Cult of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Serbian lands 1459–1800

Anđela Gavrilović (Univerzitet u Beogradu)

In our previous research we dedicated our attention to the cult of St. Gregory of  Nyssa in medieval Serbia in the period between 1166/1168 and 1459, at the time of the state’s independence. The subject of this paper represents a continuation of the mentioned investigation and explores the cult of St. Gregory of Nyssa in Serbian lands under the Turkish rule in the period between 1459 and 1800 on the basis of hagiographical and iconographical sources. The above-said chronological framework is, on the one hand, determined by the historical circumstances, that is, the fall of Serbia under the Turkish rule in 1459, while on the other hand, the later chronological point represents the end of Serbian painting in the Byzantine tradition.

After the conquest of Serbian lands Ottomans first recognized Serbian Patriarchate, but they abolished it at the beginning of the second quarter of the 16th century. In 1557 the Serbian Orthodox Church was renewed under the name the Patriarchate of Peć. Within this institution, the cult of Saint Gregory of Nyssa continued to develop, what can be seen in the sources mentioned above. The Patriarchate of Peć was the most important institution of the Serbian people during the enslavement under Turkey, Austria and the Republic of Venice. It gathered all the Serbian people, preserved its medieval tradition, its unity and faith. It was, however, abolished by the Turkish government in 1766.

In the period between 1459 and 1800 numerous portraits of St. Gregory of Nyssa are preserved in the wall painting in the Byzantine tradition on the vast territory inhabited by Serbian people. While at the time of Serbia’s independence two iconographic types of portraits of St. Gregory emerged, of which the first one was dominant, in the period between 1459 and 1800 two types of portraits also appeared, but the other latter was much more frequent. Besides, within the other dominant portrait type, in the later period a unique iconographic type of St. Gregory’s portrait did not exist; we find completely different iconographic formulas which enrich the spectrum of St. Gregory’s portraits. The only common trait of these portraits is that he is always depicted as an elder. This paper also deals with the prayers inscribed on the scrolls that St. Gregory is holding in his hands.