Old Testament Trinity (The Abraham’s Hospitality)

The iconography is based on the Biblical story to the effect that God appeared before the Forefather Abraham under the guise of three wayfaring men under the oak of Mamre. Abraham always welcomed wayfaring men. Kneeling down to the ground he invited them to repose and fortify themselves with food. One of the wayfaring men told Abraham that in a year’s time his wife Sarah would give birth to a son.At that time Abraham was 99 years old, and Sarah was 89.Sarah,who was standing behind them at the entrance to their tent, did not believe it and chuckled. But the wayfaring man, who foretold the birth of the son, condemned her disbelief by saying:”Is there anything difficult for Our Lord?”.And then the sinless Abraham understood that God Himself had visited him under the guise of three wayfaring men.

The Holy Trinity is depicted in the images of three angels seated under the tree.On the table in front of them are refreshments offered by Abraham who is standing nearby.Sarah is either here, together with Abraham interceding with the Holy Trinity or in the tent. Apart from the angels the iconography included the manservant killing the calf and cooking the meal.There are various versions of iconographic interpretations-Progenitors (Abraham and Sarah) are in the foreground, at the sides or look out of the windows of the chambers in the background.The background as a rule is filled with symbolic depictions of Abraham’s chambers, the oak of Mamre and rock-mount ledges. Versions of iconographic interpretations differ in details of food eating and episodes of killing the calf and baking bread.

The subject matter of The Abraham’s Hospitality (the Appearance of the three angels before Abraham) is found in the catacomb paintings, for example in Via Latina (1V century) as well as in early mosaics, for example in the Church of Santa Maria Majore in Rome (V century) and in the Church San-Vitale in Ravenna (V1 century).The iconography of The Abraham’s Hospitality came to Russia very early: the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev (X1 century), the Southern Gates of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Virgin Mary in Suzdal (ХШ century) and the famous fresco by Theophanes the Greek in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour on Ilyin Street in Novgorod.

The Day of the Holy Trinity is celebrated on Sunday on the fiftieth day after Easter. 


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