1787. So it was with a feeling of the expectation of disappointment that I entered a small room just off the entrance to their reception hall with a little sign that announced it to be their gift store. A museum may have a gift store, but you don’t expect a religious institution to have one, but the monastery had a steady stream of tourists like myself who were destined to want to purchase some object to commemorate their experience.
1788. I was not mistaken in my anticipation of disappointment. What did I find it that little room? Plastic statuettes of important saints from their list of martyrs with a magnet for your dashboard, gilded plastic Orthodox Crosses on little mahogany bases. A small model of a church with a golden onion dome with a slit in the roof so it could be used as a piggy bank, and numerous icons, hand painted on slabs of plywood.
1789. The icons looked like those lacquer boxes, mostly black, with brightly painted geometric designs that are sold everywhere that an ethnic ‘eastern’ look is sought, along with the ‘babushkas:’ little wooden Grandmothers that nestle one inside the other.
1790. Even though I was so disappointed with such cheap, mechanically painted icons that looked like they had been created on an assembly line down in Mexico, nevertheless it did cross my mind that the icons I had at home perhaps had looked very similar two hundred years ago.