The temple and the icon


‘Travelling among the small country roads of central Russia one begins to understand the key to the atmosphere of peace which pervades the Russian countryside. It lies in the churches. Perched on hills or higher up in the mountains, overlooking broad rivers in red and white majesty, with their slender, pointed spires outlined against the humble straw and wood, they maintain a kind of communication from afar between isolated villages, invisible each to the other, but linked by the spires which soar toward a single heaven… Man has always been base and often evil, but when the church bell rang out in the evening, its sound hovered over the village, the fields and the woods reminding him of the need to leave behind the miserable and unimportant things of this life and to dedicate his time and his thoughts to Eternity” (Aleksandr Solzenicyn). Fundamental to the architectural structure of the Byzantine church is a particular conception of Man and the cosmos which determines the finest details of form, decoration and structure of the building. The golden domes are often compared to the flame rising from a candle. Within, their meaning lies in the way they reflect the vault of heaven. The interior of the church expresses the idea of divine order on earth while outside the cupola soars upward reminding Man that he has not yet reached God, and to do so requires the power of prayer and love. The inside of the church lies in half shadow to facilitate concentration: light comes chiefly from the icons. Man must be illuminated by the face of Christ, or of the Mother of God or the Saints, becoming in turn an icon of God and acquiring thereby what the fathers call “the gift of sight” – the ability to perceive all around the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit. The Seriate Iconography School was founded in 1979 at the Centre for Russian Christian Studies thanks to the skill and assistance of one of the most able and noted iconographers of our time, Father Egon Sendler. Its purpose in threefold: firstly, to experience the religious and artistic wealth of the great Byzantine tradition; secondly, to trace the origins of the artistic canon which for centuries inspired religious painting in the East and West; thirdly, to cooperate in the building of a more united Europe. In today’s world, the school sees iconography not merely as a means to discovering more about a great tradition of the past but also as a mystic path to conversion. The exhibition staged at the Meeting is divided into three parts: architecture; – Russian icons from the past and icons painted by masters of the Seriate school; – a workshop focusing on interpretation of the ancient traditions in a modern spirit. By means of photographs and explanatory texts, the architecture section aims to show how faith can guide Man’s work and make it creative: the church in its natural surroundings sheds it material form and becomes a symbol of the mystery of God’s presence among human beings. It is laid out in the shape of a Greek cross and is covered by a dome from which the image of God as creator of the universe looks down. The icons and frescoes combine to create the world in which the whole of mankind may gather beneath the heavenly vault. A collection of precious Russian icons painted in the Byzantine style testifies to the profound cultural and spiritual value of the icon as “a window on divine mystery” and “an image of incorporeal spirituality”. The iconostasis from the Centre for Russian Christian Studies will also be on view. The iconostasis is a wall covered in icons separating the nave from the presbytery the intrinsic meaning of which lies in the prayers offered to Christ in this heavenly church. By contemplating the faces of the Saints, the faithful who have gathered to pray can participate in the sobornic prayer of the Church. The exhibition will be formally opened during the Meeting week.’


23 Agosto 1986 - 30 Agosto 1986


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions