The Armenian Cathedral and Its Creators

The Armenian Cathedral and Its Creators

About exhibition

Gallery opening hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 10.00 a.m.–6.00 p.m.
Ticket prices: free entrance
The Armenian Cathedral and Its Creators
November 26, 2015 – January 31, 2016

The exhibition presents Jan Henryk Rosen’s masterpiece – the wall paintings in the Armenian cathedral in Lviv. This eminent example of religious paintings from the interbellum period has never been presented to a large audience before. The artist brings together the elements of modernism and Byzantine art and, by the unique iconographic programme, helps to learn the exceptional character of the Armenian rite, largely unknown in Poland.

The exhibition, apart from Rosen’s work and the problems with its conservation, shows the works which Franciszek Mączyński i Józef Mehoffer created for the cathedral.

The Armenian cathedral under the invocation of the Assumption of the Virgin in Lviv is the sole example of architecture with oriental features in Central Europe and the history of its subsequent alterations and redevelopments reflect the changes which were taking place in the Armenian commune of Lviv. Currently the church is a complex consisting of three parts, each of which was created in a different style period.

The paintings were made in two stages: the first one – the decorations of the nave – took place in 1925–1927 (larger scenes are signed and dated), although it is difficult to find any proof of painting some specific depictions after 1925. The second stage (1928–1929) concerned the presbytery: the apse and walls closing both arms of the transept. The paintings cover the walls of the church almost entirely, both in its nave and in the presbytery.

In 1950 the soviet authorities gave the cathedral over to the National Museum in Lviv to serve as a warehouse and the cathedral performed this function till 2002. Finally on 18th May 2003, the shrine, once transferred to the Armenian Apostolic Church, was re-consecrated. The existence of a warehouse in the cathedral for several dozen years took its toll both on the building’s condition and on the interior.

In 2008, the Heritage Academy Alumni Association began to organise interventional conservation and renovation works of the wall polychromies painted by Jan Henryk Rosen. All these actions, up to now, have been carried out with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in close co-operation with the Management for the Historic Environmental Protection of Lviv Municipality.

Till 2015, thanks to the intensive efforts of many people and institutions, a full spectrum of conservation and renovation works have been completed on the majority of the polychromies of the nave. For organisational and formal reasons, the work on the pilasters in the nave has not yet begun. At the time of writing – in 2015 – the work is still in progress and there are hopes that in the future all the painting decorations will have undergone the necessary conservation.

The team of contractors involved on the works carried out by the Heritage Academy Alumni Asociation in the Armenian church in Lviv: Paweł Baranowski, Joanna Czernichowska, Inna Dmytruk-Sorochtej, Rusłana Herman, Wojciech Holnicki, Agnieszka Kalbarczyk, Karolina Lizak, Włodzimierz Mokryj, Sylwia Pawełkowicz, Agnieszka Pawlak, Andrej Poczekwa, Magdalena Szymczyk.

Jan Henryk Rosen (1891–1982) grew up and was educated in Paris and Lausanne, but his formal artistic education was never completed: he learned to draw and paint in his father’s workshop. For some time he served as a secretary to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, accompanying him during the negotiations in the Nations League in Geneva, which were decisive for the final shape of the Polish state, just about to be reborn at that time. For one year (1922–1923) he worked as an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw, yet he gave up this post to take up painting. In the first half of the 1920-s, he created small-sized paintings with religious subjects, inspired by medieval art and the lives of saints (especially with The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine). These were paintings which amazed critics and art lovers, including archbishop Józef Teodorowicz, who proposed that Rosen make monumental paintings in the Armenian cathedral. This oeuvre opened for him the path to a career as a church painter, and also guaranteed him the nomination to the post of professor at Lviv Polytechnic (1930–1934).

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