Temporary exhibition 2024

Exhibition of Ukrainian domestic icons

September 3-October 31, 2023

Exhibition of Ukrainian domestic icons and photographs of Ukrainian monuments destroyed by warfare
presented as part of the Festival of Cultures “Window to the World – Ukraine”.

Curator: Anna Kempa-Gąsior

Exhibition prepared by the Silesian Culture Centre – presenting a collection of icons from the Museum of Ukrainian Domestic Icons, part of the Radomysl Castle Historical and Cultural Complex (Zhytomyr Region, Ukraine), which is a unique private collection assembled by Dr Olga Bohomolec over nearly 16 years.

The term icon finds its roots in Greek (eikon), where it originally meant a representation, an image. With the adoption of this term by the Byzantines, the icon has become a sacred image ever since. The position of the icon in theological discussion was established in 843 by the Seventh Ecumenical Council, at which the Church’s teaching on the nature and cult of the icon was clarified, and to commemorate this day the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

The collection of icons presented here, are domestic icons, intended for private worship. An icon accompanies a person from the cradle to the grave. During weddings, the spouses are blessed with an icon, a newborn child receives an icon with a patron saint. When someone sets off on a journey, they always take an icon with them to guard them on the way. Icons are a real treasure and sanctify everyday activities. In homes, they are hung in a corner called a beautiful corner. A Christian is obliged to light a candle in front of them, burn incense and worship them. The reason for this is that an icon is not a mere representation of a holy figure, but a vehicle for its presence, a revelation of that holiness on earth. It is a visual prophecy of the new earth and the new heaven, as it represents things to come. The figures depicted in icons are figures transformed by the fact of Christ’s Resurrection. The icon shows a body permeated by light. The body depicted in the icon is a shining body, not subject to death. It is inconceivable that an iconographer could freely depict holy images. Their authenticity depends on their resemblance to the original, which is described in detail in the painting manuals used by iconographers. Every posture, every movement of the hand, every colour of the clothing, every building or arrangement of the folds has a specific meaning in the icons that must be taken into account. In addition, all the elements of which an icon is composed have a specific religious significance and make it an object of veneration.

An icon can be successfully compared to a window through which we can view another reality. In a word, an icon is a ‘window with a view of God’, and its function is to take the person contemplating the icon into another, sacred dimension.

Alongside the exhibition of domestic icons, a photographic exhibition showing the effects of warfare in the context of the destruction of Ukrainian cultural monuments is on display.

On the territory of Ukraine before the war, there were more than 5,000 museums, 65 historical-cultural reserves and approximately 170,000 monuments, including seven UNESCO World Heritage sites (one of which is located in Crimea). As a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine, since 24 February 2022, 553 cultural heritage sites and cultural institutions of Ukraine have been damaged and destroyed. The targets of Russian attacks in Ukraine include cultural heritage – monuments, museums, shrines, temples of various faiths, historic houses and streets. Many of the destroyed objects and their furnishings are of a historic and unique nature. Faced with the onset of warfare, museums, galleries and reserves independently decided on the necessity of securing the most valuable exhibits. Some of the collections, under the guise of guest exhibitions, were taken to Western Ukraine before the Russian invasion. Since the beginning of the war, social organisations, volunteers, Ukrainian institutions, crisis centres or private entrepreneurs have taken many initiatives to protect monuments, they have been actively involved in preserving immovable monuments in various cities, covering them with sandbags, boards or wrapping them in plastic or protective nets. All the initiatives and efforts undertaken had one goal – to save Ukrainian culture, heritage and identity.

Task co-financed from the budget of the
Silesian Voivodeship budget.


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