Latest World News

In Russia, the transfer of a priceless icon to the Orthodox Church is debated


Late in the night, Saturday June 3, an exceptional convoy crosses the streets of Moscow. The fast-moving van, escorted by vehicles fitted with flashing lights, carries one of the World Heritage masterpieces, the icon of the Holy Trinity, painted by Andrei Rublev between 1422 and 1427. Returned to the Orthodox Church by President Vladimir Putin, the work was transferred from the Tretyakov Gallery, where it had been exhibited since 1929, to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, on the banks of the Moskva.

“The Miraculous Icon” arrived just in time for Patriarch Kirill to celebrate in his presence, Sunday morning, the office dedicated to the Holy Trinity. After the liturgy, the work of art was made accessible to all the faithful.

Unveiled on May 15, the decision of the master of the Kremlin to lend The Trinity to patriarchy was slow to be applied. Hailed by the Orthodox hierarchy and by the elite in epaulets, the transfer of this unique and fragile work has been condemned by art experts, who fear its alteration.

From the outset, the project came up against the reluctance of the curators of the Tretyakov gallery, declared opponents of the transfer as long as the optimal conditions for conservation were not met. Damaged during a “loan” granted by the Kremlin to the Orthodox Church in 2022, The Trinity is in too poor condition to be moved and requires constant care, they argued.

A Banished Archpriest

Fearing not to have the icon of icons for its homily on Sunday June 4, the patriarchy accelerated the maneuver on Saturday evening, signing in extremis a loan agreement with the Tretyakov gallery, which consented to the transfer but for a limited period, not exceeding two weeks, from June 4 to 18. Concluded between the director of the museum, Elena Pronicheva, and the archpriest Georgui Martynov, the curator of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the agreement is already subject to interpretation.

The ink was not yet dry that the patriarch Kirill declared that the loan would last longer than expected. “For a year, the miraculous icon will be in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior so that Muscovites and guests of the capital can bow to her. Then it will return here, to its historic cradle”he announced on Saturday evening while celebrating the service at the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius, the seat of the patriarchate in Sergiev Posad, 70 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

Read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers Russian Orthodox Church: “The war in Ukraine would be nothing but a metaphysical fight against an evil force”

Certainly, temperature and humidity sensors have been placed in the showcase installed in the nave of the Moscow cathedral. But experts worry that this protection is not enough. “This type of showcase is used in many museums, where the air is kept stable. But in a church, there is not this museum climate”warned Tatiana Gorodkova, chief curator of the Tretyakov Gallery, during a meeting of the restoration council on May 15.

You have 50.29% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.