Windows Into Heaven: The Icon Project

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Newly arrived icons are inspected.

Newly arrived icons are inspected.

At the 1999 Annual Parish Meeting, Fr. Stephen proposed that we begin our second 50 years by replacing our present iconostasis with traditional Orthodox iconography. In July 1999, at the All-American Council in Pittsburgh, PA, Fr. Stephan became acquainted with Dmitry Shkolnik, an iconographer who for many years studied under Archimandrite Kiprian (Pyzhov). Father Kiprian, of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, was the principle iconographer of Holy Virgin Cathedral on Geary Blvd., SF. Dmitry gifted Fr. Stephan with an icon of the “Savior Not Made by Hands.” Fr. Stephan brought his icon home with the hope that it would act as a catalyst to set the Icon Project in motion.

Meanwhile, Shkolnik recommended that we meet with his acquaintance, Igor Medvedev, regarding an iconostasis design. Medvedev is a professor at the Institute of Architectural Restoration in Moscow and Chief Architectural Restorer of the Vologda Region of Russia. He is an expert on period furnishings and is connected with the Museum of Decorative Arts. He had been employed by California State Park architects in Sacramento on various Fort Ross restoration projects. Igor spent the month of November in San Anselmo becoming intimately acquainted with the interior space of our temple as well as with the architecture and natural landscape of the surrounding area. Only then did he proceed with his sketches.

Dmitry recruits our local artisans.

Dmitry recruits our local artisans.

Earlier in the year, two anonymous donors commissioned Dmitry to piant Deisis in the apse. Christ Enthroned, the first icon of the project, arrived on December 23. It was installed in the High Place of the altar on the 26th, soon followed by the installation of the icon of the Mother of God on the right hand of the Savior and St. John the Baptist on His left.

At the 2000 Annual Meeting, Medvedev’s sketch of the iconostasis and Shkolnik’s scheme of icons was presented to all the parishioners. A list of the 30 individual icons and their cost was made available. The parish unanimously approved the iconostasis project and many immediately pledged their support towards specific icons.

Work began immediately! The actual preparation of the boards and painting of the icons took place in Moscow and the woodcarving was done at Holy Trinity — St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad, Russia.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve 2001, Fr. Stephan was at San Francisco International Airport with a U-Haul truck to meet the icons when they arrived. Despite a threatened Aeroflot Airlines strike for January 1, 2002, unique customs problems, and difficulties loading the truck, Fr. Stephan was able to bring the shipment safely to its new home at five minutes to midnight. The icons were unpacked on New Year’s Day and remained in the church hall, while a complete renovation of the interior of the temple took place. This work was supervised by the Zaharoff family and dedicated to the memory of Mark Smith, our beloved Parish Council Vice President who had recently fallen asleep in the Lord. By March 2002, the majority of the work on the iconostasis was completed.

The iconographer, Dmitry and the architect, Igor.

The iconographer, Dmitry and the architect, Igor.

Most of the old iconostasis was donated to a mission parish in the Bulgarian Archdiocese of the OCA. The icons of Ss. Constantine and Helen and Ss. Vladimir and Olga, however, were retained and placed on the lower walls of the nave.

Before the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Bright Saturday, May 11, 2002, His Grace the Right Reverend Tikhon, Bishop of San Francisco and the West, blessed the new iconostasis with much holy water and great verve. Later that year a large icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos was installed on the western wall of the nave, just above the entrance. Later, medallion icons of Ss. Joachim and Anna embracing, and the Mother of God and St. Elizabeth embracing, were installed on the north-west and south-west upper walls. The Icon Project still remains a “work in progress.”

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