Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
Nicholas Roerich
Estate Museum

in Izvara

N. Roerich «Ancient Finnish Churches»
Original in Russian

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We will see the same features in churches of Sweden, Denmark and Pomerania, picturesque Norway, Scotland and Ireland. Painters drew their inspiration from the same sources, similar northern mediaeval legends suggested the interpretation of the plots. In some cases the workers were called to action by the same bishops who arrived from overseas. And still, one group of Finnish churches decorated with murals ranks with other particularly interesting phenomena of this northern country. What is more, the same should be noted in respect of foreign influences in Russian churches. Should we apprehend comparison with Athos, the Caucasus, Byzantium or with the primitive Italy? Certainly not. Local influence and individual understanding of sources is seen everywhere: in early murals of Novgorod, Pskov and Old Ladoga churches as reconsideration of Byzantium, in Moscow and Jaroslavl as a remote belated reflection of Italian primitivists. And while looking for the origins of the church murals, it's impossible to conceive that such research could reduce the importance, and what is more, the charm of our monuments. If it is proved that the churches in Vladimir and in Nerly were built not by the Russians but by the Alani, will it make them less interesting? Succession existed everywhere in all the times. What is beautiful, interesting and curious will remain so in spite of anything. And this principle of art should be kept with all our might. Only biased eyes can fail to notice the obvious for the sake of something observed earlier. By this I object to the argument that churches in Finland are wholly Swedish and not Finnish, lacking originality. How different the judgments are!

Undoubtedly, the murals of Finnish churches have their particularities. There is a mark of the North, the mark of an earlier Christianity on the churches in western Finland. It is necessary to pay attention to them as they are in danger. Most of such churches are now in possession of modest country parishes. And the attitude to the beauty of the old is quite different there, especially so to the Catholic beauty. A great many deal of ministers regard church murals as a needless luxury. As a monuments of a perceptible outlandish (Swedish) influence, the oldest churches can not actually be close to the significant part of the population. Most part of the murals have not yet been uncovered from under the heavy Protestant plaster coatings. I happened to see the white walls, reddish and dark patches of which obscurely hinted on the covered paintings. With the abundance of old churches in the western part of Finland, one can expect the discovery of whole new pages of the northern décor.

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Museum Address: 188414, Izvara Village, Volosovo District, Leningrad Region, Russia.
Phones: +7-813-73-73-273 (group tours); Phone/Fax +7-813-73-73-298 (general)
Museum Director: Cherkasova Olga Anatolievna