The prophet Zechariah is the father of John the Baptist and husband of St. Catherine, a relative of the Theotokos. According to the Gospel of Luke 1:5, Zacharia was from “the priestly division of Abijah” (the annual service cycle in the Second Temple had twenty-four divisions, each lasting one or two weeks, during which the priests performed the appropriate rituals by lot).

According to the Gospel of Luke 1: 5-23, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple as he ministered an altar incense to foretell him the birth of his son who would be the forerunner of the Lord. Zechariah doubted his words saying that he and his wife were too old for childbearing. To confirm his words, Gabriel struck Zechariah dumb until the birth of his son John.

The prophet Zechariah is depicted as an old man with gray long wavy hair and a middle-sized beard narrowing downwards. His characteristic feature is the clerical vestment that was depicted in details on the icons: the ephod – a garment with twelve precious stones corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, a cloak with ornamented edging, a long shirt and a belt. On his head is a headwear with a golden plate with inscribed worlds “YHWE”. In his hands are a censer and an incense. While Zechariah is usually portrayed wearing clerical vestments, he holds a scroll with quotations from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1: 68–69). Such is an icon of Zechariah in the Church of the Assumption on Volotovo Pole near Veliky Novgorod (didn’t survive), the passage on the scroll is cited in full: “Благословен Господь Бог Израилев, что посетил народ Свой и сотворил избавление ему, и воздвиг рог спасения нам в дому Давида, отрока Своего” (Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David).

The earliest facial images of the Prophet Zechariah were identified in the mosaics over the apse of the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, Croatia (543–553 AD). The Prophet Zechariah is often encountered on dome frescoes among other prophets (Church of the Savior on Nereditsa in Veliky Novgorod (1199) and in the altar zone. The Russian tradition portrayed Zechariah primarily on eastern pillar or slopes of the altar arches such as in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in the Mirozhsky Monastery (1140s) and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God of Snegotorsky Monastery (1313) in Pskov, and other monuments.

The icons of the Prophet Zechariah were included in the prophets’ rows of the iconostasis (such as the icon of the Prophets Elisha, Zechariah and Joel from the Assumption Cathedral of the St. Cyrill of Belozersk Monastery, ca. 1497, State Russian Museum). A double-sided icon of Selected sains – Simeon Stilyte, prophet Zechariah, Sts. John Novgorodsky. The Annunciation (the late 15th – early 16th century, State Hermitage).

The Herminia by Dionysius Fourna (ca. 1730–1733) describes the Prophet Zechariah as “…an old man with a long beard wearing clerical vestments”. A Russian 18th century catalogue of icons by G.D.Filimonov gives a detailed description of the Prophet Zechariah: “Подобием стар, сед, власы главныя долги, а косы по плечам, аки авраамовы, брада до пояса длина, на конце мало раздвоилася, узка, на главе шапка червлена, заломы белые, риза верхняя киноварь, а по ней плащи златые, в двунадесяти местах, средняя риза лазорь, трития риза исподняя бакан светлый. Инде пишется: риза на нем греческая, на главе митра двоерогая по Ветхому закону…”

The feast day of the Prophet Zechariah is celebrated on September 18th (September 5th, the old style).


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