Autonomy Lost and Regained: The Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, 1633-2019

The woodcuts of Petro Mohyla's 1646 Trebnyk

In addition to the significance of Mohyla's Trebnyk as a codification of liturgical practice, it is also quite interesting as an example of Ukrainian Baroque art and book design.

Its overall design and the woodcuts that illustrate it clearly show a familiarity with Western European book printing and the art of the Renaissance and early Baroque.

The book begins with an elaborate title page announcing its contents with small vignettes of the Sacraments, all embedded in a dense allegorical design with scenes from the Gospels.

Several sections of the book have a woodcut heading with a large central image, along with allegorical vignettes with Biblical scenes or other related images. For the Sacrament of Chrismation, the central image is a realistic depiction of the sacrament, accompanied by theologically-appropriate vignettes related to the Descent of the Holy Spirit. It is enclosed in a Baroque acanthus leaf design with flowers, vases, and other decorative elements.

The woodcut for the Sacrament of Confession (or Repentance) is a more unified composition, while still including symbolic elements. Along with the depiction of the sacrament in the upper right, the left side has two examples of repentance from the Bible: that of King David after his conspiracy in the killing of Uriah and that of St. Peter after his denial of Christ. The lower right has a more metaphorically evocative image of a bridge.

The depiction of the Sacrament of Matrimony follows the same pattern, with vignettes of Adam and Eve and of Christ's miracle at the marriage feast in Cana (which also happens to be the Gospel reading during the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Eastern Christian tradition).

The main panel, however, clearly demonstrates the social status of the author: the bride and groom are in aristocratic dress, and the groomsmen appear to be wearing fur-trimmed cloaks.

Even the purely decorative elements in the Trebnyk, such as the tailpieces that were used to fill otherwise blank space at the end of a section, show the strong influence of Western Renaissance and Baroque styles.

Some of them spring from the book's ecclesiastical theme and are designed around stylized angels or other religious imagery.

Others, however, look like they might have come from a Western European secular book, like this one with what appears to be a mermaid and a merman among acanthus leaves surmounted by a crown.

There seems to be no particular connection to the text: this tailpiece occurs a the end of a prayer intended for times of "invasion by barbarians".

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