Iconographic Restoration
at St. Vladimir's Church, Trenton, NJ

(Spring/Summer, 1999)

   After forty-five years, the extensive and elaborate iconography executed by Pimen Sofronov in St. Vladimir's Church became darkened from the smoke of candles and incense. Also, with the passage of time, the paint began to deteriorate and flake. How to restore and preserve this treasure of iconography became a worrisome task. It was difficult to find specialists who knew the technique of restoring old icons and frescoes.

   Fortunately, the parish learned of Sergei Gavrish and his wife, Nadezhda, who were doing restoration work in two Orthodox churches in Philadelphia. They were invited to work on the icons in St. Vladimir's.

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After making a study and analysis of Sofronov's iconography, the Gavrishes, who were trained in the science of icon and art restoration at several schools in Russia, agreed to undertake the task. They have been working almost one and a half years on the project.

   The process has required slow and meticulous labor. Parishioners have been amazed to see how much blackness had to be removed, and how much new paint of all colors was needed to renew the damaged iconography. As the renovation project nears completion, the church was taken on a new look and a cleaner appearance.

   St. Vladimir's parish is grateful that God has sent these talented artists who have been beautified our church. Their services should be sought by church in need of iconographic restoration.

   A special service of blessing and thanksgiving is planned for Sunday October 18, 1999. Orthodox people will be invited to see our renewed church and participate in the liturgical services.

Pimen Sofronov

   Mr. Sofronov was born in 1899 in a small village in northwest Russia. At the age of 11, he was taken to a Master Icon painter where he began his apprenticeship. He labored much to learn the details of true icon painting and with his inherited God given talent he quickly grasped the technique of his Master and devoted himself completely to his work as an iconographer.

   Because of the political changes in Russia, Mr. Sofronov moved to the Balkans where he continued his work. He was invited to Yugoslavia where he was commissioned to renovate and restore some of the old paintings in the Serbian Orthodox churches. He also painted frescoes in new churches and remained in Yugoslavia until he was asked to come to western Europe to paint for the Orthodox communities.

   While in France, he was in charge of a school for icon painters. Many well known icongraphers were graduates of his program. Shortly before World War II, he was asked to go to the Vatican where he was commissioned to paint icons and murals for a Byzantine chapel. There he worked for about seven years in and around the Vatican.

   With few trained iconographers available in the United States at that time, Mr. Sofronov was encouraged to emigrate. His first major project was SS Peter and Paul Church in Syracuse, NY. He next was invited in 1954 to work in St. Vladimir's Church in Trenton. For two years he worked day and night, painting first the iconostasis and then all the walls and ceilings. Eventually most of the church was covered with iconography, creating a heavenly atmosphere.

   In addition to Trenton and Syracuse, Mr. Sofronov completed two other parishes: Three Saints Church , Ansonia, Connecticut and Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, NY. He was known to train students in the Philadelphia area and upon his death was buried in southern New Jersey.


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