The legend is based on the story of the miraculous salvation by the Archangel Michael of the venerable Archippus in the 4th century AD. An inhabitant of Laodicea, in gratitude to God for healing his daughter built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael in the Phrygian city of Colossae near a curative spring. At this church a man named Archippus who served as church custodian. The pagans many times attempted to demolish the church, destroy the spring and kill Archippus. To this end, they made a confluence of two rivers, dug a moat and directed its flow against the church. St. Archippus prayed to the Archangel Michael and through his prayer he miraculously appeared to protect his temple. When the waters reached the church, the archangel turned the waters back, hit the rock with his staff, opened a wide fissure in a rock and commanded the rushing torrents of water to flow into it. Seeing such an awesome miracle, the pagans fled in terror. The place where the rivers plunged into the fissure received the name "Chonae", which means "plunging." Rescued from death, Archippus lived all his life in the temple and died peacefully in the old age. He was buried at Chonae near the temple.

The iconography of the Miracle at Chonae developed by the 10th century. Two river flows form two arches, they vertically fall down into the plunge or a rock being hit by the Archangel Michael standing to the left. To the right, against the background of the temple is St. Archippus. Some compositions depict the pagans digging a moat or falling into the waters. The Miracle at Chonae is encountered as an isolated scene in border scenes of the Archangel Michael icons and book miniatures. Medieval Russian images of the Miracle have been known since the 13th century, in the border scene of the gates at the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Suzdal (13th century). Painter’s guides gave the following description of the Miracle at Chonae: "Воспоминание преславнаго чудесе святаго Архистратига Михаила, еже бысть в Хонех. И преподобнаго отца нашего Архиппа пономаря. Михаил стоит пред церковию, скипетром ударив в камень; церковь каменна о едином версе. Архипп пономарь подобием стар, сед, плешив, брада аки Иоанна Богослова, и власы на главе таковыж, риза преподобническая, гора у церкви празеленная, а другая вохра, и с обоих гор реки текут в место в камень, который лежит у дверей церковных, а на горе люди ломают гору, и роют лопатами, копорулями и ломами".

The earcliest icon of the Miracle at Chonae was painted on the reverse side of the 15th century icon of the Mother of God of Georgia (Jerusalem) from the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery.

The Miracle at Chonae is commemorated on September 19 (September 6, O.S.).

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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