University Archives and Special Collections announces new exhibition of Russian icons

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The exhibition, Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons from the Robicsek Family Collection of Religious Art, brings together almost three dozen Russian icons dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, during the time of the Romanovs. The pieces were selected from the collection of the Robicsek Family of Charlotte, N.C. Commentary is provided by the North Carolina Museum of History. Windows into Heaven will be open in the University Archives and Special Collections gallery from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, from June 23 through October 18.

When Russia converted to Byzantine Christianity in 988, its churches adopted the ancient tradition of painting icons. Over time, Russians developed a distinctive style of iconography featuring religious scenes in the Byzantine, or Eastern Orthodox, tradition. Eastern Orthodox Christians venerate icons as conduits to God and a focus for their prayers and meditation. Thus, icons become “windows into heaven.” Visitors will recognize many familiar Christian themes in Windows into Heaven. Icons showing the Mother of God, events in the life of Christ, the apostles and saints are featured. Less familiar representations include the Old Testament Trinity, as well as saints important to Russia, such as Cyril and Methodius and Seraphim of Sarov.  Beautiful to behold, icons were often made by monks or nuns. The religious images brought comfort to many in times of sorrow and hardship. The variety of icons presented in Windows into Heaven provides an intimate look at Russia’s complex past.

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