Sacred coexistence


In a low-lit corner of Rockefeller Chapel, 30 photographs hang just to the left of the pulpit in simple black frames. They are images of Macedonian churches, mosques, and monasteries; and colorful, half-deteriorated frescoes showing saints and angels and interlocking flowers.

Titled Time and the Sacred, the exhibition is the work of Macedonian artist and preservationist Pance Velkov, and it offers a glimpse into his country’s religious and cultural heritage. The Republic of Macedonia belongs to a region often mentioned in the Bible, and its collection of sacred frescoes and icons are among the most precious in the world. A part of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia never suffered the religious cleansing—neither ethnic nor communist—endured by its Balkan Peninsula neighbors, so its religious history is uniquely well preserved, albeit isolated and often ignored.

In a statement accompanying the exhibit, Velkov writes, “Mosques, churches, and monasteries have endured side-by-side for centuries in Macedonia—a rare example of coexistence in Europe and in the whole world. The sacred places in Macedonia do not exist by themselves, apart from the people; the people are present there as well, and therefore these sites represent a unique example of living heritage.”

The exhibit runs through December 24.


Photos: top: After the Morning Prayer, The Colored Mosque, Tetovo, 18th century; bottom: Untitled, Church of Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, Treskavec, 13th–15th century.

October 22, 2007