The Miracle of St Michael at Chonae

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reference number: RI_106

17th century

27.6 x 22.5 cm

Tempera on wood panel

Painted in the traditional style against a gold background, The Miracle of St.Michael at Chonae illustrates one of the most famous miracles performed by the Archangel Michael: the salvation of the shrine dedicated to him at a town called Colossae near Hierapolis in Phrygia (Asia Minor). The shrine, known for its healing spring, was guarded by a monk named Archippos. One day, a group of pagans diverted a nearby river in order to destroy the shrine and kill its guardian. The Archangel appeared, in answer to Archippos’s prayer for protection, and plunged his spear into the river. This diverted the course of the water, saving the shrine from harm. In commemoration of the event, the area in which the shrine was located received a new name: Chonae (‘plunging’).


The Archangel Michael stands to the left of the composition in a serpentine posture, his lance puncturing the earth in order to swallow up the waters. He is painted against a mountainous landscape with steep, clearly defined ridges highly characteristic of the Byzantine style. To his right stands the monk, St Archippos. He is shown bending in prayer in front of the domed shrine. The coiling, pillar-like stream of the river divides the two principal characters.

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