Frescoes from St. Theophanes the Greek being re-assembled from 260,000 fragments in Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod, March 29, 2019

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2,300 trays with hundreds of thousands of broken fragments of wall paintings from the Church of the Transfiguration on Ilyin in Veliky Novgorod are currently being stored in the Novgorod Museum.

And now researchers are planning to restore the frescoes.

“It’s an unthinkable number—almost 260,000 fragments. And all of it is Theophanes the Greek!” the head of the Center for the Restoration of Monumental Paintings, Tamara Anisimova commented on the project to RIA-Novosti.

The frescoes of St. Theophanes the Greek from the Church of the Transfiguration were considered lost until the 1970s, when the Soviet historian and archaeologist Mikhail Karger, having begun excavations in the altar, found the ancient 14th-century floor under a thick layer of sand, poured in the 17th century to level the floor. He discovered that pieces of the frescoes, knocked down from the walls during a medieval restoration were used as filling.

Christ the Pantocrator from the dome of the church. Photo: Christ the Pantocrator from the dome of the church. Photo:     

St. Theophanes is considered one of the greatest iconographers in Russian Church history. He lived in the 14th century and is also noted as the teacher of the great St. Andrei Rublev. His works survive only in the Church of the Savior in Veliky Novgorod.

The majority of the pieces of the church’s frescoes remain buried under the floor, used as filling, in the central part of the church, still be extracted by the experts.

Thanks to new technologies, it was possible not only to disassemble and classify the fragments, but also to work on recreating the famous fresco. All of the fragments discovered have been scanned and are assembled into a picture by a computer program. It remains then for the experts to glue the pieces together, consulting with the program.

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