Icon-painting of the Old Believers, defenders of the Old Russian Orthodoxy (2010)

artdesigncafé - art | Published 5 November 2011
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[1] The Old Believers, also known as traditionalists, old ritualists or schismatics, pejoratively referred to as Raskolniki, are a specific eschatological group of the Orthodox Church of Russia. They differ from the official Eastern Church less in matters of dogma but in liturgy and the structure of the church, particularly in the fraction without priests.

[2] Founder of the Romanov dynasty; Michail Fjedorowitsch, Tsar; 1613 - 1645.

[3] The reforms pursued by the Patriarch Nikon included the review of the holy writings and the old liturgical tests; the spelling of the name Jesus; the sign of the cross was not to be made with two fingers, as had been the case up to then, but with three; baptism with a threefold immersion was replaced by the pouring of water. The nature and frequency of bowing during prayer was altered, the 8-armed cross was replaced by the 6 or 4-armed cross.

[4] “Baptism by fire”. In the year 1670 in the village of Bierezan the Old Believer families locked themselves into their own homes and after praying for a long time then committed suicide by fire. In this manner 2,700 people killed themselves. To Old Believers, the element of fire does not have a destructive effect but is cleansing.

[5] Among other places, Bukowina— today in southern Ukraine / North Romania— provided shelter to them. Here, thanks to the help of the Serbian Bosnian Archbishop Ambrosius they built up their own church hierarchy in 1846 in Belaja Kriniza.

[6] In the year 1717 the Old Believers were granted unrestricted religious freedom, although this was coupled with double taxation levies. In the imperial manifesto from the year 1721 the Old Believers are still defined as “enemies of the state”.

[7] The imperial manifesto of the 17th April 1905 revoked the ban that was up to then still in effect on publishing their own writings.

[8] On the whole Tsar Peter I was tolerant towards the Catholics and allowed Catholic churches to be built. He reformed his own Eastern Church taking Protestantism from the North as an example, by abolishing the Russian patriarchate. A state church was formed with the Tsar as its head— Cäsaropapismus. At the same time he backed the Eastern Church in its political involvement in Poland.

[9] 1703 foundation of St. Petersburg.

[10] In this respect, mention should be made of the Italian architect F. G. Rastrelli 1700 - 1711, who engaged in Petersburg, Krasnoje Selo, Moscow and Kiev. At his orthodox church of St. Andrew in Kiev the icons on the canvas of the icon screen are all painted in the style of Western Europe.

[11] Goethe used the expression “painting village” in his correspondence (1814) with the Tsar’s daughter Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duchess of Russia and Duchess of Saxony-Weimar, and thus introduced the term to the history of art.

[12] Among the personalities from public life who sought to save the icon were Duke Andrej Woroncow and the writer Nikolai Leskow.

[13] E. Przybył. W cieniu Antychrysta, Idea Stroobrzędowców, Kraków 2000.

[14] "Hundred Chapter Synod" from the year 1551, under the supervision of the Metropolitan Makarios (1482-1563) and with the assistance of Tsar Iwan IV (1530-1584).

[15] The Orthodox Church considers this council to be a continuation and finalization of the 5th and 6th Council. For this reason it is known as Quinisext Council (Latin: 5 and 6 put together). 211 bishops of the Eastern Church gathered at the council that issued numerous legal regulations— so-called canons— and declared the equality of the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople. The Pope Sergius refused to recognise the council because of its anti-Roman resolutions. The council is not recognised by the Catholic Church as Ecumenical Council.

[16] The Warmia and Mazuria museum in Allenstein / Olsztyn in North Poland has an excellent collection of Old Believer items from the Polish-Russian border area of the Baltic region.