Home Arts Putin is now ordering the return of Russia’s most precious icon to the church

Putin is now ordering the return of Russia’s most precious icon to the church

by godlove4241
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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the handover of Russia’s most famous icon and work of art, the 15th century work of Andrei Rublev Trinityfrom the State Tretyakov Gallery to the Russian Orthodox Church, causing restorers to fear that the fragile artefact could be irrevocably damaged.

The move, following the weekend announcement that the Hermitage is return to the church the sarcophagus of medieval warrior Saint Alexander Nevsky is widely seen as a gesture of thanks for Patriarch Kirill I’s vocal support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as a sign of superstitious beliefs among Russian elites that the icon can bring victory to the battlefield. It also opens the door to a flood of restitution claims by the Church based on a 2010 law allowing religious organizations to reclaim all property seized by the Soviet state.

The icon, which depicts three angels visiting the Prophet Abraham at the Oak of Mamre, as described in the Book of Genesis, is considered one of the greatest visual representations of Trinitarian unity, and had been kept at the monastery until until it is taken by the Soviet state. It was protected under the order of Ivan the Terrible with a golden covering known as the “riza” which remained in place until 1904, leaving only the faces and hands of the angels visible. When the complete icon was revealed, it had a revolutionary impact on art and spirituality, influencing the Russian avant-garde.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on May 16 about Trinity‘s transfer that formally it is “the prerogative of the ministry of culture” and “without a doubt has been coordinated with the head of state.” The impending transfer was first reported on May 15 on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website as Putin’s “response to numerous requests from Orthodox believers” for the return of the “miraculous icon”.

In a letter of thanks to Putin published on May 17, Patriarch Kirill wrote: “During the era of Church persecution, many Orthodox shrines were destroyed by the enemies of God, and a significant part of the objects of our spiritual and cultural life the heritage found itself in museums, abroad or in private collections. It is deeply symbolic that the restoration of historical justice takes place in the fateful period of Russia’s existence as a state.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Patriarch Kirill has made numerous statements justifying Russia’s aggression and supporting its fighters, including that military duty “erases all the sins” of the soldiers.

The ministry’s press office has confirmed the icon will be transported to Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, the site of Pussy Riot’s 2012 ‘punk prayer’ against Putin and Patriarch Cyril, in time for services marking Pentecost, which is celebrated this year by the Russian Orthodox Church. Church on June 4. It must be followed, according to the ministry, by a “programmed restoration” before being moved to the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Moscow. After the icon was transported there last summer, restorers reported 61 “significant changes” to its condition.

Experts have warned that the Trinity might not survive being transported and kept in churches full of worshipers and candles. Art historian Aleksei Lidov told The insideran investigative publication: “All professional restorers unanimously say that the condition of the Trinity plate is such that any movement of it, even a short distance, is fraught with pitfalls and the icon can do anything merely [be destroyed].”

Andrei Kuraev, a dissident cleric who was defrocked by a church court in April, wrote in a blog post that the icon was mobilized for “the commander-in-chief” because “the situation on the front lines is close to the panic”.

Elizaveta Likhacheva, appointed head of the Pushkin National Museum of Fine Arts in March, is the only major Russian museum director to warn against moving the Trinity.

“It could just be lost, it could disintegrate into several pieces. It’s made up of three plates that aren’t attached to each other very firmly,” she told the official Tass news agency. “This icon has never been considered one who has produced miracles. Holy Trinity icon is Russia’s main contribution to Christian iconography, [and the main thing about it] is not its religious significance, but its importance for the field of art history.

The director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, who had previously spoken out against the wholesale transfer of works from the museum to the church, became a strong supporter of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and hailed the delivery of the Nevsky sarcophagus.

Elena Pronicheva, who replaced Zelfira Tregulova as Tretyakov leader in February and whose father had served as a senior Federal Security Service (FSB) official under Putin, had no comment. Tretyakov’s official Telegram social media channel reported on May 17 that the museum is awaiting official documents from the ministry on the icon’s relocation.

Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, who chairs the Patriarchal Commission for Culture and is believed to be close to Putin, told Tass that the sarcophagus and icon “will be stored in accordance with the requirements that the Hermitage and the Tretyakov Gallery will present to us.”

A capsule to carry the icon last year was reported to be of substandard quality and experts say it was impossible to ensure proper control of climate and other conditions in such a short time.

Father Leonid Kalinin, a member of the Patriarchal Cultural Commission, described the Tass icon as “a kind of center of our faith, it is a global sanctuary”, which, in the hands of the church, will strengthen “to both our people and our soldiers, and those who in Ukraine have not moved away from God and Orthodoxy.

Russian media reported in April that when Putin visited troops in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, he gave them copies of an icon of Christ that once belonged to a 19th-century Tsarist military commander. In early May, as Russia awaited the launch of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Tass reported that one of the icons was caught around Russian military units.

Xenia Luchenko, a religious affairs commentator who left Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, wrote in the Russian-language edition of Moscow time that superstitious officials hand over the icon to the church with great expectations.

“The fact that the hierarchy was able to seize it, break by force the long-standing resistance of the museum community, is a proof of power, a claim to the monopoly of the production of miracles; they are now especially expected of the Orthodox Church, as always happens in times of trouble,” Luchenko wrote.

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