The Zbruch Idol is a 9th century sculpture, and one of the rarest monuments of pre-Christian Slavin beliefs.
The pillar is commonly associated with the Slavic deity Svantevit, althought opinions on the exact meaning of all the bas-reliefs and the symbols differ. Some argue that the three tiers of bas-reliefs represent the three levels of the world. from the bottom underworld, to the middle mortal world and the uppermost, largest, world of heavenly gods.
It is believed that the sculpture was disposed of in a pit some time after the baptism of Kievan Rus, like the idols of Kiev and Novgorod. In the 19th century, when the Zbruch River (Dniester's tributary) changed its bed, the area where pillar was burried become submerged. It was discovered during a drought near the village called Liczkowce under Polish rule, now Lychkivtsi, Ukraine, just north of Husiatyn in 1848. The statue is now display in the Archaelogical Museum in Krakow, Poland,with exact copies located in a number of museums, including the State Historical Museum in Moscow.
The Zbruch Idol is a four-sided pillar of a grey limestone, 2.67 m (8.8 ft) in height, and has three tiers of reliefs engraved upon each of he four sides. The lower is 67 cm (26 in) the middle tier is 40 cm (16 in) and the top tier is 167 cm (66 in), It is possible that during the 1848 excavation of the monument its lower layer had been broken off and lost. The relief are in rather poor condition, though some traces of original polycrome have been found in 1960s.
The reliefs depict the following characters:
- The three sides of the lowest tier show a kneeling, bearded entity who appears to support the upper tiers on his hands; the fourth side is blank.
- The middle tier shows a smaller entity with extended arms of all four sides.
- The four sides of the uppermost tier have the largest figure of the idol, with four faces united beneath a spherical headgear. Each of the sides has a distinct attritube : a ring or a bracelet; a drinking horn and a tiny "child" figure; a sword and a horse; and an eroded solar symbol.
Ever since them discovery of the monument there is some debate about what exactly the idol represents. Soon after the discovery, Joachim Lelewel theorized the top tier represented two bearded males and two beardless females, being the four seasons: female with the ring, the Spring; male with the horn, Summer; female with the horse and sword, Autumn; and a male without any attributes, Winter.