The influence of the apocryphal gospels on selected scenes from the life cycle of the Virgin Mary as represented in the Monastery church of Christ the Saviour at Chora in Constantinople : Evangelical and iconographical implications
Phillips Steen, Zina Beth
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The Protevanqelium of James is the major apocryphal gospel influencing the iconography of the life-cycle of the Virgin Mary at the Monastery Church of Christ the Saviour at Chora in Constantinople. Interpretation and understanding of the scenes of her life would be impossible were it not for the detailed account in this second century gospel. In this thesis, selected scenes are examined: The Conception of the Virgin Mary, The Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and The Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple, because of their pivotal liturgical significance in the Eastern Orthodox Church. These scenes represent only three of the twenty actual narrative events of her life that are illustrated in mosaic in the inner narthex of the church. The Church of Chora in Constantinople, as it was known when the prominent and distinguished government official Theodore Metochites restored and decorated it in the late thirteenth century, contains the most complete life-cycle narratives of both Christ and the Virgin Mary in existence. All of the chosen scenes from the life-cycle of the Virgin Mary that are examined in this thesis are celebrated as sacred Feasts in the liturgical calendar. Solemn hymns and prayers accompany the ritual of the Feasts in her honor. Although actual hymnody is beyond the scope of this study, prayers sung in celebration of the Feasts begin each relevant section. The Protevanqelium of James is the most complete source to be utilized for translation of the narrative schemes. Other apocryphal gospels, mainly the Latin Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, were influenced by the Protevanqelium of James but did not have the same impact on the art. The Protevanaelium of James, in the typical narrative style of apocryphal gospels, serves as a reliable guide to the sensitively rendered mosaic decoration of the life-cycle of the Virgin Mary at the Monastery Church of Chora.