Russian Brass and Enamel Icon
Saints Zosima and Savatii of Solovki
Material: brass and polychrome enamel
Dimensions: 5.3 x 6 cm
Period: early 19th century
On this portative traveller icon the northern Russian missionary Saints Zosima and Savatii are represented led by Archangel Michael. The icon is made in casted and incised brass with background in polychrome champlevé enamel. At the top it is provided with one central pierced knob for suspension.
The three saints are portrayed as full-length figures. The first from the left is Archangel Michael holding a cross in his raised right hand and a sword in his left hand. The central figure is of Saint Zosima and the left one is of Saint Solovki, both with a characteristic monastic long beard and hair and wearing appropriate robes with hooded cloaks. All the features of the figures, including face expressions and folds of the clothes, are rendered in great detail. Above the aureole of each figure the inscription in Russian Cyrillic is incised indicating the identity of each saint. The lower part of the background is in bright blue champlevé enamel possibly symbolizing the White Sea, while the upper part of the background is in bright green champlevé enamel.
According to the style and manufacturing technique the icon can be dated in the early 19th century.
Savatii and Zosima were northern Russian monks and missioners, recognised as saints in 1547. They are remembered on September 27th, April 17th and August 8th. Their lives are bound together since Savatii had a role of spiritual mentor for Zosima and in return Zosima founded a monastery on Solovki Island in the White Sea where Savatii retreated himself as a hermit.
Savatii began his monastic life at Vaalam monastery, one of the oldest Orthodox monasteries in northern Russia. After some time, longing for a more severe spiritual life, together with monk named German, he settled on Solovki Island in the middle of a White Sea, where they built a hermitage. Despite of his ascetic life as a hermit Savatii taught the institutional forms of Orthodoxy to those whom he encountered thus considerably contributing to the missionary activity of the church. Savatii passed away in solitude in about 1430. His importance in northern Russia grew when his remains were entombed in the monastery built on the Solovki Island few decades latter.
Zosima came from a wealthy trading family from Novgorod. He denied himself of inherited family fortune and opted for the monastic life. When he met monk German, Zosima admired his eremitic life with Savatii and determined to go with him to Solovki Island. Here they founded a cloister commonly known as Solovki monastery, in about 1460. As an able administrator and a charismatic spiritual preacher, Zosima soon became the leader of the cenobitic community. He built up the monastery with two churches and a refectory; he attracted many disciples and received land and wealth bestowed for the monastery by Novgorod population. Zosima is credited for creating the cult of Savatii because when his remains were moved from the church where he was buried to Solovki monastery, Zosima created Solovski’s fist official shrine at his tomb. After Zosima’s death in 1478, the two saints came to be revered together, regarded as the major patron saints of the trading and fishing community of northern Russia. Savatii and Zosima are among the great missionary monks of Russia who created the institution of the Orthodox Church into the north during the late 13th to the early 15th century ascent of Russian monasticism. Solovki monastery remained significant in Russia’s northern spiritual and economic community until 1917. *
All the presented dates are given to the best of our knowledge. For all further information please contact us.
For additional reading please see Russian Bronze and Brass Traveller Icons.
*Literary source for the account about lives and significance of Savatii and Zosima: “Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia”, edited by Phyllis G. Jestice