Icons, saints, and society in Svaneti

Title: Icons, saints, and society in Svaneti
Variant title:
  • Ikony, svatí a společnost ve Svanetii
Source document: Convivium. 2023, vol. 10, iss. Supplementum 2, pp. [160]-[183]
  • ISSN
    2336-3452 (print)
    2336-808X (online)
Type: Article
Summary language
License: Not specified license
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Saints in Svaneti are best understood as "distributed persons", and icons are the most important of several instruments through they can act. Icons were a significant feature in the society of Svaneti, and the region's repositories preserve the largest collection of early medieval icons outside St Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. Icons were active agents in society, and oaths sworn in front of them held special force. The use of toponymical epithets tying saints – especially Saints George and K'virik'e (Quiricus), the Archangel Michael, and the prophet Jonah – to particular villages and communes in Svaneti shows how cults were fragmented across the region to provide distinct, localised identities for particular saints. Saints could also manifest themselves by other means, including through objects varying from pre-altar crosses to weapons, and through their incorporeal presence in specific holy places marked on the landscape.