June, 15 - August, 26, 2012

the Assumption Belfry

Organized by:
the Moscow Kremlin Museums in collaboration with the Kirillo-Belozersky State Historical Architectural Art museum-reserve 

01# Icon of the Mother of God The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery - the Northern outpost of the Grand Duchy of Moscow – was founded in the XIVth century by St. Kirill of Beloozero, the disciple of a great spiritual leader and monastic reformer St. Sergius of Radonezh. In 1497 interior of the main church of the monastery – the Assumption Cathedral – was decorated with a magnificent four-tiered iconostasis, which has been preserved almost intact till nowadays. Its grandiose ensemble consisted of about 60 panels and only two of which have been lost. The original layer of paint has been almost fully preserved on the majority of the icons. Being a fine example of the Russian classical iconostasis, this precious sacral artwork is a real masterpiece of the medieval icon painting, which embodies the main spiritual concept of such kind of artwork: the connection between earth and heaven by means of saints’ prayers.

The fact that an artel of painters from different local schools of icon painting of Moscow, Rostov and Novgorod have been involved in the work on the Kirillo-Belozersky iconostasis is worthy of particular note. Having possessed their own style and individual artistic manner, the artists managed to create a well-composed monumental artwork of high artistic value. Unfortunately the names of the craftsmen remain uncertain. Still their icons are distinguished by the beauty of the painted images of saints, delicate pattern and refined coloration.

The very iconostasis is remarkable not only for the painting of its icons but for the history of his creation and restoration as well. In the XVIIIth century the iconostasis was disassembled and after the Revolution in the early XXth century some of the icon-panels were transferred to Moscow and Petrograd. Almost all of the icons from the Kirillov iconostasis have been examined, using advanced technological methods. In the result of the research and restoration work, carried out in the National Research Institute for Conservation under the supervision of Olga Vladimirovna Lelekova from the second half of 1960 to the beginning of the 1980s, the icons from the iconostasis of the Kirillo-Belozersky Assumption Cathedral have been renovated and assembled in a harmonious ensemble again. At the exhibition a special place is occupied by the section, which is to reveal the process and importance of the restoration work which influenced greatly the tradition of restoration in Russia.

The circumstances were such that some of the icons are still preserved in other Russian museums. Most of them are kept and exhibited in the Kirillo-Belozerski State Historical Architectural Art museum-reserve, but five icons belong to the collection of the Central Andrey Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art, fifteen icons are in the State Russian Museum and three are in the State Tretyakov Gallery.The exhibition project, intended to present the iconostasis from the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery as it had been initially designed and crafted for the cathedral, is supported by these famous Russian museums, which loaned their exhibits specially for the display in the Moscow Kremlin. In this exhibition at the Moscow Kremlin Museums the majority of the icons from the Kirillov iconostasis are presented alltogether for the first time. There has never been an exhibition of such kind in the museums of Russia; this exhibition of the spectacular iconostasis from the Kirillo-Belozerski Monastery is undoubtly a unique one.