Miracle of the Angel at Chonai14.75 x 13 in 37.5 x 30.7 cm
Egg Tempera on Wood Panel
Holy Monastery of St. Catherine - Sinai
One of the most famous shrines of the Archangel Michael was in Chonai in western Asia Minor. Chonai was near ancient Kolossai in Phrygia. The shrine was a domed buidling lavishly decorated with marble and gold mosaics. It was renowned throughout the late medieval world and attracted pilgrims from all over Europe and Middle East. Unfortunately, sharing the fate of all of the churches of Asia Minor, it was looted and destroyed by Islamic armies in the 12th century. Today thousands of glass tesserai are scattered across the field that marks the site of the church.
In the 12th century there was a popular revivial of veneration of the Archangel Michael that reached Imperial Court. The Emperor Issac Comnenos pored enormous sums of gold into embellishing a shrine of the Archangel Michael which stood north of Constantinople on the Bosphorus. Rare marble and bronze fittings were taken from other buildings for the church. New splendid jewelled and enamelled ikons were commissioned by Issac from Byzantine goldsmiths. Rare ancient images were moved to the church by Imperial decree. All this was lost just a few years later in the sack of the Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade. Perhaps two of Issac's ikons of the Archangel survive today in the Treasury of St. Mark's in Venice - loot from the Imperial City.
This ikon represents an event in the early history of the shrine. A flood threatened to destroy the church and the prayers of the monk Archippos brought the intercession of the Archangel who is shown here diverting the floodwaters from the front steps of the church with his red staff.
The Archangel is dressed in white and blue, his idealised face and classical draperies are evidence for the survival of the Hellenistic style into the middle ages through Byzantium.
Archippos is much smaller than the Archangel and dressed in brown monk's robes. he stands on the marble stairs of the church and the marble portal of shrine is shown behind him. A blue tiled dome and a vaulted window rise above him.