Russia: Icons of Discord

Source: FSSPX News

The Russian Orthodox Church has demanded the reestablishment of the Andronikov Monastery which houses the Andrej Rublev Museum, dedicated to the most famous Russian icon painter. The goal is to have it return to its original purpose, that of a cloistered monastery. But in this case, access to some of the finest works of Russian religious art would be prohibited to the public.

Under the Soviet yoke, thanks to the enlightened zeal of some Russian officials of the Ministry of Culture, it was possible to preserve the Andronikov Monastery from destruction by transforming it into a museum of ancient Russian art.

This is where the precious icons stored in the basement have been exhibited since the 1930s. Threatened with closure and destruction, the Andronikov Monastery—and its church dedicated to the Holy Savior—has become, over the decades, the symbol of resistance to militant atheism.

Today, this popular heritage of Russian culture could become inaccessible. Indeed, after the fall of the Soviet regime, the museum made an agreement with the Moscow Patriarch to organize the shared use of the Church of the Holy Savior.

But in March 2019, the Russian Church asked that the law on the restitution of ecclesiastical buildings be applied, in order to obtain the property of the whole architectural complex.

The leaders of the prestigious museum then sought a compromise with the religious authorities, proposing to return only part of the buildings, the one where are currently the administrative offices. Alas, the Muscovite Patriarch has declined to agree.

For the record, Andrej Rublev was a monk who spent his novitiate years in Andronikov, under the direction of Sergy Radonezh, re-founder of Russian spirituality after the time of the Tatar occupation in the fourteenth century. It was in his monastery that he painted the frescoes and icons that ensured him renown in the field of sacred art.

Rest assured, however, that if the Andronikov Monastery were to be closed to the public, the Russian master’s most famous icon—the Trinity or The Three Angels at Mambré—will always be visible at its exhibition site, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.