The depth of Russians’ commitment to Orthodox Christianity has long been subject to debate. But if, as one commentator has remarked, “Russian Orthodoxy is, above all, a religion of the sign, not of the word,” then the icon, at the center of both public and private worship, may be the best indicator of Russian religious sentiment. Several hundred testaments, dowries, and property agreements from eighteenth-century Moscow townsfolk serve as the source base from which to determine which icons Muscovites owned, and why. Analysis indicates that Muscovite townsfolk, rather than focusing attention upon the Savior or patron saints, favored icons of the Mother of God and other so-called “miracle-working icons” as part of a popular Christianity that was firmly empirical and contractual.


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pp. 125-147
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