"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Glory of Ukraine

This book, brought together by various persons and institutions, including especially the Kyiv Pechersk National Historical and Cultural Preserve and the Lviv National Museum Named for Andrei Sheptytsky, was published in conjunction with an iconographic exhibition in the United States under the same name. I saw this exhibition, and bought the book, in Manhattan at the Museum of Biblical Art in late July 2010, almost nine years to the day I was in the Kyivan Caves Monastery itself. The exhibition is also touring Washington, DC and then Omaha, Nebraska. 

This book reproduces in handsome full-page color plates the many icons and other religious works of art now on display outside Ukraine for the first time. I remember standing in the Sheptytsky Museum in Lviv in 2001 amazed at the metropolitan’s prescience in preserving so many precious artefacts that he knew would one day again be of interest to religious believers, art historians, and other scholars worldwide. This exhibit and book are proving him right nearly seven decades after his death.

In addition to icons, both the exhibition and this book feature several gospel books on display, numerous hand and pectoral crosses and encolpia, liturgical items (veils, a diskos and asterisk, tabernacle, chalices), and a few vestments, including a striking green highback phelon with silver thread from the eighteenth century. Religious art dominates both the exhibition and the plates in this book, though only part of it is, strictly speaking, iconographic in nature. Much more common, in fact, are eighteenth-century three-dimensional Baroque paintings, including several of the charming if odd “Christ the Vigilant Eye” type.

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