MINNEAPOLIS, MN [MW Diocese Communications] -- For the first time since 1982, the faithful of Saint Mary Cathedral here have undertaken a major renovation of their historic temple.
Built in 1905-1906 and consecrated by Saint Tikhon of Moscow during his tenure as ruling hierarch of the North American Diocese, the cathedral has undergone several restorations over the years. The current project, however, not only addresses major structural issues caused by 100-plus years of "wear and tear," but also involves the installation of traditional Orthodox Christian iconography.
Crumbling, fading and in need of repair, the old murals were removed and the walls repaired. New iconography was applied that gives the interior both an updated and more traditional touch. Work on the iconography began last fall, and the installation is expected to be completed by the last week of February 2012.
"The old iconography was not a bad example of late 19th century Russian work -- very Western," Archpriest Andrew Morbey, dean of the cathedral, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in a feature article dated February 10, 2012. "Up until the modern era, Western art could be characterized as being naturalistic. The painters tried to portray three-dimensions. Traditional Orthodox iconography is the opposite. It’s not three-dimensional. So the difference between westernized art and Orthodox iconography is that westernized art might look like you’re looking into a mirror or looking at the world, whereas this traditional iconography is meant to look beyond the appearances of this world."
Most of the cathedral’s original murals date back to the mid-20th century. During the 1982 restoration, four of the original murals in the massive central cupola depicting "Italianesque" cherubs were replaced by images of Saints Herman of Alaska, Innocent Veniaminov, the Priestmartyr Juvenal, and Peter the Aleut painted by Father John Matusiak, cathedral dean at that time, in a style consistent with the older iconography.
The new iconography is the work of Russian iconographer Dmitry Shkolnik [www.shkolnikstudio.com], who completed much of the detailed work on canvas in his San Francisco studio. The arch above the iconostasis depicts the Icon of Christ "Not Made By Hands" surrounded by angels and saints, while the former image of Christ in the altar ceiling has been replaced by a magnificent mural of the Theotokos of the Sign. Mr. Shkolnik also completed a mural of the Protection of the Mother of God above the interior entrance into the church proper. Additional iconography will be installed in subsequent renovation phases.
"I think it could be a lifetime" of renovation, Father Andrew concluded.
*** The Star-Tribune’s gallery of renovation photos is available here.
*** The cathedral’s gallery of photos tracing renovation progress may be viewed here.