Priceless frescos of Eckstein restored. A church in Lviv has recovered its pearl
The artwork placed on the vault of the main nave of the temple regained its splendor after the second stage of restoration work which lasted four years. The renovation was supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad “Polonika”. The total costs of renovation amounted to almost PLN 2.5 million.
“I am very proud to have the opportunity to thank the Polish-Ukrainian team of specialists led by Dr. Paweł Boliński. Their extraordinary, artistic work allowed us – and the next generations as well – to admire with these excellent frescoes. (…) We are aware that the location at which this ceremony is taking place has witnessed the changing history not only of Lviv, but also of the whole of Ukraine. I am very happy that this temple can once again fulfill its original role and be a place of prayer for the faithful, and at the same time be a source of admiration with its interior. I can assure you that the ministry under my supervision will continue to be involved in the implementation of projects related to the protection of the common Polish-Ukrainian cultural heritage. It is our duty to preserve this legacy for future generations” – wrote the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Culture and National Heritage, prof. Piotr Gliński in a letter that was delivered during the ceremony.
“These endeavors are of immense importance for Polish heritage and historical memory”
The ceremony presenting the restored frescoes was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad “Polonika”, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Lviv, the local government authorities of Lviv, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as the renovators carrying out the works.
During the ceremony, director Elżbieta Rogowska, on behalf of Minister Piotr Gliński, presented the following awards to those participating in the project: the Bronze “Gloria Artis Medal” for dr. Paweł Boliński, the “Decoration of Honor Meritorious for Polish Culture” to conservator Łesia Hanuliak and diplomas of the Minister in recognition of special merits for the preservation of the common cultural heritage: His Excellency Stepan Sus, the curial bishop of the Kiev-Halych Archeparchy UGKC, the former and present parish priest Taras Mychalchuk, and the Polish-Ukrainian conservation team implementing the project.
From the very beginning, the Institute supported the efforts of the Polish-Ukrainian team of conservators working under the direction of Paweł Boliński. Partly because the Eckstein1 paintings are of immense beauty. The scope and nature of the work to be performed was also important, said the director of the POLONIKA Institute, Dorota Janiszewska-Jakubiak. – The painting required intense attention, because its creator painted “in squares”. To speak more plainly, he created the illusion of space – the composition of the picture smoothly flows from the interior walls of the church into the ceiling above. It took a lot of patience to achieve the effect which today we would call 3D. Part of the composition – fortunately minor – had to be recreated literally point by point. During subsequent restoration commissions, in which we monitored the pace and degree of advancement of activities under the roof, I was able to view the work literally at arm’s length. At first, everything appeared gray and dirty, and then suddenly colors and magnificent baroque shapes began to emerge – said director Janiszewska-Jakubiak.
A long and demanding renewal process
For the last few years, the vault of the nave of the church at Teatralna street in Lviv was tightly covered by scaffolding. At a height of 30 meters, in a baroque temple (modeled on the Roman Church of the Gesù2), the Polish-Ukrainian team of Dr. Paweł Boliński from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków conducted their conservation works. After 1945, the Jesuit church (now home to the Greek Catholic garrison church of Saints Peter and Paul) was turned into an enormous warehouse storing several million books. No major renovation had been carried out since World War II. The entire building, as soon as the warehouse was closed and handed over to the faithful, was in a terrible technical condition, filled with moisture, and with a leaky roof.
The renovations, in which specialists from Poland participated from the very beginning, began in 2012 with inventory, research, and creation of conservation programs, so that – through the efforts of the Kon-Federacja Association in Kraków – the beneficiary of the grant awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, with support from the Marshal’s Office of the Małopolska Region, and then from the budget established in 2017 by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, prof. Piotr Gliński of the POLONIKA Institute and the local parish covering the considerable costs associated with the scaffolding – the valuable monument could be preserved for future generations.
In July 2015, the team of Dr. Boliński began to renovate the presbytery – works on the vault covering 360 m2 were financed from the funds of the program of the minister of culture “Protection of cultural heritage abroad”.
Exactly four years ago, the second stage began, financed from the start by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and later also supported by the POLONIKA Institute, established at that time by the Deputy Prime Minister Gliński. From 2019, POLONIKA financed the project of refining and replenishing the Eckstein paintings decorating the nave, with a total area of more than 1000 m2. The total cosst of the second stage amounted to PLN 2,432,000.
Source: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
1 Franz Eckstein (1689-1741) was an Austrian fresco painter of Czech ancestry
2 The mother church of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), located in Rome. The church is considered to be the first to introduce a baroque façade into architecture and served as a model for innumerable Jesuit churches all over the world, including and especially in the Americas.