Byzantine Frescoes Are Leaving Soon, See Them While You Can

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The Menil Collection will soon be saying goodbye to the Byzantine Frescoes. Officials announced last fall that they would be returning the frescoes to their original home, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, in March. The Menil will also be closing the doors to the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, which has been home to the Byzantine Frescoes since opening to the public in 1997.

"The return of the frescoes to Cyprus is just one chapter in their long history," says Menil Director Josef Helfenstein, "We are honored to have been entrusted as stewards of these extraordinary frescoes and to have exhibited them for the people of Houston and the world in a remarkable building."

In 1983, the frescoes were rescued by Dominique de Menil, who agreed to purchase and restore the artwork on behalf of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.The famous artwork, which dates back to the 13th century, has been on long-term loan to The Menil Foundation as part of an agreement made between Dominique de Menil and the church in return for the display of the sacred artwork -- following the restoration, which took nearly three years.

These frescoes are really, really big.

"They're beautiful, they're important in the history of art. They actually are the largest intact frescoes in the Western Hemisphere, and they are displayed not out of context in a museum glass case but actually in a chapel setting -- actually in a consecrated space."

March 4 will be the final day that the Byzantine Frescoes can be seen at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel. In honor of the frescoes' departure, the Menil Foundation will host several special events in celebration of the return of the frescoes to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The special programs will include a musical tribute performed by the St. Paul's Methodist Church on February 12, and a panel discussion, Constructions of Art & Faith: The Byzantine Fresco Chapel and The Menil Collection, will be held on February 19. On March 3 -- the day before the closing of the chapel -- there will be a final liturgy given by Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis of America.

As far as future plans for the chapel, according to Muse, they have some ideas, but nothing is certain.

"We are consulting with many people, including artists, curators, and other colleagues and stakeholders to see what the best possible future of the building [is]," Muse said.

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