Banner, late 18th century

3 November 2011

Dimensions: scene: 45 x 45 cm., the whole banner: 80 x 80 cm.

The scene on this banner consists of a double-headed eagle with its wings raised and the imperial crown between its two heads. Each of two hands, below its wings, holds a sword. It tail has been formed by a decorative complex of anthemia. The symbols which flank the eagle – flags, spoils taken from the defeated enemy (chiefly left and right in the first row, with the half moon), cannons, lances, Ottoman military drums and cannonballs – stress the triumphal, victorious character of the eagle and of the whole scene. The enclosed crown indicates its imperial origin – the imperial crown was depicted in this way at least from the time of Charles V. The raised wings are also Western: in the East they are shown pointing downwards43.

We would date this banner to the time of Catherine of Russia, and more specifically to the years between 1768 and 1774 or 1787 and 1791, periods in which Catherine was waging war victoriously against the Turks, from whom she wrested the northern Black Sea provinces, and thus improved the lot of the Christians in Turkey. The banner is edged on all four sides with a broad border decorated with a spiral tendril in blossom, embroidered in gold thread. It has a tassle at all four corners. This is a national, rather than an ecclesiastical banner, but we know that church leaders associated with the Monastery have at many periods played important roles in the Greek nation’s struggles to achieve its aspirations.