Peter and Paul, Sts.

Iconography:  Paul the Apostle, Peter the Apostle

Date: XI century. Сa. 1050 - 1052.The faces, hands and feet are depicted in the 16th century (ca. 1561 – 1572). The icon-setting made in the mid-19th century with later repairs

Iconographic school/art center:  The Byzantine icon painting

Origin: From the sovereign row of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, one of the greatest and most ancient Orthodox relics. In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible ordered the icon be removed from Veliky Novgorod to Moscow but returned it later to the St. Sophia Cathedral. During the Great Patriotic War, the icon of Peter and Paul was taken by the Nazis to Germany and returned to Russia in the early 1950s. The icon was put back on display at the Novgorod open-air museum in 2008 from Moscow’s State Research Institute for Restoration.

Material: Wood, tempera

Setting's material: Chasing, silver , gilding

Dimensions:  height 236 cm, width 147 cm

It took Yury Ruzavin six years to restore the 11th century icon of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Its colors are as deep as if the saints have just been painted, with the exception of a few small fragments that have eclipsed with time.

No less complex was the restoration of the icon setting, which is composed of 500 gild silver fragments. Some pieces are not gilded – the experts say they were not made in the 11th century, but inserted centuries later. The restoration has also revealed the medieval niello, which fused with gray oxidized surface.

The icon setting was given preservation treatment to prevent eclipsing for years to come, while the images of the Apostles Peter and Paul would probably look even more beautifully with time.

The paired icon of Peter and Paul from the Saint Sophia Cathedral is the most ancient of all Byzantine icons that survived to this day. The apostles are depicted slightly turned towards each other and to Christ, whose shoulder-length image is depicted in the upper part of the mullion. Christ is blessing with his right hand and holds a Gospel book with his left hand. The attitudes and attributes of the apostles represent the particularities of their veneration. Paul holds a closed book in richly decorated setting. The Apostle Paul holds a folded scroll – a symbol of teaching, with his long gold stick representing his special pastoral exploit. The keys in Peter’s hand represent him as the holder of the keys to the gates to Paradise, who meets the righteous in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Inv. № 11776, 11776/2. © Novgorod State United Museum


Иконы Великого Новгорода XI- начала XVI веков. Авторы проекта Л.В. Нерсесян и С.В.Обух. М. Северный паломник. 2008. №1.

  • General view
  • The Savior and the Apostle Peter
  • The face of Peter the Apostle
  • Fragment 04: The face of the Savior
  • Fragment 05: The face of Paul the Apostle
  • General view of the icon setting
  • Icon-setting: part 1
  • Icon-setting: part 2
  • Icon-setting: part 3
  • Icon-setting: part 4
  • Icon-setting: a fragment 1
  • Icon-setting: a fragment 2