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12th century relic in Ukraine threatened

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.unian.net/eng/news/news-180000.html [15.01.2007 10:37] By Olenka Z. Pevny 12th century relic in Ukraine threatened Alarming news has come from
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2007
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      http://www.unian.net/eng/news/news-180000.html

      [15.01.2007 10:37] By Olenka Z. Pevny
      12th century relic in Ukraine threatened

      Alarming news has come from colleagues in Kyiv regarding the
      preservation of Ukraine`s most important twelfth-century monument -
      the Church of St. Cyril of Alexandria (Kyrylivs`ka tserkva.

      Through a series of what appear to be deliberately devious actions it
      appears that the Church of St. Cyril, which was part of the Cultural
      Preserve of the Cathedral of St. Sofiia - a UNESCO site, has been
      deprived of its protective status and a free hand is being given to
      the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOCMP) to
      remodel the interior of the monument.

      This includes the overpainting of murals by such prominent
      nineteenth-century artists as M. Vrubel and M. Murashko, and, even
      more significantly, the desecration of unique 12th century frescoes.

      Among the truly irreplaceable compositions in the church is the life
      cycle of the 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria, St. Cyril. Images
      from the life of this saint occupy the entire east apse of the Kyivan
      church and constitute the only representation of the life of this
      church father in the world.

      Without exaggeration, the Church of St. Cyril is the most important
      12th century monument in Ukraine. Its medieval frescoes are
      unparalleled not only in terms of Kyivan Rus` visual culture, but
      also in the context of Middle Byzantine art.

      The Church of St. Cyril of Alexandrian is a monumental princely
      foundation built by either the Princess Maria Mstyslavivna or her
      husband Prince Vsevolod Ol`hovych (r. 1139-1147). It served as the
      burial chapel of Maria and her offsprings.

      The medieval frescoes of the Church of St. Cyril are the only
      specimens of monumental 12th century Orthodox iconography to survive
      in the former Rus` (see Kievan Rus` - History of Ukraine) and present
      Ukrainian capital city, Kyiv.

      Together with the Church of the Savior in the Mirozh Monastery in
      Pskov, Russia, they comprise the most important examples of medieval
      monumental painting executed in the Byzantine tradition to survive in
      East Slavic territories.

      Notwithstanding several recent publications about the Kyrylivs`ka
      tserkva, the monument remains gravely understudied.

      It has never been thoroughly or professionally photographed, the
      inscriptions have not been analyzed by paleographers, and the
      dedication and medieval images have never been considered in the
      context of broader Byzantine or local Rus` developments.

      There are so few actual medieval monuments remaining in Ukraine and
      even fewer with iconographic evidence from the Kyivan Rus` period
      that preserving the Kyrylivs`ka tserkva is a cultural priority.

      According to colleagues in Kyiv the current crisis unfolded in the
      following manner. A few years ago (2004?) the Church of St. Cyril was
      quietly removed from the highly protected list of the Cathedral of
      St. Sofiia Cultural Preserve, clearing the way for its ultimate
      transfer to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

      In a recent church newsletter an official of the UOCMP complained
      about the Vrubel oil paintings not being `iconic` enough, and that
      museum restrictions prevent the burning of candles required for
      proper Orthodox services.

      The UOCMP hierarchy also expressed displeasure with the frescoes
      claming that they are not inspiring enough and are not reflective of
      the UOCMP dogma. Voicing such complaints, the ecclesiastics declared
      their desire to repaint the interior.

      It appears that Ukrainian laws governing historical sites can be
      manipulated so as to allow the church building to be removed from the
      list of historical sites following an official assessment and
      inventory of its worth.

      This apparently already has taken place as a sum of 998 hryvnias is
      being cited as the amount the UOCMP would need to pay the Ukrainian
      government for the building. Once this sum is paid the UOCMP would
      have the authority to remodel the interior of the monument.

      Expressions of concern from abroad and from ecclesiastical, cultural,
      academic and scholarly communities may be of some help to those in
      Ukraine who are attempting to preserve this monument.

      This news was monitored by the ArtUkraine Monitoring Service for the
      Action Ukraine Report, E. Morgan Williams, the editor.

      By Olenka Z. Pevny, PhD., Faculty member, Univ of Richmond, VA

      Department of Art & Art History, specializing in Late Antique,

      Byzantine and Medieval art history.

      BRAMA.COM, New York, New York, Thursday, January 11, 2007
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