Volodymyr the Great and Anna Porphyrogenita as “New Constantine and Helena” in the Fresco Paintings of St. Sophia of Kyiv


  • Nadiia Nikitenko Dr. habil. (History), Professor; Head of the Research Department “Saint Sophia Institute” of the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia of Kyiv”. Main research fields: history and culture, monumental art of Byzantium and Rus-Ukraine. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8524-3313




Byzantium, Constantine the Great, Empress Helena, Rus-Ukraine, Volodymyr the Great, Anna Porphyrogenita, baptism of Rus-Ukraine, St. Sophia of Kyiv, frescoes of St. Sophia, canonization of Volodymyr and Anna


The Roman Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great is a symbolic figure who most fully embodies the spirit and image of Byzantium and was widely accepted by the cultural tradition of the entire Christian world. It was him who laid the foundations and determined the path of the great Christian civilization. Who was Emperor Constantine for Byzantium, so Prince Volodymyr became for Rus-Ukraine. He is glorified in olden Rus literature as “new Constantine”. The reception of this Byzantine tradition is also traced in the frescoes of St. Sophia of Kyiv.
The exact image identification of all St. Sophia painted characters is yet far from being definite, though the author has some points for such recognition, which are mainly accepted by the scholarly authorities. The image of Volodymyr’s regal consort Anna is one of author’s identifications among Sophia iconography. We specially emphasize the pairing of Volodymyr the Great and Anna Porphyrogenita personalities in the minds of Old Rus elite, and so this princely bridal couple of the Rus baptizers was logically associated with the Saints Constantine and Helena. All linked symbolism could be easily traced within the fresco paintings of St. Sophia cathedral in Kyiv.
The paintings glorify equal-to-apostles activity of the princely couple on the introduction of the right faith, creation of the new Christian capital and its sacred attribute: the temple of St. Sophia the Wisdom of God. Such a consistent church and political concept of painting shows three important things: firstly, the organic synthesis of the universal and national senses in it; secondly, its belonging to the time of Volodymyr, the founder and builder of the cathedral, and, thirdly, the active preparation of the names of Volodymyr and Anna for canonization.

Manuscript received 07.03.2020


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