The History of Russian Christianity: From the Publisher
Welcome to our issue commemorating the “Christianization of Rus’.” This is a grand historic occasion, and we open the issue with a grand painting of the event that is being celebrated: Prince Vladimir’s overseeing the mass baptism, c. 988, of the people from Kiev, the capital city of Vladimir’s kingdom of Rus’. This is the painting’s story.
Commissioned by the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops, the original of this painting measures 12 feet long and 6 feet high and hangs in the headquarters of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Philadelphia Archdiocese.
In the center of the painting stands the cross of the Lord draped with a white cloth. To the left of the cross is the main focus of the painting, Grand Prince Vladimir (or Volodymyr), ruler of the regions that are today known as Ukraine. To his right stands his new wife, Princess Anna, the sister of the Byzantine co-emperors Basil II and Constantine, and to the royal couple’s left appear their several sons and the sons’ teacher.
Vladimir’s right hand is on the shoulder of his son, Yaroslav, who, when he ascended the throne, continued fostering the Christian faith in Rus’ and came to be known as Yaroslav “the Wise.” In his hands he holds a parchment scroll containing Jesus’ words from Matt. 28:19: “Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit … ” The scroll was intended to symbolize Vladimir’s handing the new faith over to the succeeding generations of Kievan rulers.
To the right of the princess stands a group of country maidens, with knights and other residents filling in the rest of the scene. The diversity of costumes are an accurate portrayal of the styles of clothing worn by the Kievan peoples in that ...