Icons in Pskov performed a particularly critical role, for the community used them to preserve religious thought in visual form. In fact, ancient Pskovian images record the first known references to Moscow's ambitious growth as a religious center as well as the thesis which proclaimed Moscow to be the "Third Rome."
While the iconography of twelfth century Pskov is virtually indistinguishable from that of Novgorodian icons, those produced by fourteenth-century Pskovian icon painters, such as the anonymous artist of this icon of Archangel Gabriel, reveal a highly individualized, sophisticated iconographic program.
The works of Pskovian icon painters are also distinctive for their dynamic scenes and the active poses of their figures. These regional icon painters often turned to the text of the Apocrypha for inspiration. The Anastasis, or "Descent into Hell" where Christ is actively lowered into the pit of hell, was a particularly popular image (see ImageBase). Portrait icons produced in Pskov can be discerned by the habit of depicting saints along with their particular attributes. "St. Demetrios of Thessalonica" (see ImageBase), for example, holds the cross in one hand and a massive, ornately decorated sword in the other, items which symbolize Christ's and the saint's martyrdom respectively. This portrait icon also shows the Pskovian practice, taken from fourteenth century Byzantium, of laying golden netting over the red-brown garb of their subjects.