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17 March – 20 August 2023

 Exhibition Hall of the Patriarch’s Palace, Exhibition Hall of the Assumption Belfry

Organized by
The Moscow Kremlin Museums
Participants:

The Moscow Kremlin Museums, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the State Hermitage, the Mikhail Abramov Museum of the Russian Icon

 

Icon ‘The Archangel Michael and the Deeds of the Angels’In the end of the 10th century, Russia discovered its new faith, which gave the Eastern Slavs writing, stone masonry, the world of fine art and literary wisdom. The Russian lands owe their decisive break with paganism to Saint Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, who received baptism along with his retinue in the Byzantine city of Chersonese (Crimea) in 988. From the very beginning, the Christian faith was inextricably bound to the spiritual witness of warrior-martyrs and pious monarchs. Embracing Christianity, the people of Russia began to embrace a new kind of history, new imagery, and new names, including the names of the glorified pan-Christian warrior-martyrs: Saints George and Demetrius, Theodore Stratelates and Theodore Tyrone, Mercury and Mina, Andrew Stratelates and Nicetas the Expeller, John the Warrior and Varus. The figure of Archangel Michael, the archistrategos (or ‘supreme commander’) of the heavenly host, was surrounded by particular veneration.

The host of early Christian warrior-martyrs was soon joined by uniquely Russian warrior-saints: princes who attained sanctity either through their martyrdom (such as Boris and Gleb, the sons of Saint Vladimir, the Baptizer of Russia, Grand Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich of Vladimir, who gave his life fighting the Mongol invasion, and Prince Mikhail of Chernigov, who was martyred in the Golden Horde) or through their pious reign and defense of Orthodox Christendom (such as the renowned Grand Princes Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoy).

In the end, the heavenly host proved to be a steadfast presence in Russian spiritual life and culture. Infants, at their baptism, would often be given the names and brought under the patronage of the Archangel Michael, the early Christian warrior martyrs, the canonized princes of Russia. The intervention and prayer of Saint Michael and the warrior saints would be sought in times of war and turmoil; parish churches and majestic cathedrals would be built and dedicated in their honour. Russian art is unimaginable without the presence of the holy warriors of Christ: their images found their incarnation in icons and frescoes, in carvings ranging from precious pectoral pendants to grand-standing church sculptures, wrought of wood and stone, on weaponry forged by the arms of the smiths and in embroidery, stitched by the fair hands of maidens.

The exhibition unfolds the 1000-year old history of warrior saints in Russian art, from the pre-Mongol period to the 20th century, bringing together over one hundred and thirty masterpieces of iconography, sculpture, secular painting, numismatics, phaleristics, arms and armor, jewellery.

The exposition in the One-pillar Chamber of the Patriarch's Palace includes seven thematic sections dedicated to the Archangel Michael, to the most venerated warrior-martyrs - Saints George, Demetrius of Thessaloniki and Theodore Stratelates, and to the traditions of piety and sanctity found among Russian princes. The exhibition continues in the Assumption Belfry, where it examines various motifs, pertaining to the intercession and appeal to the Heavenly Host and the warrior-saints in the court ceremonial and state symbolism of the Moscow Tsardom and the Russian Empire; thus, the second part of the exhibition brings together weaponry, orders and awards, ceremonial items from the coronation of the last Tsar – Nicholas II, icons of warrior-saints created in the 17th-19th centuries, banners of the Russian Tsars – preserved in watercolour sketches. The exhibition ends with artwork the Soviet period, including Pavel Korin’s sketches to his monumental triptychs and mosaics, dedicated to Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoy. These works clearly demonstrate that in all periods of Russian history, down to our day, the imagery and feats of the warrior-saints remain intact as timeless, immortal symbols providing solace, inspiration and hope.

This exhibition is one of the largest in the history of Russian museums, a project that brings together both well-known masterpieces and rarely seen artifacts, as well as several works of art that will be shown to the public for the very first time. The unique exhibits include the icon of the Archangel Michael (c. 1400) from the Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin; a pair of gonfalons with the images of the archangels dating back to the 12th-13th centuries – the oldest surviving works of Medieval Russian embroidery; unique examples of Russian church sculpture of the 14th-17th centuries; various depictions of the Great Martyr and Victory-bearer George, including one of the two oldest pre-Mongolian icons, now kept in the Moscow Kremlin's Dormition Cathedral. A carved image of St George and the Dragon, made by a European master and kept in the Dormition Cathedral since the 17th century will be put on display for the first time in its history.


The Moscow Kremlin Museums have launched a theme-based satellite site heavenlyhost.kreml.ru


EXHIBITION HALLS

Exhibition halls

 
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