Museum of Dionisy's frescoes
Lots of people travel to Ferapontovo to worship the relics of Saint Martinian and the memory of Saint Ferapont as well as to admire the old architecture and wall painting of the Nativity Cathedral. All the interior walls are covered with invaluable frescoes by the great medieval painter Dionisy and date back to 1502.
All the expositions of the Museum of Dionisy's Frescoes describe the history and culture of the Ferapontov Monastery. They are located in the authentic architectural monuments of XVI-XVII centuries and show the peculiar features of their interior and architectural features.
Dionisy's themes are determined by religious and philosophic ideas of public service and duty and an original interpretation of the role of Russia in the course of history. Confident and elegant drawing, light transparent colours, unique compositional harmony and flowing lines are inherent to Dionisy's art. Images created by Dionisy are imbued with spiritual serenity and represent the forthcoming Kingdom of God.
Dionisy's miraculously preserved wall painting was not known till 1898. The inscription informing of the date of the wall painting and its creators was first cited in I. Brilliantov's book "The St. Ferapont Belozero Presently Abolished Monastery, a Place of Captivity of Patriarch Nikon. Towards the 500th Anniversary of the Monastery. 1398-1898". It is located on the arch of the northern entrance and describes the year (1502) and period (34 days) of the creation of the wall painting by icon painter Dionisy and his sons.
The cathedral's wall painting that numbers almost 300 compositions and characters covers almost all the surface of the walls, vaults, pillars (except for the eastern pillars behind the iconostasis and the altar wall), window and door soffits and the central part of the western wall above the door and the bottom part of the southern wall above the tomb of St. Martinian outside.
Frescoes were painted from top down to bottom by rows. Compositions of each row are united by the same theme. There is Christ in the cupola, archangels and forefathers under him, the Evangelists in the pendentives, saints in medallions on the arches, the Last Judgement on the western wall, warriors-martyrs on the pillars and John the Baptist, the Mother of God with the child and St. Nicholas the Miracle-worker and accompanying scenes on the altar apses. At the bottom running along the perimeter of the walls and pillars there is an ornamental band. The outside painting on the western wall reflects the composition inside the cathedral and tackles the theme of salvation of the human race and the coming Kingdom of God through the Virgin Nativity and Deesis representations. The composition above the tomb of St. Martinian is dedicated to the glorification of the Theotokos, the protectress of the monastery founders, Ferapont and Martinian.
The Ferapontov wall painting that is connected with the monuments of Byzantium of the 14th and early 15th centuries is at the same time the first instance of a unique combination of scenes and themes typical of subsequent Russian ensembles, notably the wall painting of the Moscow Kremlin Dormition Cathedral made in 1513-1515 and renovated in the mid 17th century.
After the World War II, when many Russian cathedrals of the 12th - 15th centuries were destroyed by the fascists, Dionisy's wall painting remained one of few extant fresco ensembles of Old Rus. The area of the cathedral wall painting covers around 600 square metres. Among old Russian monuments these frescoes stand out for their intact condition.