Go to Publicity
«Back to news



Contemplating the "Trinity"

Icon of Andrei Rublev. The most famous and mysterious image of God in the history of iconography

The image of "Trinity" by Andrei Rublev is the most famous and mysterious image of God in the history of Orthodox iconography. Who, besides the Rev. Andrew, had to do with the creation of the icon? What do the symbols behind the angels' backs and the window in the throne mean? For whom the fourth place is left behind the throne, and how can one "communicate" with this icon? About the secrets of the "Trinity" readers of "Thomas" tells the head of the Department of Christian Culture of the Bible-Theological Institute of St. Apostle Andrew (BBI) and teacher of the Kolomna Theological Seminary, Irina Konstantinovna Yazykova.

- How did you first get to know the "Trinity" of Rublev? Maybe you still remember the impressions, feelings from this meeting?

- I met the "Trinity" when I was a student. I graduated from Moscow State University, where I studied art history. From the very beginning, I realized that I wanted to specialize in icon painting. My grandmother was a believer, so in general, icons from childhood attracted me as a window to a mysterious world. I felt a mystery behind them. Of course, the university gave me the opportunity to understand this professionally, but the phenomenon of the icon as a window to the divine world remained closed to me, despite the whole complex of my scientific knowledge.

The icon "Trinity" is one of the most mysterious. It is difficult for me to fix a specific moment of the "meeting". However, when I began to study the theology of the icon, and I was always interested not only in the artistic side, but also in the theological meaning hidden in the image, the "Trinity" was, of course, in the center of my attention. I opened a whole theological storehouse in this image, I saw in it a prayer embodied in colors, a whole treatise on the Holy Trinity. Nobody, perhaps, more deeply said about the mystery of the Divine Trinity as "Andrew Rublev" said.

It is known that icon painting is an art of the cathedral. We like to repeat this beautiful phrase, but what does it mean? "Trinity" Rublev best reveals its meaning. The chronicle says that in "the memory and praise of St. Sergius" - I almost literally quote the text - "... Hegumen Nikon of Radonezh ordered to write an image of the" Trinity "Andrei Rublev."

In the creation of this icon directly involved three people

The first one to mention is St. Sergius of Radonezh, who by the time of writing the icon had already rested. But during his lifetime he created a special doctrine of the Holy Trinity, not different from the church, of course, but deeply understood. On it, on the mystical experience of it, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra was founded. The chronicle and the life of the monk brought to us the main covenant of St. Sergius: "By the sight of the Holy Trinity, overcome the hateful strife of this world." We remember when this icon was created - during the years of the Tatar-Mongol yoke, "truces", as the chroniclers once wrote, when hatred prevailed among people, the princes betrayed and killed each other. It was in these terrible days that the Monk Sergius placed the Holy Trinity at the center of the corner as an image of love, which alone can conquer the enmity of this world.

The second person was Nikon Radonezhsky. A disciple of St. Sergius, who became hegumen of the Trinity Monastery after his death. He built the Trinity Cathedral, where he transferred the relics of St. Sergius. Nikon decided to perpetuate the name of his teacher, not through his icon, but through the image of the Holy Trinity. What Sergius Radonezhsky taught, what he was referring to and, in the image of which he founded his monastery, was to find its embodiment in the icon.

The third figure was the Reverend Andrei Rublev himself, who, as an artist, fulfilled the covenant of Sergius of Radonezh. His image of "Trinity" is the doctrine of love, the depth of unity of spirit and harmony, written down in colors.

And, when I began to understand how this icon is written, what meanings it contains, a whole world has opened for me. We are not able to know the Christian dogmas with the mind, we can not describe how the Holy Trinity is organized - this is a great mystery. But Andrei Rublev personally opened this secret to me. This "interview of the Angels", who listen to each other, sit at the same table around the cup, which the Angel blesses in the middle ... Each gesture, the turn of the head, every detail is verified, extremely deep. The icon "Trinity" makes it possible to stand before God Himself, to see the invisible, let it slip away from our mind.

Any person coming to this icon, perhaps, will not solve his everyday problems, but he will discover something that is greater than himself, inspiring peace, harmony, love

Therefore, I can not point to any specific moment in my communication with the "Trinity" Rublev. This accompanies me almost the whole of my conscious life. While doing iconography, theology of the icon, I always open something new in this icon.

- What was new about this image of the Holy Trinity, which was not before it? What is the "breakthrough" of this icon and why it was destined to become canonical? After all, this image became the property not only of the Russian theological tradition and culture, but also of world art. In what way is this discovery expressed?

- Novelty of the icon is primarily due to the fact that Rublev focused all his attention on the three Angels. Before him, the "hospitality of Abraham" was basically portrayed - the plot of the 18 chapter of Genesis, when three Angels came to Abraham's house. "He lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood opposite him. Seeing, he ran to meet them from the entrance to the tent and bowed to the ground ... "(Genesis 18: 2). Based on the narrative of this chapter, it becomes clear that God himself appeared to Abraham. Although there is no unity among the Holy Fathers, nor among the icon painters in the interpretation of this plot. Someone claimed that before the Abraham the Holy Trinity appeared then. And the icon painters portrayed the three angels in the same clothes, pointing to their unity and equality to each other. Other theologians talked about the appearance of God, accompanied by two angels. Then one of them was depicted in the garments of Christ.

Andrei Rublev, eliminating the household details of the plot - Sarah and Abraham, the servant who stabs the calf, that is all that the icon painters wrote before him - introduces us to the direct contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity itself. In general, this icon is interesting because it is multi-dimensional, it can be read differently several times: and as a phenomenon of Christ, because the middle angel is depicted in the Savior's clothes. It can also be read as an image of the Trinity - all three angels are written with almost identical faces. But before us is not an illustration of God. This icon, as in the theological treatise, reveals that the Holy Fathers called the "Trinity in the Unit" - one God in three Persons or Hypostases. The image also reflects the liturgical aspect. Silhouettes of two Angels sitting on each side form a cup. And on the throne in the middle stands a cup - a symbol of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Christ.

There is another interesting detail on the icon. If you carefully look at the throne, you can see in it a little window. You know, when you conduct an excursion around the Tretyakov Gallery, its culmination is the ruble hall, whose heart is the "Trinity". This hall clearly demonstrates how iconography rises in the spiritual sense higher and higher until it reaches its peak in Rublev's icon, and then, unfortunately, a gradual decline begins. So usually people, looking at this image, ask: "And what is this window?" It is not accidental. Immediately I must warn - about the "Trinity" written an incredible amount of literature, which presents a variety of comments and interpretations. So, one of the researchers writes about this window the following. In any throne, which is in the altar of the temple, there are always the relics of saints. But there is no icon on the throne. There is the Sacrifice of Christ, which is symbolically depicted in the form of a cup that stands on the throne, but there is no human answer to the height of this sacrifice. What kind of answer is this? It is a feat of martyrs, saints, saints - of all saints. Therefore, this window seems to convey the question of God: "And what will you answer the sacrifice of the love of Christ?" I really like this interpretation. I think that Andrei Rublev could think like that.

Another symbolic layer is associated with the images that stand behind each of the Angels. The middle angel shows a tree. It is the tree of life, which, as the Holy Scriptures say, the Lord planted in Paradise. Behind the Angel to our left are the chambers, the symbol of divine economy, the image of the Church. For the Angel on the right - it is usually associated with the Holy Spirit - the mountain. It symbolizes the ascent to the mountain (spiritual) world. These symbols are directly tied to the Angels and are more saturated in meaning than in any other icon.

In icons in general there are always these three symbols: inanimate nature (mountains), wildlife (trees) and architecture. But in the "Trinity" they are directly tied to each Angel. Andrei Rublev clearly wanted in this way to reveal the relationship of the Angels and the characteristics of each of them

- Is there a single interpretation, which of the angels symbolizes God the Father, which is God the Son and the Holy Spirit?

- This question - extremely difficult for researchers - is asked often. Respond to it in different ways. Some say that Christ is depicted in the center, the Father to the right of Him, and the Holy Spirit to the left. There is an interpretation that the Father is in the center, but since we can not see it directly, then, relying on the words of the Savior, "he who saw me saw the Father," He is depicted in the garments of Christ, and to his right sits the Son. Interpretations are many.

But this, maybe not the most important, oddly enough, in this icon. Stoglavy Cathedral (1551 year) approved the icon of Andrei Rublev as canonical, emphasizing that this is not an image of the Divine Personalities, but an image of the Divine Trinity. Therefore, the Council forbade the inscription of the Angels, thus cutting off any possibility of finally indicating who is who. Also for this image it was forbidden to depict the so-called "baptismal halo" - an iconographic device that points to Christ.

It is interesting that the "Trinity" Rublev has another name - "Ancient Council". It opens the other side of the icon. What is the "Everlasting Council"? This mysterious communication within the Holy Trinity about the salvation of mankind: God the Father with the voluntary consent of God the Son sends Him into the world for the salvation of people.

Do you see how many theological layers are hidden in the icon? This image is the most complex theological text. The icon itself is closer to the book than to the picture. It does not illustrate, but symbolically points to something hidden and secret.

However, the artistic aspect of this icon is incredibly high. The fact that the "Trinity" is ranked among the greatest masterpieces of world art is not accidental. At the beginning of the 20th century restorer Vasily Guryanov found a way to remove a layer of drying oil from darkened icons. In 1904, he cleared a small fragment of the image of clothes on the "Trinity", and everyone saw Rublev's amazing, piercing blue color. People gasped, and an army of pilgrims rushed to the icon. The monks were afraid that the ancient image could be spoiled, the icon was closed with a salary and prohibited further work with it. We completed the process started then only in 1918 year, unfortunately, when the Lavra was already closed. Then there worked a very good restoration team led by Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar. When they opened the icon completely, they saw amazing, simply heavenly colors: piercing blue, gold and dark red, almost cherry. In some places there was a pinkish hue, and on the clothes there was green. These are the colors of Paradise. The icon, through its artistic perfection, is revealed to us by Eden. And what is Paradise? It is the life of the Holy Trinity, God. Where does the Lord call us? Not to spiritual comfort, but to the place where there will be unity of man and God. Just look at the icon: three angels are sitting. They occupy the three sides of the quadrangular throne, but the fourth side is free ... It seems to attract us. This is the place left for Abraham, whom the Holy Trinity visited then, and the place left for each of us.

- And whoever approaches the icon, as if becomes the fourth?

- Yes. The icon, as it were, includes its own contemplator. On this icon, by the way, it is easiest to demonstrate the famous iconographic principle of the reverse perspective. If you extend the lines of the foot of the throne, then they converge where the person stands. And inside the icon itself, these lines diverge, revealing eternity before our eyes.

Now you understand why this icon stands alone among the greatest masterpieces of Old Russian painting? Everything is concentrated in it: the theological depth, and artistic perfection, and the focus on man - dialogue with him. Icons are different: there are very closed, which is difficult to approach, but there are icons that, on the contrary, attract: Rublev wrote an icon "Zvenigorodsky Savior" - it is impossible to tear himself away from it. She would stand all her life and look at Him. But the "Trinity" is the golden mean of harmony and perfection.

- Can professional researchers tell us something about the very process of writing this icon? Perhaps, it is known how Rublev prepared for her, how did he fast, what happened to him while he wrote it?

"Medieval documents do not say much about it." There is only mention of the customer (the Monk Nikon of Radonezh) and everything. Nothing more is said about this icon, but something we can indirectly reconstruct. For example, it is known that Rublev was a monk. Hence, he led a life of prayer. Maybe he even took a vow before starting to write the "Trinity", but we can not really say anything. The medieval chronicles and documents of that era are extremely scanty for such information. It began to interest people already in New time.

Rublev was from the galaxy of disciples of St. Sergius. And we know about them that they were true ascetics, so, with a high degree of probability, we can say that Rublev was the same. In the documents of those times many different icon painters are mentioned. Theophanes the Greek everyone knows - he, incidentally, worked together with Andrei Rublev in the Annunciation Cathedral. Someone might remember Daniel Chernoy, with whom Rublev worked in Vladimir. There are also less well-known names: Isaiah Grechin, Prokhor from Gorodets. However, it was Andrei Rublev who was elected to write such an important icon. Such a complicated topic could be entrusted only to a person who is congenial to it. Only he can understand its depth and depict it.

But this, unfortunately, is all we can say.

- It turns out, the image of Rublev in the film Tarkovsky - is, for the most part, his personal director's view?

- Of course. Tarkovsky's film is very good, but it's more about a man who finds himself in a very difficult era. In my opinion, the question of the film is this: how can a Christian, especially a monk, survive in a cauldron of terrible history, where people kill each other, burn cities, where there is ruin, dirt, poverty everywhere? And suddenly - "when would you know what kind of rubbish grow poems!" That is, from what terrible mud, the deepest human tragedy, great works of art grow. It is clear that Tarkovsky was not going to create a real, historical image of Rublev. He is more interested in an artist who opposes evil with the depth of art, which shows that there is something else in the world that stands above his horror. Therefore, this film is primarily to be viewed not as a strict historical picture, but as an attempt by an artist to understand the other. War heroic deeds have no meaning, if they are not followed by the purification of the human soul. Therefore, the Monk Sergei started not with politics, not with war, but with purification and education of people. And in this sense, the icon is an important artifact that resists the darkness of the age. The very fact of its writing is a feat.

If there is a "Trinity" Rublev - then there is God

- Father Pavel Florensky in the book "Iconostasis" has an interesting idea that Rublev's "Trinity" is the only, most convincing proof of the existence of God.

- Yes. He even said deeper: "If there is Rublev's" Trinity ", then there is God."

- And how to understand this phrase?

- For a modern person, this sounds strange, but looking at this icon, we understand that this is a Revelation exceeding all our representations. This can not be imagined. This is not a fantasy. So, behind this image there is some other reality - the divine. A person who lives by faith in God, who wrote such an icon, could not devote his whole life to hallucinations.

A shot from the film "Andrei Rublev", dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

In the life of Andrei Rublev there is one interesting remark. When they worked together with Daniel, they sat for a long time and just watched the icons. They did not write, they did not pray, they just looked, as if they were in front of the icons, feeding on them. They wanted to hear the voice of God, see the divine images, which they can then paint. Of course, Father Pavel Florensky, through this thought, pointed out that behind the "Trinity" a self-sufficient reality opens. Her man can not think up.

- Why for over five hundred years Andrei Rublev is not mentioned anywhere in the saints, and officially he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church only at the end of the last century?

- To be precise in 1988 year, at the Local Council in connection with the millennium of the Baptism of Russia. In fact, Andrei Rublev was always revered as a saint in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. Even icons are preserved, where he is portrayed among other laurel saints. Monks laurels have always been clear that he is a saint. There was even a seventeenth-century legend about the great saints-icon painters, where his name is mentioned. In ancient times, before the so-called Macarius cathedrals of the XVI century, there was no fixed list of saints. There were a lot of local people who were known in one city, but not in the other. Then Metropolitan Makarius tried to collect all the revered saints and include them in one list.

The sanctity of Andrei Rublev was obvious to his contemporaries. And that's why it was officially canonized only in the XX century - it's understandable. The 1988 Cathedral canonized those whom the believers already worshiped. The cathedral only acknowledged their sanctity officially

It was such a kind of "provononization". Just see who was glorified with Andrei Rublev: Elizaveta Fedorovna, Xenia of Petersburg, Ambrose Optina, Ignat Bryanchaninov. That is, the Council simply stated their veneration and introduced them into the "saints."

- Turning to the history of the Trinity icon itself, do you know about the meetings of very famous people with this icon? Maybe they left their impressions, experiences from it? Perhaps there is some important historical event that was associated with this image? He, you can say, lies in the heart of our culture - I want to believe in it, at least ...

- Of course have. I read poems that were dedicated to this image. You can not, of course, not remember Tarkovsky. When he conceived his film "Andrei Rublev," he admitted that he had very vague ideas about him. The staff of the Andrei Rublev Museum told me that one day he came to them and began to just consult, as with the connoisseurs of ancient Russian art and in general of that era. Then a copy of the "Trinity" was exhibited in the museum. He stood for a long time contemplating her. After this meeting, he had an inner spiritual turn, without which he could not have created a film of this level.

The history with the opening of the icon at the beginning of the XX century, which I mentioned, is also very typical. People rushed to look at the beauty that had emerged, which shone from under this black mass. Just imagine: before you a darkened icon - and suddenly a small piece opens, and from there it looks as if the blue sky is peeping out.

There is another very interesting case. It is known that Protestants in general regard the icons very negatively. It is believed that this idolatry and so on. But back in the 90-ies. I was given a book by a Protestant German pastor who, upon seeing the "Trinity", changed his attitude to icons. He even wrote a whole book, in which he tried to unravel this image, giving his interpretation. He realized that it was not an idol, that the icons really hid another reality. A person is not just a believer, but a theologian, a pastor standing deep in his position, after a meeting with the "Trinity" has changed.

I know that during the Soviet era this icon and many others brought people to God. The church was silent at that time. Many churches were closed. Where did a man hear a living word about Christ, about the Church? People began to be interested in the icon, including the "Trinity", and then took the Holy Scripture, other books and came to the Church. I personally know several people who after meeting with the image of Rublev came to faith in the Soviet era.

- I remember one time, at Pentecost, I came to the temple in the evening. In the center, on the analog, lay the icon "Trinity", naturally, a copy of Rublev. And that's when I remembered this meeting with her forever. There was a feeling that I was standing - and in front of me the abyss. I did not know where to go, how to deal with this precipice. Nothing could be done. Only to stand on the very edge ... I was as if for a moment the divine lightning lit up. Perhaps, and you have your personal experience of meeting, the experience of touching this icon, not as a professional, but as a believing person?

- How do you say? This is not the case .. rather experience the experience of this icon, very personal. Sometimes I write poetry. I heard music and wrote about the "Trinity". As if she ... sounds. Through these colors I heard music that became my poem.

A source: THOMAS

Author: Sysoev Tikhon, Yazykova Irina

Tags: Religion, Orthodoxy, Icons

GTranslate Your license is inactive or expired, please subscribe again!