The Great Martyress Parasceva was born in the city of Iconium, Asia Minor. Her parents particularly venerated Friday – the day of Christ’s Passion. In honor of this day they named their daughter Parasceva (Friday in Greek). She lost parents at an early age. She took virginity pledge and dedicated herself to converting pagans into Christians. In 300 AD, during the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the saint refused to make a sacrifice to pagan gods and was subjected to torture. She was hanged on a tree, tortured by ox veins and iron nails and thrown into a prison where she was miraculously healed. Afterwards the saint was hanged again on a tree and burnt by torches. In the end St. Parasceva was beheaded, and Christians buried her body.

Ancient documentary sources maintained no information about St. Parasceva, the earliest account of her Life is believed to be gone. A Slavonic translation of her hagiography became widespread in Rus from the 12th century. Parasceva is the most renowned and favorite saint in Russia, many churches were built in her name. A special veneration of Parasceva in Rus caused an extensive spread of her icons. Her image is associated with the theme of Christ’s Passion and Good Friday. In Byzantium, the images of Parasceva have been known since the 9th century, in Russia since the pre-Mongolian era. The earliest image of St. Parasceva dates back to the 12th – early 13th century, she is depicted among selected saints on an icon from the Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow (now kept in the State Tretyakov Gallery).

The iconographic variants of Parasceva Pyatnitsa commonly depicts her waist-length or full-length. According to tradition, the Great Martyress Parasceva is depicted wearing a red omophorion, with a crown upon her head and a cross and a scroll in her hands; on some icons she is portrayed holding a scroll in the left hand instead of an alabaster vase. The text inscribed on the scroll is most commonly the Symbol of Faith. The icon-painter’s guide prescribes to depict St. Parasceva in the following way: «И святыя великомученицы Парасковии нареченныя Пятницы, риза киноварь, испод лазорь, на главе плат бел, а в руце свиток, а в нем писано: «Господи Иисусе Христе Боже мой, всяк, иже призываяй Тя мною рабою Твоею, избави его от всякия беды и отпусти ему грехи его, а в левой руке крест». (“The holy great martyress Parascovia, named Pyatnitsa, is dressed in a cinnabar robe, azure underwear, a cloth on the head, a scroll in the hand, which reads ‘My Lord Jesus Christ, let all those who ever calls You by naming me, your servant, release them of troubles and grant them remission from their sins’ and a cross in the left hand.”)

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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