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Revered icon just handed to Russian Church by Putin remains state property – minister

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By Lucy Papachristou

(Reuters) – A revered religious painting that has just been transferred on President Vladimir Putin’s orders from a museum to the Russian Orthodox Church needs a year of restoration and remains state property, the culture minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Putin, who has found a willing ally in the Church for his vision of a conservative national identity, three weeks ago said through his spokesman that the “Trinity” icon was being transferred because “hiding it in a museum” did not fulfil the desire of believers.

Icons are stylised, often gilded paintings considered sacred in Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Andrei Rublyov’s 15th-century work, perhaps the most famous and artistically significant Russian icon, has been displayed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour since Sunday, and was due to stay for a year before moving to a monastery.

Cultural experts protested, saying the icon, painted on wood, was so fragile that it needed the temperature and humidity controls of a museum such as Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, where it had hung for almost a century.

“The icon will be sent for restoration to the Grabar Centre, a unique space where our country’s best resources are gathered,” Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova told the newspaper Izvestia. “This work could take up to a year, experts now say.”

She said a scientific council would monitor the icon, which would then be transferred as planned to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the Church’s spiritual centre outside Moscow, under the care of both the Lavra Museum and her ministry.

“The ‘Trinity’ remains in the state collection. The church agrees with this,” Lyubimova said, warning that the restoration work could also take longer.

(Reporting by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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