The Museum of Icons in Frascineto


In Frascineto (Frasnita in the Arbëresh language), a small albanian-speaking village in the area of Mount Pollino, it is possible to visit the Museum of Icons and Byzantine Tradition, a true reserve of artistic treasures, as well as a rather unique institution in Calabria’s cultural landscape. Drawn from a collection of more than 500 objects once owned by the Archimandrite Paolo Lombardo from Rome, some of the items on display are diaconal vestments and priestly robes, modeled after Greek and Russian samples and sewn by the tailor Francesco Ferrari during the ’30s and 40s.

The museum itinerary is organized on three floors: the first floor fulfils the purpose of introducing visitors to the Byzantine world, whereas the second is dedicated to the exhibition of the icons, and the third hosts, among other items, antique bronze icons from Russia, old sacred decorations and ecclesiastic vestments. Also on display, there is a number of precious editions of missals from the 18th-20th centuries.

A rich medal showcase completes the collection: it withholds 280 medals, celebrating civil and religious events (such as centenaries, memorial days, beatifications, canonizations etc.) and coined in the Vatican State or by the Polygraphic Institute. Each medal is complemented by an explanatory label containing information on their origin, history and manufacturing.

Coming from Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, the icons are more than 250 date back up to the 17th century. Grouped by religious theme, some of them are enriched by frames and metal covers called rizas. Some of the icons were painted following the traditional technique (a mixture of eggs and tempera colours), whereas for others a mixed technique was employed (oil and tempera colours). The use of a wide range of materials, from wood and enamel to bronze and cloth, must also be acknowledged.

As its promoters have explained: “the purpose of this institution is not merely exhibitory, but also informative, as it illustrates the function of the arts in relation to cult”. Such function also becomes evident to visitors who decide to follow the itinerary outside the Museum, consisting of the visits to the nearby Church of the Assunta (18th century), the Church of Saint Basil in the hamlet of Ejanina and the Church of Saint Peter (10th-11th/14th centuries).