Dionysius of Fourna

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Dionysius of Fourna (c. 1670 - after 1744) was an Eastern Orthodox author of a manual of iconography and painting in the 18th century. He was born in Fourna, the Ottoman Empire, and went to study in Constantinople around the age of twelve before returning, as a monk, to Mt. Athos. He painted several icons in Mt. Athos, although the dates are indistinct (either 1701 or 1711) and at Karyes. In 1721, he painted the chapel of St. Demetrios in Vatopedi. He then returned to live in Fourna. His last official entry into public record is in 1741, when he gained permission to start a school at Agrafa.

Dionysius's Hermeneia (1730 - 1734) attempts to provide a synthetic (or "harmonized") Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ. His time line and events are mainly from the Book of Matthew, but he weaves in major incidents from the other synoptic Gospels. The manual is also called Mount Athos Painter's Guide and is in three parts. In general, it is a chronological listing of scenes appropriate for painting, along with a proper inscription for the painter to include to make the icon, as well as the proper position in the church for each scene. The first part of the work gives recipes for colors, gesso, and instructions on body proportions for human figure painting. The second part is a manual for the life of Christ, descriptions and inscriptions for various Biblical and hagiographic subjects, and suggested images. The third part describes the locations in a church for each depiction. The manuscript survives in more than twenty-five instances.

It is likely that Dionysius surveyed existing churches from the medieval period, where the life of Christ would be told in emblems around the church. Although the work is not original, nor designed to be original, the description of each scene is probably from Dionysius's own imagination and imagery.


  • Brubaker, Leslie. "Dionysius of Fourna" in Strayer, Joseph R. ed. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984. vol. 4, pp 191-2.
  • Van Ginkel, J., Paul Hetherington, and A. N. Palmer. "Dionysius of Fourna" in Turner, Jane ed. The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 1996. vol. 18, p. 910.
  • (in Greek) The greek text of the 'Painter's Manual', edited by Papadopoulos-Karemeos, 1909
  • (in French) French translation of the 'Painter's Manual', edited by Didron, 1845