Through the Eyes of a Child

 “The quiet art of Helen Cherkasova seems simple at first sight – simple even to the naivete. And for much it is true if we imply by naivete pure natural sources and the belief in the clear divine spring of any real creative act.  As usual, dimensions of her works are not great. Nevertheless, some of them bear evident epic traits that are inherent to such monumental arts as mosaic or fresco.” (William Meiland, March, 1998)

Helena Cherkasova was born in Moscow in 1962. Finished art school in Moscow. Painted icons for orthodox churches. Now she paints by oil landscapes, still lifes and compositions mainly with religious topics. Participant of exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Lives and works in Moscow.

Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem

Nativity

Blessedness of the meek

Wise virgins

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Psalm 127

Prayer for rain

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Angel speaks to the myrrh-bearin women

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A monk

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Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem
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the Tsar’s family

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Letters of St. John Chrysostom to Olimpiada
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Prophet’s Eliah’s day

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St. Seraphim of Sarov

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Prince Igor’s murder

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A bird from Heaven

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The righteous soul enters Heaven

Matushki and cats

Matushki and cats

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“103rd Psalm”

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“Eleazar and Rebekah”

( the Old Testament story of the marriage of Isaac)

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“Song of Songs”

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Annunciation

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“Teens in the furnace” Daniel

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“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God!”  “Psalm 41”

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“Nativity”

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“The Holy Family”

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“Marriage at Cana”

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Another option of the marriage at Cana

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Healing the Demoniac of the Gadarene

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“Healing the Blind”

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“The storm on the lake”(Mk . 4 , 35-41 )

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Doubting Thomas ( Jn. 20 , 24-29 )

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“Adam and Eve in paradise again”

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Way of the Cross

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The Resurrection of Christ

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Last (Final) Judgment — Day of Judgment

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The entry of a righteous soul in paradise

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The Holy Spirit – a timid bird

Photos by Michael Moiseev
Source: Pramvir

Solomon, I have outdone thee!

An excellent documentary and a unique website featuring the grandest Byzantine church of them all, “Hagia Sophia”, Church of the Holy Wisdom in Istanbul, Turkey  

 

 

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Iconographer and Russian historian launches unique website featuring “Hagia Sophia,” Church of the Holy Wisdom

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Mosaïque de l'impératrice Zoé, Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)    Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)

Deisis

An interesting new site illustrating the history of Constantinople’s Church of the Holy Wisdom  popularly known as “Hagia Sophia”  recently appeared on the internet.

A “must visit” for Orthodox Christians, especially those interested in Church history, iconography, mosaics, and ecclesiastical architecture, the site gives special attention to the magnificent “Deesis” mosaic in the church’s south gallery.  Depicting Christ flanked by the Theotokos and Saint John the Forerunner, the exquisite mosaic was uncovered in the 1930s.  It is one of the world’s most beloved images of Our Lord.

Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the early sixth century, Hagia Sophia replaced two earlier churches, the first built in 380 AD.

* In the time of Justinian, it had a thousand clergy and in Neara, Herakleion, there is a catalogue listing in the 7th century 600 people, consisting of “80 priests, 150 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 70 sub-deacons, 160 lectors, 25 cantors, and 75 door-keepers”.

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It is an engineering marvel, inasmuch as its massive freestanding central dome  the world’s largest of its kind  has withstood everything from earthquakes to invasions for 1500 years.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, it became a mosque.  Its current status  that of a state museum  dates back to the early 1900s.

The site is the work of Bob Atchison, an iconographer and Russian historian from Seattle, WA who now lives in Austin, TX.  His interest in Hagia Sophia, and especially it’s Deesis mosaic, dates back to his childhood.

The site, which includes invaluable historical information, illustrations, maps and plans, and original photographs not readily found elsewhere, is of special interest to Orthodox Christians in general, and specifically to those desiring deeper insights into Orthodox Church history, iconography, liturgy, and ecclesiastical architecture.

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When Justinian had finished the construction he supposedly proclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”

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The site may be accessed here : http://www.pallasweb.com/deesis

 

Source: http://oca.org/news/oca-news/iconographer-and-russian-historian-launches-unique-website-featuring-hagia

Gateway to Heaven

 St Nicholas Cathedral

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Standing in the Cathedral after Sunday Liturgy on August 12, 2012. In addition to its magnificent and historic iconography, completed in the 1990s following the dissolution of the USSR, the Cathedral houses the relics of many saints, including St John of Kronstadt, St Elizabeth the New Martyr, St Herman, apostle to Alaska, St Innocent, metropolitan of Moscow and apostle to Alaska, St Tikhon, and St Daniel of Moscow.

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Gazing up at the dome with the image of Christos Pantokrator (Christ as Ruler of All, or Lord of the Universe) offering all worshipers His benediction.

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The choir gallery overlooking the nave, with beautiful frescoes of the Russian New Martyrs on the left and right as well as many of the North American saints. Note the magnificent fresco of Christ’s Resurrection on the wall hanging over the gallery as well as the ceiling icons of the Great Feasts of the Dormition of the Theotokos (L) and that of Pentecost, the Decent of the Holy Spirit (R). Symbolizing the triumphant restoration of Orthodoxy in Russian life, the fresco of Moscow’s rebuilt Christ the Savior Cathedral – initially demolished under Stalin’s orders in 1931- crowns the beautiful choir gallery.

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The four writers of the Gospels are depicted on the pendentives supporting the dome. Higher up, closer to Christ, are depicted the cherubim and seraphim and other angelic powers of heaven. The red fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit descending to and filling the earth.

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The frescoed icons on the Cathedral’s north wall depict the life and deeds of St Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra (located in modern day Turkey), and patron saint of Greece, Russia, and many ancient cities. Can you find the picture of the saint rescuing a drowning man?

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A reliquary of St Herman of Alaska (1756-1837), patron saint of Orthodoxy in the Americas and peaceful evangelist to many native Alaskan tribes.

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Relics of the Romanov Imperial Family of Russia, who were murdered on Lenin’s others on July 17, 1918: the Emperor or Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich II, his consort the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their children. Orthodox Christians venerate them as “Passion-bearers” who graciously and courageously bore many sufferings and imprisonment and went to their deaths with great fortitude.

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Relic of Saint Sergius, fourteenth century Wonder-worker and deeply beloved Russian saint (d. 1392).

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Looking toward the iconostasis and the apse above the altar. Along with most of the interior fresco work, after the fall of the Soviet Union expert Russian iconographers completed the beautiful iconostasis (icon stand) which separates the altar area from the main part of the Cathedral. This evokes the Temple at Jerusalem which had a ‘holy of holies’ in which the Tabernacle was kept.

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Relics of many ancient and new Russian saints, including St Elizabeth the New Martyr (front right).
Saint Elizabeth (1864 – 1918) was the wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Empress Maria Alexandrovna (born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, she was the sister to Alexandra who became Queen of the United Kingdom as consort to Edward VII). Princess Elizabeth and her sister Alix, who in 1894 became the wife of the new Russian Emperor Nicholas II as Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, were granddaughters of Britain’s Queen Victoria.
After an anarchist assassinated her husband, Grand Duchess Elizabeth visited the man, offering him her forgiveness, but he refused her offer to intercede with her brother-in-law for a reprieve from execution. She went on to found a convent dedicated to ministering to Moscow’s poor, and as part of her efforts she petitioned the Russian Church to restore the historic female diaconate. She opened the Martha and Mary Home in Moscow to utilize the prayer and charity of devout Russian women. For many years she helped the poor and orphans through this Moscow home.
In 1918, the Communist government exiled her to Yekaterinburg and then to Alapaevsk, where she and several other members of the Imperial Family were violently killed by the local Bolsheviks on July 18, 1918. She was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1981, and by the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole in 1992 as New-Martyr Elizabeth.

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Reliquary of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine of Alexandria (287-305), an Egyptian princess and scholar whose erudition and learned arguments inspired the conversion of thousands. She was brutally put to death on the orders of the pagan Roman Emperor Maxentius, whom Constantine defeated in October 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. In the fifteenth century another virgin saint, the young Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) received visions of St. Catherine exhorting her to drive the English out of France.

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Fragrant double icon depicting two pillars of the Orthodox faith in Russia. Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), shown offering the Communion chalice and a benediction, is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.
He is shown with Saint Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952) because when he saw her as a young, blind girl in a crowd, he predicted she would be his spiritual successor. Blessed Matrona healed many people of their spiritual diseases and predicted numerous marriages, events and deaths- including her own.

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Standing in the choir, looking toward the iconostasis and the apse icon of the Panagia Theotokos (All-Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary). The elaborate chandelier, lit at various points of the divine offices, symbolizes the eternal presence of God’s grace in His Church, the radiance of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the abiding light of the Holy Spirit.

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Gazing down over the nave from the choir gallery. Approaching the central icon stand before the iconostasis, worshipers first venerate the cathedral’s principal icon of the holy person or God. Upon entering any Orthodox church, worshipers bow before the divine presence in the altar where the Eucharist is offered as the mystical transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord.

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Standing in the lofted gallery where I sing with the choir. This is one of my favorite pictures of the Cathedral interior because one really has a strong sense of the iconography- the ‘image writing’, as the term means from the Greek- as a powerful tool for the theological education of the faithful who see and comprehend the many magnificent images depicting the saints.

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Centered shot of the dome and its supporting columns and pendentives.

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The Cathedral shining in the late summer sunshine! Russian and American architects designed the Cathedral to evoke a twelfth century church in Vladimir, an ancient Russian city on the Klyazma River some 200 km (120 miles) east of Moscow. In 1988 the bell tower was erected as a gift from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Cathedral commemorating the one thousandth anniversary of the conversion of St. Prince Vladimir of Kiev and his people to Eastern Christianity.

Archangel Ethiopian Manuscript

A selection of folios from an illuminated manuscript of 17th century Ethiopia, produced during the cultural boom, especially in painting, brought about by the establishment of a permanent court at Gondar by the Solomonic emperor Fasilädäs (who reigned 1632-67). The nearly 50 full-page illuminations of this particular manuscript tell the story of the Archangel Michael who, under the patronage of Emperor Zär’a Ya’eqob, had became the most venerated of all archangels in Ethiopia. He is depicted undertaking a vast host of miracles and heroic feats including saving the faithful from the burning flames of hell, healing the sick and treading on Satan. The illustrations can also teach us about the Ethiopia of the time. According to The Walters Art Museum, “the minutely rendered textiles in these pictures suggest a connection with the fashions of the Gondarine court and indicate that the painters depicted their scriptural subjects using a visual language rooted in contemporary culture.”

Left – Above: How Astaraniqos slept on his bed using the picture of St. Michael as a pillow; Below: How a blacksmith toiled in making a panel for the picture of St. Michael. Right – Above: How Satan flew away like a raven/crow when Euphemia showed him the picture of St. Michael; Below: How Satan came (again) looking like four women and St. Michael trod on him.
Left – St. Michael rescues the faithful from the flames of Hell. Right – The Faithful Rescued by Saint Michael in Paradise.
The Archangel helping Hezekiah of Judah defeat Sennacherib of Assyria.
The Archangel paying tribute to Adam.
The Archangel casting an evil spirit from his church.
The Archangel healing a sick woman.
The Archangel helping seafarers.
The Archangel healing a Jew.
The Archangel helping Susanna preserve her purity.
The Archangel rescuing the Three Holy Children.
The story of Qison continues.
The Archangel rescuing the child from drowning.

Source: The Public Domain Review

Nikola Saric’s ‘Windows’

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Holy Martyrs of Libya (21 christians killed by IS terrorists)

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Behold the man! The vision and the glory of God.
(Adam from the cycle “Testimonies”, detail)

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“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Revelation 22:13

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Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31), from the cycle “Earthly stories with a heavenly meaning: Parables of Christ”, 2014

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Jonah

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mt 12:39-40)”

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Jn 12:1-11; Lk 7:36-50

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St Demetrios

Akathist to St. Démétrios de Thessalonique, Kontakion10 / Oikos 10

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Akathist to St. Démétrios de Thessalonique– Kontakion 6/ Ikos 6, Nikola Saric, 130×160 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2009

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The Parable of the Great Banquet (Lk 14:15-24), from the cycle “Earthly stories with a heavenly meaning: Parables of Christ”, 2014

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Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:3-7), from the cycle “Earthly stories with a heavenly meaning: Parables of Christ”, 2014

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Joy and happiness arose in the house of Jacob. Joseph is alive!

[Nikola Saric’s Paintings and own Captions]

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  • Saric’s recent publication “Earthy stories with a heavenly meaning: Parables of Christ”

Windows Into Heaven

Nikola Sarić (born 1985) studied at the TehnoArt School, the Faculty of Applied Arts (art restoration and conservation) and the Academy of Serbian Orthodox Church (fresco painting), all in Belgrade. He focuses on painting, bespoke wall design projects and producing a range of hand-made products under the label Wallsuit.

Saric, a versatile and prolific artist, specialises in sculpting, mosaic, painting, design and calligraphy. Beside working as an independent artist, he holds mosaic courses in Hannover.

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Nurtured in the practice of church art, his artistic expression is deriving from sacred Greco-Roman and oriental art. In his works, through the immediacy and simplicity of visual elements, he is trying to convey the intuition of a “transfigured world” and its everlasting glow, harmony and beauty. His interpretations reflect the personal spiritual experience as well as the tradition that breathes and evolves within the concepts of contemporaries. 

For his decorative arts projects and bespoke wall design projects, go to http://www.wallsuit.de

To watch Saric at work, ‘suiting a wall’, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvzZBmF5nQ&feature=youtu.be

Photos from a recent church exhibition:

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For more information please visit his website nikolasaric.de

Romanian Matrix

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Toma Chituc and Mihai Coman, two iconographers in the Romanian icon renewal.

I. Iconography, a recovered artistic language 

It would have been impossible to imagine a public conversation on icons and their veneration a quarter of a century ago in communist Romania. (…) However, in the last 25 years that have elapsed since the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, changes have been impressive. (…) In the aftermath of the atheist regime, religious life has revived in all its dimensions: art, liturgy, parish life and monastic communities. There are new parish churches, new monasteries, new canonized saints as well as new Christian martyrs of the communist persecution receiving a large popular veneration and waiting to be canonized. In this context, the icon has become a common presence in homes and offices.

Ioan Popa working on his icon of the

The most remarkable aspect of this revival is that the abundant iconographic demand and the high number of skilled iconographers gave rise to a competitive ambiance that led to an obvious advance in the quality of iconography and, subsequently, to a new iconographic movement.

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Our interest focuses on these latter artists who have reached an advanced aptitude of mastering the painting of icons and frescos. Socially, they are also the most visible category, knowing how to promote their creation, how to set up events and integrate their art in the larger cultural and artistic phenomenon. Their personalities are complex: in addition to working in the studio or on the scaffold, they organize symposia, open exhibitions and workshops, invite colleagues from the country and abroad, some of them teach religious art and, generally, they bring iconography to the public attention. One may observe that, over the past five to ten years, the phenomenon has become more alive and has configured a group of iconographers and church painters who are not only talented artists but also curators, theorists and project managers. Furthermore, one of the most significant aspects is that a few artistic values have been gradually assumed by the most valuable iconographers:

1. A thorough education in classical art. ( …)

2. A personal spiritual life. All of them assume, with the Orthodox tradition, that a spiritual dimension is a necessary ingredient to painting an icon. Painting an icon is not a mere artistic activity but a facet of the larger spiritual growth, both personal and part of the community in which the iconographer lives. Painting an icon, therefore, becomes a way of expressing their creativity, a spiritual search in a direct continuity with their ancestral Orthodox legacy and a way of life to which they dedicate themselves entirely. Thus, they strive to understand the icon in a theological manner, as a sacred image, and to address it from a spiritual angle. There are a few cases in which the artists even chose the monastic life; and icon painting became their main obedience in the monastery.

3. They do not imitate but innovate within the canons of tradition. (…)

II. Some iconographers and their work

Gregore Popescu. He is the oldest among the Romanian church painters and has the largest artistic oeuvre.

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Elena Murariu represents the middle generation. She worked as a fresco specialist who restored different mural assemblies of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries and subsequently commenced painting her own icons.

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Elena Murariu, Holy Brancovan (Brâncoveanu) Martyrs

Gabriel Toma Chituc. Also primarily educated as a classical painter, Chituc is an original and gifted iconographer with a special artistic expressivity. In the last decade, he has become a prolific iconographer striving to find the mystery of the authentic icon inspired by the Holy Spirit.

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Ioan Popa. Although he is only 38, Popa has already painted in the fresco technique two churches in Bucharest and Alba Iulia, the church of a monastery in the Apuseni Mountains as well as baptisteries and small chapels in Southern Italy, Cyprus and Mount Athos.

10_Ioan Popa, capela Spital G. Alexandrescu

11_SS Redentore Church, Manfredonia, Italiy,

12_Ioan Popa, ST. GEORGE

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14_Perete sudic, Alba Iulia

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Mihai Coman. He teaches church painting techniques at the Faculty of Theology in Bucharest and studied restoration in Romania. However, in what regards his skills of painting icons and frescos, Coman affirms that he “learned the technique on Mount Athos and understood the icon with the professor and painter Georgios Kordis,” whose doctoral student he is in Greece.

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Deacon Nicolae Bălan. After his studies in iconography at the Faculty of Theology in the Department of monumental art, he attended the Faculty of Fine Arts in order to improve his drawing and composition techniques. Bălan is a gifted draftsman and he painted the metropolitan chapel from Limours (France) and St. Trinity Church in Alba Iulia.

19_Balan Nicolae, biserica memorial¦ Alba Iulia

21_Balan Nicolae, cruce altar

20_Balan Nicolae, detaliu bolt¦ Alba Iulia

To these iconographers should be added many others, all of special talent and abundant production. We will mention here a few of them for a few particular reasons. First, some have composed new iconographic themes, like Răzvan Gâscă with his St. Maximus the Confessor with scenes from his life, painted to mark the presence of the relics of St. Maximus the Confessor to Iaşi in 2010.

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Likewise, Marius Ghinescu for his St. Pachomius at St. Dimitry of Rostov, which represents a moment in the life of Venerable Pachomius of Gledin (1674-1724), a Romanian hermit and bishop who spent his last years at the Pecerska Lavra in Kiev.

23_Marius Ghinescu_Sf Pahomie +Öi Sf Dimitrie al Rostovului

Others should be mentioned for the original manner in which they reconceived certain classical themes, for example Daniela Toma Musat, St. M. George.

24_DANIELA Musat Toma_Sf. Gheorghe

Finally, we should mention some who are talented artist monks able to innovate within the canon, such as Mother Olga, St. Joachim and Anna, Monk Haralambie, The Venerable Founders of Monastery Vatopedi, and Monk Iacob, Mandylion.

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30_Ioan Popa_Iisus Vita de vie

31_Daniel Codrescu_Deisis cu Sf. Brancoveni

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The last example belongs to Sorin Dumitrescu, a talented metaphysical painter of the old generation converted into an inspired and charismatic theoretician of the icon as well as an original iconographer in spite of the smaller number of icons he has realised. While in his early career as an iconographer he filtered Palaeologan tradition in a personal manner, he searches his present sources of inspiration in the times which preceded iconoclastic controversy.

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With this we close our short excursion into contemporary Romanian iconography. The diversity of artists, styles, techniques, media and sources of inspiration unveils a fascinating artistic and spiritual phenomenon. It will be worth seeing in which direction Romanian iconography will evolve in the future.

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Source: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/the-new-romanian-masters-innovative-iconography-in-the-matrix-of-tradition/

Solitary and Naked Before God

... If we decide responsibly and seriously to make the Gospel truth the standard for our human souls, we will have no doubts about how to act in any particular case of our lives: we should renounce everything we have, take up our cross, and follow Him. The only thing Christ leaves us is the path that leads after Him, and the cross which we bear on our shoulders, imitating His bearing of the cross to Golgotha.

[And that is all]

It can be generally affirmed that Christ calls us to imitate Him. That is the exhaustive meaning of all Christian morality. And however differently various peoples in various ages understand the meaning of this imitation, all ascetic teachings in Christianity finally boil down to it. Desert dwellers imitate Christ’s forty-day sojourn in the desert. Fasters fast because He fasted. Following His example, the prayerful pray, virgins observe purity, and so on. It is not by chance that Thomas Kempis entitled his book The Imitation of Christ; it is a universal precept of Christian morality, the common title, as it were, of all Christian asceticism.

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El Greco – Christ Embraced the Cross (detail) (1587-96)

I will not try to characterize here the different directions this imitation has taken, and its occasional deviations, perhaps, from what determines the path of the Son of Man in the Gospel. There are as many different interpretations as there are people, and deviations are inevitable, because the human soul is sick with sin and deathly weakness.

What matters is something else. What matters is that in all these various paths Christ Himself made legitimate this solitary standing of the human soul before God, this rejection of all the rest – that is, of the whole world: father and mother, as the Gospel precisely puts it, and not only the living who are close to us, but also the recently dead – everything, in short. Naked, solitary, freed of everything, the soul sees only His image before it, takes the cross on its shoulders, following His example, and goes after him to accept its own dawnless night of Gethsemane, its own terrible Golgotha, and through it to bear its faith in the Resurrection into the undeclining joy of Easter.

[And that is all]

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Here it indeed seems that everything is exhausted by the words “God and my soul.” All the rest is what He called me to renounce, and so there is nothing else: God – and my soul – and nothing.

No, not quite nothing. The human soul does not stand empty-handed before God. The fullness is this: God – and my soul – and the cross that it takes up. There is also the cross.

[And that is all]

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El Greco — Christ Carrying the Cross (1587-96)

The meaning and significance of the cross are inexhaustible. The cross of Christ is the eternal tree of life, the invincible force, the union of heaven and earth, the instrument of a shameful death. But what is the cross in our path of the imitation of Christ? How should our crosses resemble the one cross of the Son of Man? For even on Golgotha there stood not one but three crosses: the cross of the God-man and the crosses of the two thieves. Are these two crosses not symbols, as it were, of all human crosses, and does it not depend on us which one we choose? For us the way of the cross is unavoidable in any case, we can only choose to freely follow either the way of the blaspheming thief and perish, or the way of the one who called upon Christ and be with Him today in paradise. For a certain length of time, the thief who chose perdition shared the destiny of the Son of Man. He was condemned and nailed to a cross in the same way; he suffered torment in the same way. But that does not mean that his cross was the imitation of Christ’s cross, that his path led him in the footsteps of Christ.

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Detail from the Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece, circa 1512-16

… What is most essential, most determining in the image of the cross is the necessity of freely and voluntarily accepting it and taking it up. Christ freely, voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of the world, and raised them up on the cross, and thereby redeemed them and defeated hell and death. To accept the endeavor and the responsibility voluntarily, to freely crucify your sins – that is the meaning of the cross, when we speak of bearing it on our human paths.  … The free path to Golgotha – that is the true imitation of Christ.

[And that is all]

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Crucifixion, by Titian, circa 1555

This would seem to exhaust all the possibilities of the Christian soul, and thus the formula “God and my soul” indeed embraces the whole world. All the rest that was renounced on the way appears only as a sort of obstacle adding weight to my cross. And heavy as it may be, whatever human sufferings it may place on my shoulders, it is all the same my cross, which determines my personal way to God, my personal following in the footsteps of Christ. My illness, my grief, my loss of dear ones, my relations to people, to my vocation, to my work – these are details of my path, not ends in themselves, but a sort of grindstone on which my soul is sharpened, certain – perhaps sometimes burdensome – exercises for my soul, the particularities of my personal path.

[And that is all]

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If that is so, it certainly settles the question. It can only be endlessly varied, depending on the individual particularities of epochs, cultures, and separate persons. But essentially everything is clear. God and my soul, bearing its cross. In this an enormous spiritual freedom, activity, and responsibility are confirmed. And that is all.

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… There are simply millions of people born into the world, some of whom hear Christ’s call to renounce everything, take up their cross, and follow Him, and, as far as their strength, their faith, their personal endeavor allow, they answer that call. They are saved by it, they meet Christ, as if merging their life with His. …

The cross of Golgotha is the cross of the Son of Man, the crosses of the thieves and our personal crosses are precisely personal, and as an immense forest of these personal crosses we are moving along the paths to the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is all.

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Taking Up The Cross

By St. Maria Skobtsova  

  • The first icon on the left is Cross-bearing Theotokos painted by St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris

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Mother Maria Skobtsova died on Good Friday, 1945, in Ravensbr ck concentration camp near Berlin. Maria’s real life is more incredible than any fiction! The “crime” of this influential painter, poet, social activist, Orthodox nun and Russian refugee was her effort to rescue Jews and others being pursued by the Nazis in her adopted city, Paris, where in 1932 she had founded a house of hospitality. … The essay reprinted here is part of a longer text included in Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and published by Orbis Books.

Source: https://incommunion.org/2007/10/27/taking-up-the-cross/

For her life, look at: https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/09/23/mother-maria-of-paris-saint-of-the-open-door/