Artist Alexey Chernigin
oil on canvas, 100x150cm 2021
I have been working on this topic for a long time. At first, it was just a gesture – a hand closing its eyes from something that was impossible to look at, unbearable, scary. I thought about the war, approaching inexorably and inevitably, about the war that goes on constantly, smoldering like a fire covered with sand.
Then, almost one after the other, two events that shocked me happened. In 2018, in the small Karelian town of Kondopoga, the unique wooden Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin burned down. And less than a year later, in 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral, the majestic Notre Dame, burned down in Paris. Both temples are dedicated to the Mother of God. The Assumption Church burned down 18 days before the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, and Notre Dame Cathedral 5 days before Catholic Easter. Two terrible fires, two tragedies, but how different they sounded.
The Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God was located on the site of the former village of Kondopoga, which gave its name to the city of the same name. The temple was built in 1774 on a small cape of Lake Onega. It was one of the most beautiful wooden churches of the Russian North, a national masterpiece, famous and textbook. A real symbol of the outgoing Rus’. The church burned down in a couple of hours, they could not save it. In the evening they showed it on the news. And all…
The Church of the Assumption in Kondopoga is a textbook monument, glorified, extremely valuable and, until August 10, 2018, extremely well-preserved. With beautiful paintings of the sky, with an iconostasis in the interior. It was a national masterpiece, it was not just one of the symbols of Russian wooden architecture, but a symbol of Russia. Real Russia.
The death of a shrine of such importance and such artistic quality cannot be an accident. The temple in Kondopoga, by the way, successfully survived the Patriotic, World War I, Finnish, Great Patriotic Wars, all our revolutions and perestroika. And in our peacetime, he suddenly took it and burned down.
Notre Dame burned live on all television channels, in front of millions of viewers. There was a feeling that not only the whole of Paris, but the whole world froze in some kind of stupor, cold horror from the improbability of the catastrophe that was taking place. The huge, majestic cathedral burned for a long time, as if in slow motion, breaking up into thousands and thousands of frames of photos and videos.
Awareness of the tragedy began to come later. At first they remembered that the fire started on the first day of Holy Week. Then – that the day before the sculptures of the apostles were removed for restoration. But most importantly, a painful and bitter feeling gradually emerged that the death of the cathedral was not accidental. Over the past eight and a half centuries of wars, revolutions and epidemics, it could burn down dozens of times.
Orthodox preacher Archpriest Andrei Tkachev commented on the tragedy in Paris in this way: “There is a terrible pattern and even inexorability in this conflagration, for all its unexpectedness. No matter how it plays the role of the funeral pyre of Europe, which is suddenly and forever taken away from what she herself has ceased to appreciate and internally has long lost.
Indeed, if there is no more God in people, then the temples built in His honor are not needed either. If temples become only architectural monuments and are associated by the majority only with history and culture, then they simply die.