Icon podea in Moscow

Type: Textiles
Date: 1498
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Russia
Dimensions: 93.5 × 98.5 cm
Description: The cloth that hangs under an Orthodox icon is called a podea. This embroidered example was made in the Grand Principality of Moscow, perhaps to accompany a copy of a famous Hodegetria icon in Constantinople that was kept in the Kremlin (see a Byzantine Hodegetria icon and podea here). The Byzantine icon had supposedly had been painted by Saint Luke, and two copies of it were sent from Constantinople to Rus' in 1381.

The podea depicts a procession in Moscow that imitated one in Constantinople. The man in the center of the image wears a leather and metal harness to hold the large icon aloft. Next to him, monks hold a cross, bowl, and censers; behind them, two men hold large umbrellas or flags, while others raise colorful branches. These branches suggest that the procession may have taken place on Palm Sunday. On the left side, the haloed figures are Grand Prince Ivan III (r. 1462–1502) and his grandson Dimitri (crowned in 1498; r. 1498–1502); between them is Ivan's son Vasilii, crowned but without a halo. In the front left corner are female members of the court, including Ivan's second wife, Zoe/Sofiia (Sophia Palaiologina, 1450–1503), a niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos). Other procession participants shown on the podea include bishops, priests, and singers in pointed hats.

Urban icon processions began in the Byzantine world by the eleventh century. The most famous was the weekly procession of the Hodegetria in Constantinople, which took place every Tuesday until the Ottoman conquest of 1453. Even though the icon was very heavy, the men who carried it did so effortlessly, and they seemed to be blown about by the icon itself. This miracle was recorded both in texts (including numerous pilgrims' accounts) and in art (such as thirteenth- and fourteenth-century frescoes in Greece and North Macedonia). The podea in Moscow emphasizes the liturgical and royal context, so it may have been made for the coronation of Dmitrii in 1498, which was modeled on the investiture of a Byzantine ruler. The imitation of rituals no longer performed in the defeated Byzantine Empire was meant to emphasize that Moscow was the new capital of Orthodoxy. In the sixteenth century, under Ivan IV ("the Terrible"), it claimed to be the Third Rome.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 11
Image Credits: The podea is in the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Reproduction in Ivan Rezansky's SCA Adventures by John Beebe is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (ill. 27).

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