Moscow Akathistos

Moscow Akathistos Facsimile Edition

Hodegon Scriptorium, Constantinople (Turkey) — Late 14th century

Preserved in only two manuscripts and a "book turned miracle": one of the earliest Christian prayers to the Virgin Mary, desperately composed during the siege of Constantinople in 626

  1. Written in Constantinople by an anonymous author in the year 626 as a call for protection from the Avars and Persians

  2. An unexpected storm destroyed the fleet of the besieging armies resulting in their eventual defeat

  3. This richly adorned 14th century manuscript is one of only two surviving medieval specimens of this historic prayer

Moscow Akathistos

Ms. Synodal Gr. 429 State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Moscow Akathistos

Commonly known today as the Byzantine Empire, the surviving eastern half of the Roman Empire nearly collapsed in the year 626 as it was attacked on all sides by Persians, Avars, and their Slavic allies, culminating in an epic siege. Constantinople’s defenders, inspired by an icon of the Virgin Mary that was paraded daily along the city’s defensive walls, were able to resist despite being vastly outnumbered. The Empire was saved and endured for another 800+ years. It was believed on both sides that this was the result of divine intervention, the answering of a prayer that is now one of the oldest dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Christianity: the Akathistos Hymnos.

Moscow Akathistos

This 14th century manuscript contains the famous Akathistos Hymnos. Consisting of 24 strophes, it is one of the early Christian prayers to the Virgin Mary. It was written in Constantinople by an anonymous author in the year 626 as a call for protection from the Avars and Persians, who were besieging Constantinople. An unexpected storm destroyed the fleet of the besieging armies, robbing them of supplies and resulting in their eventual defeat. This miracle was attributed to the Theotokos, a title for the Virgin Mary in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and was commemorated with a yearly feast day. Akathistos translates to “unseated hymn” and refers to the fact that all are expected to stand during the chanting of the hymn, except for the old and infirm. The Moscow Akathistos is one of only two surviving medieval manuscripts of the hymn. Aside from its historic content, the manuscript is adorned with 24-half page miniatures boasting a gorgeous color palette dominated by deep blues, light greens, and luminous reds backed by brilliantly burnished gold backgrounds. Furthermore, the text is adorned with incredibly detailed initials with animal figures and other decorative elements. The adornment of this rare manuscript stands firmly in the accomplished tradition of Byzantine illumination.


Alternative Titles
Akathistos de Moscú
Moskauer Akathistos
Codex Mosquensis
Size / Format
156 pages / 24.0 × 17.4 cm
Late 14th century
24 fascinating mid-size miniatures and 23 historiated initials on gold background
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Hodegon Monastery
Czar Alexis Mikhailovič

Available facsimile editions:
Moscow Akathistos  – Ms. Synodal Gr. 429 – State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia) Facsimile Edition
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2006
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Moscow Akathistos

Presentation in the Temple

This extraordinary miniature is presented before a splendidly burnished gold background, one of the hallmarks of Byzantine illumination, and contrasts with the dark and somber color palette. Simeon, the high priest of the temple, stands to the right of the altar and hands the baby Jesus back to the Virgin Mary. The scene is reduced to just the three most important figures with the temple represented by a simple baldachin or canopy supported by four columns that covers the altar.

Akathistos de Moscú
Single Page

Moscow Akathistos

Adoration of the Theotokos

Literally meaning “God-bearer” in Greek, Theotokos is the title used in the Eastern Christian tradition for the Virgin Mary. First appearing in the 3rd century, the title became official in the year 431 by decree of the Council of Ephesus. It was this devotion to the Virgin Mary that helped to stiffen the morale of the defenders of Constantinople during the siege of 626.

This miniature is unusual in that the figures are depicted with remarkably naturalistic poses as opposed to the stiff, iconic style typical of Byzantine illumination and exhibits artistic influences from Latin Europe. As the baby Jesus rests in his crib, the Virgin Mary strikes a surprisingly casual pose and gets some much-needed rest on top of a large red cushion.

Akathistos de Moscú
Facsimile Editions

#1 Akathistos de Moscú

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2006

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2006
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Tooled leather binding
Commentary: 1 volume by Tamara Igumnova, E. V. Shulgina, Miguel Cortés Arrese, Pedro Bádenas de la Pena
Language: Spanish

The commentary volume features a translation of the original text.
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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