The Fiery Ascension of the Prophet Elijah

Palekh School
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reference number: RI_127

late 19th century

tempera on wooden panel

31 x 27 cm

The Prophet Elijah is one of the most venerated Old Testament saints. He lived during the reign of the Kings Akhab and Okhosiah in the 9th century B.C. His life and prophetic diakonia is described in the Old Testament (3 Kings 17:1–19; 18;21:17–28; 4 Kings 1: 3–17; 2: 1–18), as well as in the “Praise to Elijah”, a text based on the apocryphal writings of Pseudo-Dorotheus and Pseudo-Epiphanius.


The Prophet’s name can be translated as “The God is my Lord”, which fully reflects his fervent service to the one God. Elijah was born in the town of Thesva is Galilee, hence his nickname “The Thesvian”. Elijah was one of the most venerated saints in Russia since the Middle Ages; his popularity increased as popular beliefs ascribed various traits of pagan gods to him, such as the ability to command thunder and lightning; he was also considered a healer. At the end of his life, the Prophet Elijah was taken up unto the heavens in a fiery chariot, which was traditionally seen as the premonition of Christ’s Resurrection. Other acts of Elijah were seen as the precursors to the miracles of Christ: the multiplying of the bread, the raising from the dead, the walking on the waters, the Ascension.


In Russian icon painting, the scene of Elijah’s fiery ascent to heaven first appears in the fourteenth century. A late 14th – early 15th-century icon in the Niznij Novgorod Museum offers one of the earliest and most developed examples of this iconography. The image was particularly popular in the northern areas of medieval Rus and he was venerated for the protection of cattle feed and healing.

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