Cover photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Cover photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

Discover African Christianity in Moscow’s Museum of Russian icons

3 minutes to read

Museum of Russian icons in Moscow consists of a rich collection that includes more than 4000 items of Byzantine and Old Russian art. You can discover the whole spectrum of Russian icons of different times and regions, and the two-tier Greek icon wall. Besides traditional museum halls, there is an Old-Believers chapel, an icon-painting workroom and even an exotic section devoted to African Christianity. It is a private museum in Moscow and free of charge for visitors.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

A mixture of Christian symbols and African native culture

Ethiopia is one of the oldest Orthodox states in history, and it keeps the ancient traditions from the time of Judaism through the images of the Old Testament. The items in the museum reflect this wonderful mixture of Christian symbols and African native bright and expressive culture. You can see vestments, liturgical drum and sistrum, scrolls with texts of protection against evil powers, that were unwrapped over their owner’s body in case of some illness or trouble.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

Bright and emotional Ethiopian icons

Icons appeared only in the 15th century when one of the kings was inspired by Italian culture. Ethiopian icons are unique. They look primitive but very bright, emotional and touching. Together with images of especially revered Ethiopian saints on the icons, you find well-known images of Trinity, Theotokos and St. George killing the dragon.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

Crosses of various shapes, size and types

Ethiopia, more than any other country, reveres the cross as a symbol of spirituality. In the museum, you can see the crosses of various shapes, size and types. Small cross pendants are made of brass and silver in the filigree technique, in the royal workshop of the Ethiopian king. Blessing crosses have long handles for the blessing from the horse saddle. You find not the two identical professional crosses. They were made using the lost wax technique. When a cross was ready, the ceramic form had to be broken.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow
Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow

The icons radiate harmony

Museum of Russian Icons keeps a large collection of Russian icons, which are not only religious images but also masterpieces of the Old Russian art. All the icons radiate harmony, although they have their different specialties: the muted palette of north and bright colors of the Ural, simple images of the 14th century and fine painting of the artists from famous art centres of Palekh and Mstera.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
This is authentic popular art. The modern artist should derive his inspiration from these primitives. Henri Matisse
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

What is behind the iconostasis?

Usually, in the Orthodox church, we see a beautiful iconostasis with few tiers, which separate the sanctuary, that symbolizes God’s world, from the nave, where people stand during the services. In the museum, a Greek gild carved iconostasis is exhibited, and we can see what is behind the iconostasis.

Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina
Photo © credits to Victoria Derzhavina

Secrets of the art

In the icon painter’s workroom, you can learn some secrets of this art. An icon painter has to prepare colours, board and his soul for creating an icon, which is a bridge between the material and spiritual worlds. Every stage of the process is important and has its spiritual meaning. You can join a guided tour or talk to an icon painter, who is present in the workroom every day except on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Photo © credits to livejournal.com/alikhanov
Photo © credits to livejournal.com/alikhanov

In the Museum of Russian icons in Moscow, history, art, culture and religion come together. One can discover and travel through different ages and regions. The unique collection attracts with a wide range of exhibited items: Russian north, Ural, famous Palekh, Greece, Byzantine and African Christianity.


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The author

Victoria Derzhavina

Victoria Derzhavina

I live in Moscow. I am passionate about travelling, history, nature and architecture. I worked as a tourist guide in Moscow and other Russian cities for several years. I get inspiration visiting new places and like sharing it with others.

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