The louvre

The Louvre to present the art of Byzantium and Eastern Christianity

Laurence des Cars, president of the Louvre in Paris, announced that the world-renowned museum will open its “Department of Byzantine and Oriental Christian Art” in 2024-2025.

She called it an “ambitious, long-awaited and necessary project” during a speech at a February 1 ceremony at the Élysée Palace in honor of a Catholic priest who oversees an organization that helps Christians. in the Middle-East.

Msgr. Pascal Gollnisch, director of the Œuvre d’Orient, was decorated with the Order of the Legion of Honor by President Emmanuel Macron.

Des Cars made a strong commitment to moving forward with compiling the Louvre’s new department on Eastern Christianity last May when she was named the first female director in the museum’s nearly 230-year history.

The 55-year-old curator and art historian has thus relaunched a project launched by a previous director, Henri Loyrette, ten years earlier.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who succeeded Loyrette in 2014, boosted the project upon his appointment.

But this time things really seem to be on the verge of coming to fruition. This new department within the Louvre – its ninth – “will welcome its first visitors by 2024-2025,” des Cars said.

12,000 pieces

She explained that the new department of artistic treasures from Byzantium and Eastern Christianity will bring together “12,000 pieces currently dispersed in seven departments of the Louvre”.

Among them are masterpieces such as the vase of Emesa, the ivory of Barberini, the remains of the Coptic church of Baouit and the lapis lazuli icon from the treasury of Saint-Denis.

This collection “is one of the most remarkable in the world and spans from the emergence of the first Christian images until the beginning of the 19th century,” des Cars said.

She noted that “major international museums in New York (the Metropolitan), Washington, Berlin, London and Athens are already devoting space” to these Eastern Christian arts.

The president of the Louvre indicated that the new department will be “located at the junction of the rooms of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities and Islamic arts, in the Denon wing”.

She added that “a prefiguration director of the project and a scientific council will soon be appointed”.

A heritage and political gesture

The project is to help visitors see and better understand the fantastic heritage of Eastern Christians.

But it also wants to be the testimony of centuries of cohabitation of these peoples in countries converted to Islam, where they are sometimes persecuted today.

It is a political gesture, therefore, that President Macron wanted to include in his report, within the framework of “France’s actions in favor of Eastern Christians”, which he took care to recall on February 1 at the Elysée Palace.