Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. John O. Norman

Second Advisor

Dr. James Palmitessa

Third Advisor

Dr. Judith Stone

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Georg Michels


This dissertation investigates representations of Nikon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia (1652-1666). I contend that Nikon's resonance in Russian national life remains largely unrecognized because traditional histories--based entirely on written sources and limited to Nikon's tenure as Patriarch--fail to reveal his broader significance in Russian artistic, political and religious culture by omitting analysis of art and material culture. This dissertation advances the study of Patriarch Nikon by assessing his image in Russian history and culture from the mid-seventeenth century forward. I demonstrate that contrary to his overwhelmingly negative image in standard histories, the Patriarch held a central place in Russian political and religious cultures, both official and dissenting, and that his image became a fixture of Russian national life and a staple of Russian art.

I employ an interdisciplinary, cultural-historical approach and adopt the perspective of "total history" by examining the creation and reception of Patriarch Nikon's image in art, material culture and literature from "above" and "below," as well as across the confessional divide and over a long period of time. This approach allows us to comprehend how and why Nikon represented himself, how and why his contemporaries depicted him and how and why later artists, historians, churchmen, rulers, intellectuals, and ordinary people appropriated Nikonian images to support divergent agendas.

I conclude that: Nikon was a significant and influential patron of the arts who created comprehensive and lasting iconographic expressions of his principal beliefs and initiatives. Nikon's iconographic system outlived him, providing the basis for both the Romanovs' legitimacy and opposition to the autocracy. The Patriarch's image served as bellwether for larger political, religious and cultural issues in Russian history.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access