XVII, 2021, 2

“The Five Martyrs” in Moldavian Mural Painting: Note on Iconographic Contexts and Devotional Subtexts | p. 169–188

hagiography, Moldavian wall painting, monastic devotion, Old Church Slavonic literature


This short study surveys the iconography of the Five Martyrs of Sebasteia (the Five Companions) in Moldavian mural painting from around 1480 until around 1530. The iconographic choice is evaluated in the context of Middle and Late Byzantine parallels, stressing upon its connection with monastic devotion, due to the inclusion in the Horologion of two prayers attributed to Ss. Eustratius and Mardarius respectively. The funeral connotation of the Five Martyrs, already noted in Late Byzantine Balkan iconography (Treskavac, Konče) might explain their appearance at Rădăuți. Their popularity in monastic circles might account for their frequency in other programs, and especially their striking association with the great martyrs and Ss. Constantine and Helen on the eastern vault of the  Pătrăuți Church narthex. This selection surprisingly echoes the row of medallions on the western narthex wall of St. Andreas church in Treska. The association of St. Eustratius with a penitential prayer of the Compline, taken from his Passio and given here in an appendix (the corresponding fragment from the 15th-century Ms. 85 in the library of Putna monastery), bestows upon his iconic portrait an aural, mnemonic layer, presumably explored by the medieval viewer.