Tag Archives: Byzantium

Northern Byzantine Icons – blog

Header image: Detail from an icon of the Miracle of St. George painted at Vologda in the latter half of the 16th century. Aschberg Collection.© Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.


Northern Byzantine Icons – book published in May 2014

Detail from an icon of the Miracle of St. George painted at Vologda in the latter half of the 16th century. Aschberg Collection. © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

Detail from an icon of the Miracle of St. George painted at Vologda in the latter half of the 16th century. Aschberg Collection. © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

The theme of of the book Northern Byzantine Icons, the fifth to be published by the committee, is icons and their influence in the north, in Russia, Finland, Sweden and Alaska. The papers contained in it deal with the history of holy men and women who lived and worked in the north. The idea is to throw new light on icons as an art form and a part of the cultural heritage that has come to us from the east, thus opening up a new and frequently overlooked perspective on our own very largely westernized culture. Icons have been described as windows on Heaven, and it is very much a matter of personal attitude as to whether we look on them as instruments of prayer, works of art or museum items.

All the authors represented here are members of the Committee for Byzantine Studies and experts in their own fields of research, but they have attempted to write in clear, everyday language in order to appeal to a less specialized readership, even though the facts and ideas they present are based on sound academic study.

This volume also contains a short biography of the founder of the Committee for Byzantine Studies and its long-standing chairman, Professor Aune Jääskinen, whose life’s work, in which she continues to be as active as ever, has been the cornerstone of Finnish iconography and icon research. The other authors thus wish through this volume to express their thanks to Aune  Jääskinen for the guidance and encouragement that they have received from her over the years, just as the members of the society as a whole thank their highly inventive chairman who has constantly arranged new, memorable Byzantine experiences for us.

One of the most recent of these was a cultural excursion to the Monastery of Tikhvin in Russia in August 2013 to pay our respects to the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin.

This volume will also contribute something essentially new to the international exchange of ideas in Byzantine studies, as it will be published simultaneously in Finnish and English.

Media Flyer in pdf

* Preface
* Teuvo Laitila: Divine wonders and worldly saintliness
* Matti Haltia: Saint Herman of Alaska
* Elina Kahla: The new female saints of Russia
* Aune Jääskinen: From viking princess to a Princess of All Russia
* Maritta Pitkanen: Olof Aschberg and his icon collection in Stockholm
* Merja Merras: Icon painting in Finland today
* Katariina Husso: Icon collections in Finnish museums
* Pirkko Vekkeli: The matriarch of the Committee for Byzantine Studies
* Appendix 1: Selected bibliography of books and papers by Prof. Aune  Jääskinen
* Appendix 2:  Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies: diary of events, 2006–2013

Northern Byzantine icons

Publisher: The Finnish National Committee for Byzantium Studies and authors
Editor in Chief: Marja Usvasalo
Translation and language editing: Malcolm Hicks.
Design: Olli Miettinen.
Printing:  Edita Prima Oy. – 190 pages. – ISBN 978-952-99005-4-1

ORDER INQUIRIES: Ms. Marja Usvasalo EMAIL: olavi_marja_usvasalo@hotmail.com

Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies

LogoFinnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies

Chairman, Professor Aune Jääskinen

The Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies (Suomen Bysanttikomitea ry), founded in August 1991, serves as an informal meeting place and forum for discussions for scholars, artists, art collectors and others in Finland inspired by the Byzantine cultural heritage. Its members include university teachers and researchers in the humanities, theologians, icon painters, museum staff and librarians. Its annual programme comprises lectures, discussion meetings and journeys abroad and within Finland, all on themes connected with Byzantine history and tradition extending from the late Classical period up to the present day. 

Northern Byzantine Icons – the book which sheds new light on icons

Detail from an icon of the Miracle of St. George painted at Vologda in the latter half of the 16th century. Aschberg Collection. © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

Detail from an icon of the Miracle of St. George painted at Vologda in the latter half of the 16th century. Aschberg Collection. © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

Northern Byzantine Icons – is a book which sheds new light on icons, a cultural heritage that we have received form the east. This point of view is often overlooked in the predominantly western-influenced Finland of today.

The tradition of holy images that developed in Byzantium in the early Middle Ages spread northward in the course of the centuries, along with Christianity itself – reaching Kiev, Novgorod, Karelia and Finland, and even Alaska.
The eight authors of this book explore this tradition, including the men and women depicted in the icons and icon research. The text is complemented with colour illustrations.

Media flyer_in pdf

My Byzantium, far and near (Helsinki 2008)

MY BYZANTIUM, far and near – book published in 2008

Theotokos Galaktotrophousa. Mother of God, Representationsof the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. by Maria Vassilaki 2000, 143. Icon in the Byzantine Museum, Athens. Skira Editore S.p.A.

Theotokos Galaktotrophousa. Mother of God, Representationsof the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. by Maria Vassilaki 2000, 143. Icon in the Byzantine Museum, Athens. Skira Editore S.p.A.


Aune Jääskinen:  Preface: My Byzantium, far and near
Jaakko Frösén: The Monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai – Yesterday and Today
Serafim Seppälä:  The Holy Unmercenaries – the mystical attraction of Byzantium and its critical counterforce
Matti Haltia, Outi Kaltio and HeikkiSolin:  “Liber Pantegni” by Constantine the African : Europe´s First Textbook of Medicine Transmitting Greek, Byzantine and Arabic Traditions
Pauli Kajanoja: The Mystery of the Nursing Madonna
Teuvo Laitila : From ’true religion’ to religious dialogue: Some thoughts on the basis of Theodore Abū Qurrah’s (ca 750–830) writings
Hanna-RiittaToivanenThe Influence of Constantinople on Middle Byzantine Architecture (843 – 1204) : A Typological and Morphological Approach at the Provincial Level. Academic Dissertation. Lectio Praecursoria, 27.10.2007
Yury Shikalov: Old Believers in the Kemi Jurisdictional District: Dvina Karelia and the White Sea coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Elina Kahla: The Imperial Method Revisited – Stylising Images of New Russian Saints
Aune JääskinenThe Repatriation of the Miraculous Icon of the Virgin of Tikhvin
Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland: Language and Religion
Marja Usvasalo, Mari Kotka:  The Byzantine Influence on Kalevala Jewelry CollectionsPirkko Sallinen-Gimpl The Importance of Karelia in the Finnish Identity

References, Sources, Bibliography, Images

MY BYZANTIUM, far and near published by Suomen Bysanttikomitea ry
(The Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies)
Editor-in-Chief: Aune Jääskinen
Editorial Group: Arja Koski, Hellevi Matihalti, Anja Törmä
Advisory Teamwork: Matti Haltia, Lisa Hovinheimo, Teuvo Laitila, Merja Merras
Lay out by Heikki Hjelt
Otava Publishing 2008, Helsinki. Finland
ISBN 978-952-99005-2-7
copyright Suomen Bysanttikomitea


My Byzantium, far and near

We can gain a good impression of life in medieval Byzantium from old travelogues. When Bishop Pimen, a contender for the metropolitan see of All Russia, set out in 1389 to meet the Patriarch of Constantinople, it took two and a half months for him to reach his destination. A very interesting account of his journey, Khozhenie Piminovo v Tsaragrad, is to be found in the Patriarchal Chronicle, or Chronicle of Nikon, by Hieromonk Ignati, a servant of Bishop Mikhail of Smolensk, who accompanied him as a scribe. The report recounts that he set out from Moscow on the Tuesday of Holy Week, 13th April, and after many dramatic experiences arrived in Constantinople on 30th June. The imperial city proved equal to its reputation, and offered many wonderful sights, including the stone on which St. Peter had sat and wept after denying his Master, which was to be seen in the Church of the Holy Apostles, and the miracle-working icon on the Royal Doors of the iconostasis in the Hagia Sophia, in front of which the travellers were able to confess their sins. On 6th July the group encountered the famous Hodegetria icon of the Holy Mother of God, the reputation of which had already spread to Russia. The political aims of this journey remained unfulfilled, however, as Bishop Pimen died in Chalcedon on 11th September. The active scribe Ignaty did not return to Moscow at once, but stayed on in Constantinople to witness the coronation of the Emperor Manuel II in 1391.

For us Finns, Byzantium is both far away and near at hand. We can travel to Constantinople, the modern Istanbul, in a few hours nowadays, and see the minarets that tell of the eventual fate of the Hagia Sophia when the Eastern Roman Empire, known as Byzantium, was overthrown in 1453. The influence of the Byzantine cultural tradition in Europe lived on for many hundreds of years, however, and reached as far as Finland, so that its impact can be recognised in legislation, architecture and literature and even in our everyday customs.

Interest in Byzantium has increased in Finland since the traumatic experiences of the Second World War, which led the Orthodox Church, which had lost the main areas in which it operated, in the parts of Karelia around Lake Ladoga, to reconsider its roots and role in Finnish society. It had already broken away from its parent church in Russia in 1923 and placed itself under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but in spite of this combination of Byzantine and Russian traditions, the Orthodox population claimed to be living in post-war Finland “as Orthodox citizens of their own country” but were ready to remind their young people who were now dispersed all over Finland that they still had a source of strength and security in “the pure and original catholic and apostolic faith” which lives on and exercises its influence “like the inextinguishable light of dawn”.

Although Byzantium has gradually gained a firmer foothold within Finnish academic research, scholars have only recently begun to attend international conferences in this field. The Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies was set up in 1991 precisely in order to encourage both academics and artists or others inspired by Byzantine themes to venture out from their chambers and make their own contributions to the global discussions in which the mystical complexity of Byzantium forms an inexhaustible theme.

Aune Jääskinen

President, Finnish National Committee for Byzantine Studies