The history of the Byzantine studio begins with the attic of the mansion. When we just started working there, we would have tea in between exhausting renovation shifts, sitting with our legs dangling in the dormer windows overlooking Chistoprudniy Boulevard, and, as it turned out later, our story would take an interesting turn…
One day, when we were making the attic habitable in winter – the Byzantine studio is located right under it – we came across a strange bundle barely seen under the dust. We didn’t believe our eyes when we picked it up and unrolled it. This moment felt more like a new adventure of Indiana Jones rather than an event that took place in a small 19th-century mansion in the centre of Moscow.
The scroll depicted some scenes with text in Old Church Slavonic. Having examined it in detail, we were sure that this was a joke, made perhaps by former residents of the mansion or some hippie-artist, a hoax or a funny trick. But the story was just beginning…
After a while we made another amazing discovery. Removing old plaster from the walls, one of our workers found a real treasure beneath it: a Byzantine mosaic.
Having gently cleaned the mosaic from the pieces of plaster, we couldn’t believe our eyes – these were exactly the same scenes found in the scroll found in the dusty attic.
The mosaic was partially damaged so we had to restore it in some places. However, the reason why someone decided to cover such a beauty with plaster still remained a mystery to us.
The decoding of what was written in Old Church Slavonic on the mosaic aroused our interest.. And this is what we got:
“This island blooms with a variety of trees, mountains covered with forest. You can meet any tree and lots of berries at the expanse of land. There are a lot of lakes in the middle of the island, and in them there is a variety of freshwater fish. If you are fishing in the sea around the island, there are saltwater fish as well. They say the island is a hundred miles or more in circumference. It is separated from mainland by two days of swimming.”
Obviously, the mosaic we found was telling us about a certain island, some sort of idyllic pastoral surrounded by nature where children climb trees, adults grow grapes and make wine from it, the shepherds play the flute in a way that animals can not get enough of and fishermen can transform their cars into a boat to embark on the waves for fishing… by the way, the car that transformed into a boat was the only detail in the image which gave us reason to believe that this is a hoax and that someone might have hidden it here on purpose. The only question is why?
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