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Paper Icons from Mount Athos

Copper engraving of village, castle and boat

Paper Icons from Mount Athos

March 6–June 3, 2001

Curated by Sheila Campbell

Organized jointly with the Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki

University of Toronto Art Centre

This exhibition, a first in North America, presents 47 little-known but historically important paper icons. They come to the Art Centre on loan from the Museum of Byzantine Culture and Civilization in Thessaloniki Greece, and date mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries. Under the Ottoman Turkish rule, Eastern Orthodox monasteries were not financially supported by the Muslim government, and paper icons were a means to raise funds for the monasteries. Today, fewer than three thousand of the original known icons remain.

The first paper icons were created as woodcuts but, as technology developed, metal engravings. The plates were prepared at monasteries such as Mount Sinai or Mount Athos, and then printed by Greeks working in Vienna, Warsaw, Moscow, and Rome. There were three main types: copies of famous icons held by the monasteries, scenes of miracles, and topographical depictions of the monasteries themselves. Images were hung on the walls of middle and lower-class homes in place of more expensive, painted wooden panels. These images, it was hoped, would inspire people to donate to the monasteries or make pilgrimages to visit them.

This exhibition was initiated by the Hellenic Canadian Association of Constantinople (Toronto) with the support of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Consulate General of Greece (Toronto).

Opening Reception

Orthodox Religious Engravings 18th – early 20th centuries
Tuesday March 6, 2001, 5:30-7:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre


The Flowering of Copper Engravings at Mount Athos
Tuesday March 20, 2001, 7pm
Featuring Father Ioustinos Simonopetritis
University of Toronto Art Centre


Methods of Engravings and Painting Paper Icons
Tuesday April 3, 2001, 7pm
Featuring Dr. D. Pavlopoulos
University of Toronto Art Centre


Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support of the Ministry of Culture of Greece, Ministry of External Affairs, Greece (General Secretariat of Hellenes Abroad), and the daughters of Dory Papastratos, Mrs. Marina and Daphne Iliades, the Spyros Basil Vryonis Centre for the Study of Hellenism and Dr. Pavel Sektakoff.

Title Image: Philotheou Monastery, Mount Athos, 1765. Vienna. Copper engraving. 31 x 23 cm.

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