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Author: Irina L. Khokhlova
Information about the author:

Irina L. Khokhlova, PhD in Art History, Associate Professor of the Institute of Humanities, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, 14 Alexander Nevsky St., 236041 Kaliningrad, Russia.

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For citation:

Khokhlova, I.L. “Image of Feats of Repentance in the ‘Ladder’ and in the Hagiographic Icon of John Climacus.” Germenevtika drevnerusskoi literatury [Hermeneutics of Old Russian Literature]. Issue 22. Ed.-in-chief O.A. Tufanova. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2022, pp. 495–513. (In Russian) https://doi.org/10.22455/HORL.1607-6192-2022-21-495-513

DOI: https://doi.org/10.22455/HORL.1607-6192-2022-21-495-513
UDC: 821.161.1.0
Keywords: The Ladder of John Climacus, feats of repentance, hagiography and iconography, era of Ivan the Terrible.
Date of publication: 16.12.2022


The study was supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 22-18-00005 “Iconography and Hagiography of the Ladder of John Climacus”).


The article examines image of feats of repentance in the Ladder and in the hagiographic icon of John Climacus. The ascetic composition of the Byzantine Saint John Scholasticus The Ladder of Heaven has a rich history of embodiment in old Russian painting. The original type of iconography, born of the Ladder, are the scenes of monastic exploits in the monastery-dungeon, described in the Word 5 On Repentance. A developed cycle of images of repentance scenes of monastic recluses surrounds mullion of the recognized masterpiece of the last third of the 16th century — the icon Vision of St. John of the Ladder with 24 Stamps of Life and Exploits from the collection of the Rybinsk Museum-Reserve. The purpose of study is to trace in this rare monument nature and features of translation of the fifth chapter of the Ladder from literary to pictorial language. The tasks of studying an icon are to determine its closest iconographic and stylistic analogies and protographs in frescoes, icons, miniatures. This will clarify the dating and attribution of the icon. Using a method of comparative analysis of text and image, a method of iconographic and stylistic comparisons, an iconological method, author finds parallels between hagiography and iconography. A consistent comparison of the icon’s brands with similar scenes of monks’ repentance in the fresco of the western gallery of the Annunciation Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin (1508–1564) and in the miniatures of the manuscript Ladder of the 1520s–1530s from the RSL (Russian State Library) proves the obvious close acquaintance of the icon’s author with these monuments of metropolitan origin. The uniqueness of iconography and elitism of icon’s writing lead to the conclusion that it was written by a Moscow isographer by royal order, probably as an image of the patron saint of prince Ivan, the son of Ivan the Terrible.


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