January 29: Andrei Rublev, Monk and Iconographer, 1430

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.


About this Commemoration

Generally acknowledged as Russia’s greatest iconographer, Andrei Rublev was born around 1365 near Moscow. While very young he entered the monastery of The Holy Trinity and in 1405, with the blessing of his igumen (the Orthodox equivalent of abbot), he transferred to the Spaso-Andronikov monastery where he received the tonsure and studied iconography with Theophanes the Greek and the monk Daniel. Among his most revered works are those in the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir.

The icon (“image” in Greek) is central to Orthodox spirituality. It finds its place in liturgy and in personal devotion. An icon is two dimensional and despite being an image of someone it is not a physical portrait. Western art, especially since the Renaissance, has sought to represent figures or events so that the viewer  might better imagine them. A western crucifix seeks to enable us to imagine what Golgotha was like. Icons seek to  provide immediate access to the spiritual and the divine unmediated by the human, historical imagination.

For Andrei, writing an icon was a spiritual exercise. It involved the ritual of preparing the surface, applying the painted and precious metal background and then creating the image, first outlining it in red. Throughout he would repeatedly say the “Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me”). He was creating a window into the Divine which he knew was always before him but which was invisible to the human eye. He knew he was able to create such an image of God because he himself was made in the image of God. His object was to be totally focused on receiving God’s love and  loving in return. He died peacefully in 1430.

As Jesus was the icon of God, so each one of us is also. Ascetic practice aims at freeing that image from sinful distraction and claiming it more and more. To venerate an icon is to find some of  the ineffable beauty that is God, that is manifest in Christ and the saints, and is also in each one of us.


i Holy God, we bless thee for the gift of thy monk and icon writer Andrei Rublev, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provided a window into heaven for generations to come, revealing the majesty and mystery of the holy and blessed Trinity; who liveth and reigneth through ages of ages. Amen.

ii Holy God, we bless you for the gift of your monk and icon writer Andrei Rublev, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provided a window into heaven for generations to come, revealing the majesty and mystery of the holy and blessed Trinity; who lives and reigns through ages of ages. Amen.


Genesis 28:10–17

2 Corinthians 2:14–17

Matthew 6:19–23



Preface of  a Saint (1)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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9 thoughts on “January 29: Andrei Rublev, Monk and Iconographer, 1430

  1. Collect. This collect needs to be stronger. It just seems so pedestrian. I vote for a re-write.

    Bio. 3rd paragraph: Why does this sentence use his first name? Can you think of any other HWHM bio that does that? How about Thomas Aquinas from yesterday? ‘For Thomas …. etc. etc.’ Just little too familiar don’t you think? It is not like Francis of Assisi or Catherine of Siena. For them using their first names works ok, but not with Andrei Rublev..
    The sentence need work, too: ‘For Andrei, writing an icon was a spiritual exercise.’ To me that makes it sound as if Andrei Rublev was the first iconographer to write an icon as a spiritual exercise. Is that really true? I suggest it would be better to say it without the prepositional introduction: ‘Writing an icon was a spiritual exercise for Ruviev.’

  2. Does there need to be a brief explanation of the term ‘writing an icon?’ I’ve come to appreciate icons late in life, and only fairly recently understood why one ‘writes’ rather than ‘paints’ an icon.

    • This gets a little dicey…while some Iconographers insist on saying “writing” rather than “painting,” and passionately argue for this based on theology….I know other Orthodox priests and monks who retort that this is an after-the-fact ‘creation,’ as it is simply a case of the Greek language sing the same work for both writing and painting, and nothing more. It might be a little complicated to even try and explain ‘writing’ (and do a fair job) within the short context of Rublev’s write-up here.

      I do agree with everyone else here that the wording is awkward: Writing an icon *IS* a spiritual exercise…not just a spiritual exercise for Rublev. This is like saying, “For Joe, Prayer was a spiritual exercise….”

  3. To add onto what Michael says above, I believe that icon writing is a spiritual exercise for all who engage in the practice, not just Rublev. That first sentence of the 3rd paragraph, therefore, might simply be edited to read something like, “For Rublev and others, writing an icon is a spiritual exercise. It involves the ritual preparing of the surface…” Similarly, the entire process, as I understand it, is a prayerful one–so Rublev wasn’t/isn’t the only one to pray his way through the writing of an icon, which affects the rest of the paragraph as well.

    I’m also curious as to the selection of the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel as the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, and not the story of Abraham’s visitors under the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-16 or so)–the story traditionally held to have been Rublev’s inspiration for his most well-known icon of the Holy Trinity. I do understand that icons can/should be “the gate of heaven” for those who gaze upon them, but Abraham’s story seems a bit more fitting for Rublev’s commemoration.

    Thank you for providing this place for feedback!

  4. It is truly a blessing to me to see Andrei Rublev on our calendar, for two reasons: First, because I think we often get caught up in the cliche that Anglicanism is the ‘via media’ between Roman Catholicism and the Reformed Movement, ignoring that almost all of that which is ‘catholic’ that we have retained is also Orthodox, and that much of what we consider ‘reformed’ is also present in Orthodoxy. Personally, I view Anglicanism as a contemporary and uniquely western cultural expression of the patristic, orthodox faith, and beleve we could learn much from both ‘canonical’ eastern orthodoxy and from other eastern (Coptic, Mar Thoma, Syriac) Christians.

    Secondly, I am a neophyte iconographer, having completed my first icon of Saint Columba andnow currently working on St. Clemet of Rome. The spiritual implications of iconography are almost inexpressible, certainly not to be included in this one post…I am chronicling my creation of the St. Clement icon in a new blog at http://www.IconicJourney.blogspot.com for those who might be interested (its in reverse chronological order, as most blogs are). It contains my thoughts as well as pictures as I begin the process (I figure it will me take a year of constant work)

  5. It might help to give the modern (and more accurate) transliteration of Rublev’s name, Andrey Rublyov. It’s used by the Encyclopaedia Britannica and by the Russians themselves, and, provided you pronounce the yo as a single vowel, it will get you much closer to a pronunciation a Russian might recognize. The decision of the Stoglavi Sobor (“the Council of 100 Chapters,” 1551) that Russian icon writers were ” to paint from ancient models, as painted by the Greek painters and as painted by Andrei Rublev,” is worth a mention. As is Russian polymath and martyr Pavel Florenski’s syllogism: “There exists the icon of the Trinity by St Andrei Rublev; therefore, God exists.”
    I share Ann’s puzzlement over the choice of the OT reading. Surely the reading (Genesis 18:1-8 might be enough) that inspired Rublyov’s Trinity is a better choice. And I’m even more puzzled at why Rublyov’s greatest work isn’t even mentioned in the bio (although you have put up a picture of it). Considering how little we know of Rublyov’s life, and how little the bare facts illuminate his legacy, surely his art should get center stage.

  6. Line 8, first paragraph: add “, a city east of Moscow” after “Vladimir”.

    Line 3, second paragraph: substitute a semi-colon for “and”.

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