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New Information on the

New Information on the Dating of the Murals of St. Nicholas Church in Ribiţa: A Hypothesis | 37 Fig. 17: Above, drawing of the word êðàëё (‘king’) in the Holy Kings inscription, the word ц(а)ðица (‘empress’) next to St. Helena, the dedicatory inscription of the sanctuary and the Dobroslavu inscription on the southern wall of the nave. In the middle, two cross-sections showing the location of various inscriptions on the walls of the church. The West-East section (left), showing the location of the Holy Kings inscriptions, the one for St. Helena, and the dedicatory inscription in the sanctuary; the East-West section (right), showing the location of the St. Nicolas inscriptions, of the three inscriptions around St. John (dedicatory, Dobroslavu, and denominative), as well as the various inscriptions in the votive composition (dedicatory and ktetors). Below, a palaeographical table showing the letters discussed in the present study. Collage and drawings by Vladimir Agrigoroaei and Anca Crișan using the photos published in this study, a palaeographical table by Dragoş Gh. Năstăsoiu and Anna Adashinskaya, and the cross-sections published by Tugearu 1985, p. 140, pl. i-ii. Dedicatory inscription (sanctuary): St. Nicholas and Arius inscription: St. Nicholas inscription: Dobroslavu inscription (St. John): Dedicatory inscription (above St. John): St. John’s inscription: Main dedicatory inscription: Votive composition (titles):

38 | Dragoş Gh. Năstăsoiu, Anna Adashinskaya scription is very short and its hooked, horizontal line is placed very closely to the triangle’s vertex (Fig. 4-5, 17). The way of writing letter ъ in the main dedicatory inscription differs from all other manners, its lower loop being rounded and not triangular in shape (Fig. 4-5, 17). All letters і have a round-shaped ornament either in the lower, upper, or middle part of their vertical line, but only і in the dedicatory inscription has none of these rounded, decorative elements (Fig. 17). The letter о is written either as two curves (St. John the Baptist’s name, St. Panteleimon’s name, St. Nicholas’ name in the apse, or the inscriptions of the lay characters in the votive composition) or as a loop written from right to left (the dedicatory inscription in the sanctuary, Fig. 12, or the scene of St. Nicholas with Arius, Fig. 18). о in the main dedicatory inscription has no distinctive loop crossing, but is written from left to right (Fig. 4-5); by comparison with the sanctuary’s dedicatory inscription, it is thinner and its thicker sides are mirrored (Fig. 4-5, 12, 17). м is written in a very elegant, Gothicizing manner only next to the holy kings of Hungary, where it has an elongated, y-shaped middle part (Fig. 7). The letter е is distinctively inclined towards the left in the handwriting of the main dedicatory inscription, but it is inclined towards right in all remaining instances (Fig. 4-5, 17). The analysis of the epigraphic material in Ribiţa led to some preliminary conclusions, which may clarify the division of work among scribes/painters. Both in the altar and nave, one can notice at least two hands. First, St. Panteleimon’s name, the votive inscription above St. John (Fig. 9), St. Helena’s name (Fig. 19), and St. Nicholas’ name in the nave are characterized by elongated elements and pointed letters. The corresponding images are grouped in the eastern side of the nave, equally on the southern and northern walls, and on the triumphal arch (Fig. 17). Second, the letters in the scene of St. Nicholas with Arius in the altar (Fig. 18), the votive inscription next to St. John in the nave (Fig. 10), and the Church Fathers in the sanctuary are more rounded and display less decorative elements. One can equally notice unique manners of writing: the dedicatory inscription on the altar’s northern wall is cursive and differs from the remaining inscriptions (Fig. 12, 17); however, taking into consideration the change of register (polustav/ustav), this could have been written by the second hand. The main dedicatory inscription (Fig. 4-5) differs in many respects from the remaining inscriptions: it has stumpy letters, almost no decorative elements, a slight inclination towards the left, and rounded shapes which are found nowhere else. For the time being, due to the compact layer of soot situated on its final lines, the main dedicatory inscription’s paleographical particularities are impossible to analyze in this area, but a significant difference seems to occur between the upper (lines 1-5) and lower (lines 5-9) halves. Finally, the short inscriptions next to the holy kings of Hungary (Fig. 7-8, 17) are quite expressive, having very elongated and Gothicizing letters with many decorative elements which are not encountered elsewhere inside the church: supplementary strokes and lines on the verges of the letters’ units, wavy lines, as well as separation of words through four superposed dots arranged vertically. To conclude these observations on the mural paintings of St. Nicholas Church in Ribiţa, one can safely state that the ensemble has been decorated by the will and financial means of several donors. This fact is clearly indicated by two of the four partially-preserved inscriptions: the main dedicatory inscription in the votive composition records the main ktetors of the church, namely, brothers Vladislavu and Miclăuşu together with members of their families (Fig. 3-5), whereas the prayer-inscription on St. John the Baptist’s votive image evokes Dobroslavu and his unnamed wife (Fig. 10). As Dobroslavu is unattested by written sources, his relationship with the other founders remains unknown. The contributions of these multiple commissioners/donors of the mural painting could have been made either simultaneously or at different moments in time. The latter variant is suggested by the votive inscriptions’ hypothetical chronology. The sanctuary inscription seems to offer the earliest date for the church’s mural decoration (probably the year 1393); however, judging by its resemblance with others inscriptions inside the church (St. John the Baptist, Fig. 10, or St. Nicholas with Arius, Fig. 18), one can assume that at least part of the nave’s frescoes were executed during the same stage. Analyzed from the perspective of its content, the surviving text of the main dedicatory inscription included in the votive Fig. 18: Detail of the inscription flanking the Holy Chalice in the scene of St. Nicholas and Arius. Lower register of the southern wall of the sanctuary. Credits: Dragoş Gh. Năstăsoiu.

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