H2748 en H2745

Two icons with stories about the Tree of Life

Region: Palestine
Period: 18th century
Size: 27,5 x 29,5 cm en 28 x 34,5 cm


Both these icons were once part of a large ‘pilgrim map’ of the Holy Land. Several iconographies can be recognized, such as the Baptism of Christ and the raising of Lazarus. Such a map or map shows various icons and pilgrimage sites that are located in and around Jerusalem. Because pilgrims had to be able to take the map home in a rolled up state, egg tempera was painted on linen. At the same time, this made the maps very vulnerable, so that few complete copies have survived.

Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, according to tradition, gave orders to look for the cross of Christ in Jerusalem at the end of the third century. In the centuries that followed, several legends arose about the true cross of Christ, including the story that the cross was made from the tree of life that stood in paradise. Adam smuggled branches from the garden of Eden, which ended up with Lot through the patriarch Abraham. Lot took care of the branches, planted them in the ground and watered them regularly. Eventually a mature tree grew out, which was supplied by Lot with fresh water from the Jordan every day. The devil wanted to stop the tree from growing and disguised himself as a pilgrim. He lay down next to the road where Lot passed every day with his donkey with water jars. As Lot and the donkey approached, the devil began to groan that he was thirsty and about to die. Lot was naturally eager to help the poor pilgrim and gave him water from the pitchers. To Lot’s surprise, the pilgrim drank all the water, leaving nothing to water the tree of life. So Lot returned to the Jordan to refill the jars. But when he got close to the tree, there lay the devil disguised as a thirsty pilgrim again. Lot watered the man again and returned to the Jordan with empty jars. That day, when Lot, on his third attempt to water the tree, heard the thirsty pilgrim groan again, he realized that it was the devil. Lot cried out to the devil that he could groan all he wanted and have as much water as he could drink, but that it would not cause the tree of life to run out of water. Then the devil left and left Lot alone. Eventually the tree would grow even taller. According to legend, King Solomon would later order branches of the tree to be used for the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem and much later branches would be used for the cross of Christ.