Sophia, the Divine Wisdom


The female figure on the throne is Sophia the Divine Wisdom. The red color of her face and robe symbolizes the contact of the bright light of divine energy with the dark earthly realm, not unlike the first rays at sunrise touching the dark sky and coloring it in magnificent reds. We can see the dark sky with golden stars over Sophia’s head. In Russian iconography, the drama of the meeting of two worlds is colored in red tones. Red is the color of Christian martyrs’ robes, soaked in blood.

Seven pillars support Sophia’s throne. The number seven comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, “Wisdom has built her house; she hath hewn out its seven pillars” (Prov. 9:1). The icon was intended for the decoration of a canopy under which the head of the Russian church—the Patriarch—stood during the services in the Church of St. Nicholas.