In Byzantine art
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

, and later Eastern Orthodox art generally, the Deësis or Deisis , is a traditional icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

ic representation of Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to...

 or Christ Pantocrator
Christ Pantocrator
In Christian iconography, Christ Pantokrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator is a translation of one of many Names of God in Judaism...

: enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels. Mary and John, and any other figures, are shown facing towards Christ with their hands raised in supplication
Supplication is the most common form of prayer, wherein a person asks God to provide something, either for the person or who is doing the praying or for someone else on whose behalf a prayer. This because of a supplication is being made, also known as intercession.The concept of supplication is...

 on behalf of humanity.

It was originally often placed on the templon
A templon is a feature of Byzantine churches consisting of a barrier separating the nave from the sacraments at the altar....

 beam in Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 churches as well as above doors, though it also appeared on icons and devotional ivories.

After the development of the full iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

 screen there was room for a larger "Deesis row" or "Great Deesis" of full-length figures, and the number of figures expanded, in both Byzantium and Russia. Usually this row is above the level of the doors, and below the row depicting the Twelve Great Feasts, sometimes the Deesis is above the Feasts. The central Christ is therefore above the main door in the screen. Soon seven figures, usually one to a panel, were standard, in order of proximity to Christ in the centre: on the left (Christ's right) Mary, the Archangel Michael and Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

, and on the right John the Baptist, the Archangel Gabriel and Saint Paul. Especially in Russian examples, a number of saints of local significance are often included behind these, as space allows. Andrey Rublev's row for the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir
Vladimir is a city and the administrative center of Vladimir Oblast, Russia, located on the Klyazma River, to the east of Moscow along the M7 motorway. Population:...

 were 3.14 metres (over ten feet) high. In the Greek tradition the Apostles are more likely to occupy extra panels.

The presence of Mary and John, and other figures, is one of the differences with the Western Christ in Majesty, where the Four Evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

 and/or their symbols are more commonly included around Christ. The Deesis composition is also commonly found in the West, especially those parts of Italy under Byzantine influence, but also the rest of Europe. The use of the image declined slowly throughout the Middle Ages, and it is never as common as the Western forms of Christ in Majesty.

External links

  • Definition of Deesis -- Includes photos of the Deesis in the Hagia Sophia
    Hagia Sophia
    Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

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