A long time ago the lower tier of the iconostasis leaned on pilasters of the Assumption Cathedral’s chancel screen. We can still see half-length figures of the Venerated monks who were glorified for their selfless lives and ascetic deeds on the cancel screen. Those murals are considered to be made between 1480 and 1515. The researchers believe them to be created by Dionysius and his circle. Images are done in a fresco technique, in other words, they are painted on a freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments and then thoroughly drawn with tempera on a dried plaster. Later the frescoes were hidden behind the Veneration tier. Thus they are in a fine state of preservation. The murals were discovered in 1882 during the restoration of the main iconostasis. The masters strengthened its wooden framework and reconstructed the silver cover which had been stolen by the Napoleonic army in 1812.
The most expressive image on the altar screen is the image of Venerable father Alexis, the Man of God, first in this raw. He became famous for the act of voluntary mendicity and sacrificial self-abnegation as Jesus Christ did. However, the saint’s dramatic destiny didn’t find its reflection in the image on the altar screen. His appearance is full of enlightened sorrow; the silhouette is laconic and austere; the refined range of colours consists of the combination of cold undertones of pink and silver grey in his clothes and thick golden ochre on the face and naked hands of the saint. One can feel artistic delicacy, style and, at the same time, monumental quality, which distinguish Dionysius’s brushwork, who must be an author of this composition.
The images of Venerable Parthenius, Bp. of Lampesachia, St John Climacus, and St John the ‘Tent-dweller’ are depicted between the Petropavlovskiy (of SS Peter and Paul) side-chapel and the Prothesis. These three figures are probably painted by one master, distinguished by iconic brushwork.
At the open part of the altar screen, between the Prothesis and the Holy Doors, one can see images of St. Paul of Thebes, a severe ascetic in clothes weaved of palm leaves; repentant thief, Venerable Moses the Abyssinian; the founder of the first coenoby in the East, Venerable Theodosius the Great; Ss Isaac the Syrian and Ephraem the Syrian; St Anthony the Great and St Euphemius the Great. Their faces are full of concentration and calmness; gestures of hands are restrained and easy; outline of figures is laconic and austere. The saints are imagined as wise spiritual parents and enlighteners, to whom people coming to church “appealed for life principles and addressed their prayers for support”.