Crucified Monk/Nun: Life of a true Monk/Nun

Shalom +++
Crucified Monk/Nun

An 18th Century Monk/Iconographer Dionysius of Fourna wrote a manual for Iconographers. One such description is about “The life of a true monk” occupies a prominent part. It represents the true Glory of every monk, of every faithful person and how it is related to voluntary cross-bearing and crucifixion. Below is the English text from “Painter’s manual” by Dionysius along with some Icons/Frescoes depicting it.


“+Draw a monk crucified on a cross, clothed in a tunic and a monk’s hat, barefoot and with his feet nailed to the footrest of the cross; his eyes are closed and his mouth shut. Just above his head is this inscription: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”.

+In his hands he holds lighted candles, and next to the candles is this inscription: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which [is in heaven]“.

+On his chest he has a tablet like a hassock, which says: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

+On his stomach is another scroll, like a title, with these words: “Do not be led astray, O monk, by a full belly.”

+Lower down on his body is another scroll which says: “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.”

+Lower down again, below his knees, is another scroll which says: “Prepare your feet in the way of the Gospel of peace.”

+Above, in the top arm of the cross, make a title nailed on with this inscription: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of my Lord.” On the three arms of the cross make seals, and in the right one write this: “He that endures to the end shall be saved.” In the left-hand one: “He who does not renounce everything is not able to be a disciple of Christ.” On the seal above the footrest of the cross: “Strait and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life.”

+To the right side of the cross paint a dark cavern with a big dragon in it coiled up, and write: “The all-devouring Hell.” Over the mouth of the dragon is a naked young man with his eyes bound by a cloth, he holds a bow and shoots at the monk. On his bow is a scroll which says: “Maker of lust.” Write this inscription above him: “The love of harlotry.” Above the cave put many snakes and write: “The cares.” Near to Hades put a devil dragging at the cross with a rope and saying: “The flesh is weak and cannot resist.” At the right-hand end of the footrest put a spear with a cross and a flag and write on it: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

+To the left of the cross make a tower with a door, out of which comes a man sitting on a white horse, wearing a fur hat and robes woven with gold and trimmed with fur. In his right hand he holds a cup full of wine and in his left a lance on the end of which is a sponge; a scroll is wrapped around the lance which says: “Take delight in the pleasures of the world.” He shows them to the monk. Write this inscription above him: “The vainglorious world.” Below him put a grave out of which Death is coming holding a large scythe on his shoulder and an hour-glass in his hand, and looking at the monk. Above him is the inscription: “Death and the grave.”

+Below the hands of the monk on either side put two angels holding scrolls; write on the scroll of that on the right: “The Lord has sent me to help you.” And on that on the left: “Do good and fear not.”

+Above the cross represent heaven with Christ in it, holding the Gospels on his breast open at the words: “Whosoever will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” In his right hand he holds a king’s crown, and in his left a crown [of flowers]. Below him to either side are two angels, looking at the monk and showing him to Christ, and holding between them a long scroll with these words: “Fight that you may receive the crown of righteousness, and the Lord will give you a crown of precious stones.”Then write this title: The life of the true monk.”


Unlike most of the Icons, this particular depiction is for contemplation rather than for veneration. It makes a very striking icon,  because the monk/nun  is in place of Christ. This Icon provides a similar contemplation like the noble  literature of “Ladder of Divine Ascent icon”. Looking forward to learn and write more about Icons from “Ladder of Divine ascent “ and “Crucified Monk”.

Rijo Geevarghese












Icons References: Refectory of Trinity Monastery in Alatyr
Kostroma, Russia


Posted on March 14, 2015, in Ancient Murals and Frescoes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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