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Reconstructing the Image

Reconstructing the Image of the Old Altar Screen of the Orthodox Church in ‘Maierii Sibiului’ | 97 could only happen (indulgeri posset) within another of the city’s neighbourhoods”. 12 The conditions for fulfilling the project of building an Orthodox church in Măierime, as mentioned at the beginning of this study, only became favourable after the promulgation of the Imperial Patent and Edict of Religious Tolerance, and then through the installation in Transylvania of Orthodox Bishop Ghedeon Nichitici (1784-1788). Most certainly, it was only the archbishop’s insistence that persuaded the Transylvanian government to favourably resolve in 1787 the demand of the Romanians from Măierimea Sibiului to build an Orthodox church in the “Long Street”, on the land they had acquired in 1782 from the same G. Fronius. It was the same place where, for 20 years, they had prayed in the shelter of the modest chapel. Bishop Ghedeon also had the merit of collecting the necessary money in order to begin the construction of the monument, the church’s foundation stone having been laid in 1787. 13 The construction could not be accomplished immediately due to the unexpected death of Ghedeon on November 20 th , 1788. It was only after the appointment of Gherasim Adamovici as successor (1789-1796) in the Orthodox Bishop’s seat for the Transylvanian Romanians when, using the sum raised by the late archbishop and the money gathered through a new collection, that the building plan could be completed and the new church consecrated in 1791. 14 The circumstances were also mentioned in the votive inscription, as seen on the balustrade of the nave’s trelliswork mast: “In the days of emperor Leopold ii, Emperor of the Romanians, King of Hungary, Bohemia and the Great Principality of Transylvania and others, this church from Măierimea Sibiului, having Holy Apostle Luke as patron saint, was built from the mass and the money of late Master Ghedeon Nichitici, non-Uniate bishop from Transylvania, and with the endeavour of Master Gherasim Adamovich, non-Uniate bishop from Transylvania, in 1791”. The first priest to serve at the altar of the new church, pa- Fig. 7: “Saint Luke” Orthodox Church, Inscription. Credits: Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan. Fig. 8: “Saint Luke” Orthodox Church. Royal doors. Credits: Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan.

98 | Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan Fig. 9: Portrait of Bishop Gherasim Adamovici (1789-1796). (lithography after an anonymous artist). Fig. 10: Bishop Gherasim Adamovici (portrait by an anonymous painter). It belonged to the museum-house from Răşinari that used to be the residence of Serbian Orthodox bishops of the Transylvanian Romanians during the second half of the 18th century. rishioner Ilie Popovici, would soon become the Orthodox archpriest of Sibiu, and the worship place in Măierime would serve for some time as an episcopal cathedral, until this rank was given to the Church in the Pit 15 . Bishop Gherasim Adamovici would prepare his burial site there. The crypt where his earthly remains were deposited after he passed on to the Lord on Palm Sunday in 1796 is located in the church nave, right in front of the royal doors of the iconostasis. The name of the architect who designed St. Luke’s church is no longer known. He could have been Austrian, probably the same as the designer whom the congregation of the Reformed (Protestant) parish in Sibiu hired in 1786 to conceive the plan of the church built on the current Metropolis Street; and the same as the architect whom Hagi Constantin Popp chose when building the Church in the Pit. These three worship buildings of Sibiu demonstrate architectural similarity, in the style of the baroque of Viennese influence, characteristic of Joseph ii’s era. The Orthodox edifice in Maieri is a hall church with a semicircular apse of the sanctuary, non-recessed, with a prismatic bell tower attached to the western side of the building, and finished with a high pyramid helmet. The compartment of the apse was separated from the nave by an iconostasis built up to the limit of the vault. In the plan where the iconostasis of the church unfolds, which divides vertically the flattened vault of the nave in its side from the apse, the centre presents an opening in the form of a wide window describing, the same as the vault, the contour of a flattened arc. The trelliswork mast hanging over the narthex is supported, on the east side, by four robust pylons of masonry, between which flattened arcades extend. Originally, the mural decoration was found on the masonry surface of the altar screen, at least on its side from the nave, and, as already mentioned, on the balustrade of the nave’s trelliswork mast, where figurative compositions can still be seen enclosing the inscription placed in the centre. Other compositions are distributed in a second register, immediately below the first one and above the arcades. The scenes from the trelliswork mast il- lustrate Evangelical episodes of the iconographic Cycle of the Passion and Resurrection of the Saviour, as follows: in the first register, “The Washing of the Feet of the Disciples”, “The Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane”, “The Treason of Judas”, “Jesus at Annas’”, “Jesus at Caiaphas”, and “Jesus before Pilate”. The sequence of images is interrupted by the placement of the inscription and continues with: “The Derision of Christ”, “The Saviour brought in front of Herod”, “Jesus being tortured”, “The Bearing of the Cross”, “The Crucifixion of the Lord”, and “The Descent from the Cross”. The second register is dedicated to Jesus’ appearances after His Resurrection: “The appearance at the Sea of Galilee”, “Supper of Emmaus”, “Jesus on the Road to Emmaus”, “Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene”, “Jesus appearing to the Myrrhbearers in the tomb garden”. The figurative mural decoration that had existed on the altarpiece deteriorated in the course of time, just like the one in the area of the trelliswork mast, over which a layer of plaster and lime was applied at a certain point. Interventions that aimed at the renewal of the mural painting or at the painting of the entire church interior were accomplished in several stages. The oldest documented intervention took place in 1923, at the initiative of parish priest Romulus Bucşa. The original painting of the iconostasis was restored by Sibiu artist Dimitrie Kabadaief (1877-1934). 16 Kabadaief was highly appreciated by Nicolae Bălan, who had commissioned him to teach drawing, first at the Orthodox Normal School and then at the ‘Andreian’ Theological Academy (Academia Teologică Andreiană), all the while encouraging him to approach the field of church painting. One may identify the details of this redecoration due to an image kept in the parish archives: a photograph taken in 1965, when the iconographic compositions were still preserved on the altarpiece of the church on the Long Street, in the manner conceived by Kabadaief four decades earlier. The photograph shows that the original mural painting was restored only in the higher area of the altarpiece, on the tympanum and on the upper register, corresponding to the apostles’ frieze, while on the intermediary register, on the feast icons’ register and on the lower register reserved to the royal icons, the wall was covered in canvas or cardboard-painted images, each iconographic subject having a distinct panel. The iconographic programme began with the representation of the “Holy Trinity”, the circular framed scene occupying the central position on the surface of the tympanum. The unfolding of the apostle frieze from the upper register was interrupted in an area where an arched window was opened in the temple wall. The images of the feasts, executed in the manner of portable icons, occupied an intermediate register on the wall. Three such smaller paintings framed a central panel, painted on a wider surface and dedicated to the representation of the “Last Supper”. As for the subjects of the feast icons, to the extent to which one may still be able to observe them (due to the obstacles that block, within the picture, the image of the altarpiece), they depicted, in the northern flank: “The Nativity”, “The Presentation of the Lord”, “The Baptism of the Lord”; and in the southern flank: “The Transfiguration”, “The Ascension of the Lord” (covered almost entirely by a church banner mounted right in front of the altarpiece), and “The Descent of the Holy Spirit”. Interrupted by the openings of the three iconostasis doors, the lower register contained the series of royal icons painted on large panels: “St. John the Baptist”, “The Mother of God with Child Jesus, among the Archangels”,

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