Opening of the exhibition Pilgrim Treasures.
From 1 October 2005 onwards the Hermitage • Amsterdam will present a very unusual part of the large collection of the Hermitage in St Petersburg. The fourth exhibition in the Hermitage will show almost 200 unique works of art taken by pilgrims from the Holy Land. Unusual and very rare reliquaries, exquisitely carved wooden crosses, unique icons and spectacular scenes carved in mother-of-pearl. They illustrate the orthodox tradition of pilgrimages to the Holy Land, from the 4th century to the early 20th century.
For eleven centuries, from the end of the 4th century AD to 1453, The Byzantine empire was the centre of the world and also a bridge between East and West. The empire absorbed the best of other and earlier cultures, which resulted in a unique and unparalleled culture. The great catalyst behind all this was Christianity. The Roman emperor Constantine was an important figure in its development. From 313 AD onwards, in his empire Christians were free to practise their religion, and in 330 he made Constantinople the new capital of the Roman empire, also known as Nova Roma. Around the same time his mother Helena discovered the True Cross on which Jesus Christ had died on Mount Golgotha. She was regarded as the first pilgrim to Jerusalem.
For the first time this exhibition shows the special objects which evolved due to the rise of pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the late 4th century. Pilgrims were drawn by the actual places where Jesus, the Virgin and the apostles had lived. The deep impression made by their experiences in the Holy Land also led to a need to take mementoes back home - large and prestigious gifts, but also small items for private use. The Russian Orthodox Czars were also ardent collectors of pilgrims treasures.
The rich culture of Byzantium mingled with the Arab cultures in the Holy Land, resulting in an entirely unique sort of art. For this exhibition the Hermitage in St Petersburg is lending its rarest reliquaries and icons to the Hermitage • Amsterdam, including relics with fragments of the True Cross and personal gifts to the Czars.
The author of the exhibitions concept and its curator is Yu. A.
Pyatnitsky, senior researcher in the Oriental Department of the State
Hermitage and curator of the collection of Byzantine icons. He also has
had general editorial responsibility for the scholarly catalogue of the
exhibition, which has articles by V.N. Zalesskaya as well as Yu. A. Pyatnitsky
(State Hermitage) and Vincent Boule (Hermitage • Amsterdam Exhibition Complex).