After the closure of Kirill-Belozersky monastery in 1924, a museum was founded on its territory. The core of its collection is a collection of icons numbering almost fifteen hundred and fifty icons from the 15th – early 20th centuries originating from the Kirillo-Belozersky, Ferapontov, and Goritsky monasteries, the Nilo-Sorskaya Hermitage, and from parish churches in various districts of the Vologda region.
Around 1397, the monk Cyril of Simon’s Monastery founded the Monastery of the Assumption in the Belozersk lands. The beginning of the monastery’s collection of iconography is also associated with his name. According to the Vita, St. Cyril brought the icon of Our Lady Hodegetria to Beloozero, which was in his cell in the Simonov Monastery.
High iconostases, which appeared at the turn of the XIV-XV centuries in the main temples of the Moscow principality, by the end of the XV century existed in the cathedrals of the most revered monasteries on the periphery of Moscow Russia. Among the latter is an outstanding monument of ancient Russian iconography – the iconostasis of the Assumption Cathedral of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. It is the only pictorial ensemble that has survived almost entirely to this day. It originally numbered about 60 icons.
Icons of the Cyril iconostasis differ considerably in their artistic methods: some are painted in a light color scheme, others have a twilight coloring, some are based on a contrasting juxtaposition of bright spots, while others are restrained and harmonious.
Twenty kilometers from Kirillov Monastery, in a picturesque corner of Belozero, on a high hill rises the walls of Therapontov Monastery. In 1490, the first stone church was erected here, consecrated in the name of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. It is world-famous for the splendidly preserved murals by the great Dionysius. In the iconostasis, along with works by Dionysius, there were icons preserved, perhaps, from the previous iconostasis. These include the Deesis image of the Apostle Andrew and the two-figure prophetic icons.
The museum’s collection includes many works of ancient Russian painting originating from small parish churches of Belozero. Among them is the iconostasis of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe and Belt of the Mother of God in Blachernae in the village of Borodava, the fiefdom of the Ferapontov Monastery, which is one of the oldest surviving wooden churches.
The icons of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael and the icon of Our Lady of Solace come from the temples of another monastery in Belozero – the Nikolo-Sorskaya Hermitage.
The works of Old Russian painting published in this publication confirm our ideas about the role played by the monasteries of Belozero. The icons that made up the decoration of the northern temples met the highest spiritual quest of the Russian Middle Ages.
Icons of the Kirillo-Belozersky Museum-Reserve, Petrova V. V.
Moscow, 2008 – 336 pp. Hardcover. Format 210×270. Coated paper
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