Denisov Denis

On the origin of the iconographic composition “The Great Entrance” in russian church frescos of the 16th — first half of the 17th centuries

Denisov Denis (2019) "On the origin of the iconographic composition “The Great Entrance” in russian church frescos of the 16th — first half of the 17th centuries ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia V : Voprosi istorii i teorii hristianskogo iskusstva, 2019, vol. 33, pp. 62-76 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturV201933.62-76


In Old Russian sacred art, the composition of the Great Entrance has been known since the 16th century. It illustrates the transfer of the holy gifts from the table of oblation to the altar, which is an important moment in Orthodox liturgy. Sometimes it is argued that the Great Entrance is similar to the composition of the Celestial Liturgy. But if compared in detail, it becomes clear that there are signifi cant diff erences between the two scenes. Some researchers have written about the depiction of the Great Entrance in the context of the iconographic innovations introduced by metropolitan Macarius of Moscow in the second half of the 16th century. In the same way, this composition was regarded in the context of paintings of the second half of the 17th century. However, the origin of the iconography of the Great Entrance has not been scientifi cally treated yet. Among all known monuments, it is only in the frescos of the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow Kremlin that this theme fi nds its logical “context”, because it is depicted as a continuation of the Passion Cycle. From the liturgical interpretation proposed by the Byzantine theologian Nicholas Cabasilas, it is seen that in the Great Entrance we imitate the righteous Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who are burying Christ. The same is refl ected in the scenes located in the altar zone of the Dormition Cathedral, i.e. the Great Entrance, Crucifi xion, and Lamentation. These confi rm this interpretation as they testify the image of the church, earthly and celestial, that is burying the Saviour during the Divine Liturgy. It is not yet known, how strictly the painters that restored the Dormition Cathedral in 1642‒1643 followed the programme of the early 16th century, which is mentioned by the chronicler. In particlular, the article shows that it is in the Dormition Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin that this fresco composition could appear for the first time; but the reasons for its creation in Russia in the early 16th century still remain unclear.


Great Entrance, Dormition Cathedral, Moscow Kremlin, St Nicholas Church in Yaroslavl, Old Russian art, monumental painting, church paintings, Passion Cycle, tomb of Christ, liturgy of Great Saturday, Let all Flesh Remain Silent, interpretation of Divine Liturgy


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Information about the author

Denisov Denis

Place of work: Central Andrey Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art; 10 Andron'evskaia sq., Moscow 105120, Russian Federation; State Research institute of Restorarion; 44 Gastello st., Moscow 107014, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0003-0158-9964;
Email: denisov_dionisii@mail.ru.