable Savvatiy is venerated on October 10 (September 27, the old style). The first and second translation of the saints’ relics is celebrated on August 21 (August 8, the old style). They are commemorated in the Synaxis of the Solovetsky saints on August 22 (August 9, the old style), June 3 (May 21, the old style) in the Synaxis of the Karelian saints and in the third week after the Pentecost in the Synaxis of the Novgorodian saints.

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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