The monumental Russian Orthodox icon highlights Archangel Michael in a distinguished role as the horseman of the Last Judgment, as envisioned in the Apocalypse described by John in the Book of Revelation. The icon commemorates him on November 8. On the left edge, the Guardian Angel, Saint Archbishop Nicholas of Myra, and Saint Bishop Dorotheus of Tyre are depicted. On the right, Saint Martyr Julitta and her son Quiricus are shown, alongside Saint Mary of Egypt and Saint Martyr Marina.
The Book of Revelation provides an eschatological outlook rooted in Christian tradition and the Old Testament, particularly the Book of Daniel. The millennial reign of the Messiah, commencing with His First Coming or Parousia, culminates in the Last Judgment. This period of reign witnesses the ‘first resurrection’ (Rev 20.5) as the martyrs assume power and Satan is imprisoned. This reign concludes with the Second Coming, Satan’s liberation, and his eventual eternal damnation after his defeat in the final battle (Rev 20:7-10).
The Last Judgment includes a confrontation between the angels, the warriors of good, and Satan or the devil. This clash culminates in Christ’s second return, where He stands as the judge over the dead and brings an end to death itself: “…and all were judged by what they had done.” (Rev 20.13). The Last Judgment gives way to the ‘new heaven’, ‘new earth’, and ‘New Jerusalem’ (Rev 21.1), marking the ultimate fulfillment of God’s kingdom promises.
The Book of Revelation describes Archangel Michael’s triumph over Satan, depicted as a dragon. In his role as the Archistrategos or the leader of the heavenly armies, Michael is depicted riding a fiery horse, wielding his lance against the devil dragon. He sounds the trumpet and holds a censer and the Gospels.
At the top left, Christ Pantocrator is portrayed in a blessing stance. Above the center, the Mother of God of the Sign (Znamenie) is seen praying with Christ Immanuel hovering before her. Around them, four angels inscribed as East, North, South, and West. There are several inscriptions around the icon with profound messages.
The icon is attributed to W.P. Suslov, a member of the esteemed Suslov family of iconographers in Palekh and Moscow, and it was completed on June 8th in Moscow.
In the margin of the icon, several saints are featured. Saint Nicholas of Myra, celebrated on December 6, May 9, and July 29, was the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. He is revered as the patron saint of children, childbearing women, the elderly, travelers, sailors, legal professionals, pharmacists, innkeepers, and those desiring happy marriages. Saint Dorotheus of Tyre, commemorated on June 5 and October 9, was the Bishop of Tyre in Phenicia (modern-day Sur in Lebanon). He endured persecution under Emperor Diocletian and Galerius, was exiled but later returned and participated in the first Council in Nicaea in 325. He died at 107 after enduring numerous beatings under Emperor Julian Apostata.
Saint Martyr Julitta and her son Quiricus, remembered on July 15, were martyred during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians around 304. They are considered the patron saints of families and ailing children. Saint Mary of Egypt, commemorated on April 1 and the Fifth Sunday of Lent, was a hermit from the early church. Even though her life story is mostly based on legends, she is recognized as the patroness of penitents and repentant sinners. Saint Martyr Marina or Margaret of Antioch, honored on July 17, was a consecrated virgin and martyr during the turn of the 3rd and 4th centuries.