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The Inscription In Greek on the Fresco Scroll of John the Baptist in the Holy Transfiguration Church of Nereditsa

Marina A. Bobrik

Abstract


This paper analyses the single Greek inscription in the 12th century Holy Transfiguration Church of Nereditsa (Veliky Novgorod, Northern Russia). A mysterious text is reproduced on the scroll in the hand of John the Baptist on the fresco in the conch of diaconicon. Nowadays one can see the following sequence of letters and signs: + ΕVΡΗΚ‖ĀŌΜ. . .:; the photograph made before the destructions of the World War II allows to reconstruct the inscription as follows: + ΕVΡΗΚ‖ĀŌΜĒÌᾱ: (with a cross at the beginning and a final sign) which I will tentatively interprete as + ΕVΡΗΚA[μεν] [τ]O[ν] ΜE[σ]IA[ν]: “we have found the Messiah.” For a long time the epigraph was considered corrupt and there is no published interpretation of it. I will give a description of the epigraph (especially of some remarkable features in the usage of supralinear signs), identify the text as a citation from Jn 1:41, and I will also interpret the inscription in its historical and iconographic context. Not only the language is remarkable (other epigraphs in the church are Slavic), but also the text chosen (Jn 1:41) and the iconographic type of the Baptist (as a prophet). I will argue that there is a semantic connection between the text choice and the commemorative motives in the overall iconographic program of the church, and that the We of the Gospel citation can be associated with the two sons of the church founder (Prince Yaroslav) — both of them died one year before the church was decorated.

Keywords


epigraphy; Greek inscriptions in Old Rus’; the Nereditsa church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord the Saviour; inscriptions on frescoes; John the Baptist; biblical citations; Gospel of John

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