In October 2017, Sister Eliseea Papacioc, an internationally-known iconographer and a nun in the Romanian Orthodox Church, is coming to Tennessee. With shows scheduled in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, she will present a number of her icons, speak about her calling as an icon “writer” and discuss the spirituality of praying with icons.
From her home in the village of Bradetu, located in the foothills of central Romania, Sr. Eliseea creates an impressive portfolio of icons, several of which have been exhibited in Moscow, Beijing and New York. Maureen Mullarkey, a New York art critic, observed,
Sister Eliseea eclipses pious sentiment and rises to compelling sacred art. She is not a copyist, not merely replicating older work. Rather, she inhabits the icon tradition infusing historic patterns with a quality of concentrating precision, and refinement distinctly her own. It is said that to write an icon is like standing in prayer. Looking at her work you trust the truth of these words.
For many centuries, icons have played a significant role in the spirituality of Christians in the Eastern Orthodox Church, serving more than as simply religious paintings, but as windows into the divine. In recent years, icons have grown in popularity and spiritual significance for many in the Western Church. According to journalist, Andreea Câmpeanu, “Sr. Eliseea’s iconography has caught the attention of experts and enthusiasts around the world as much for its exquisite detail as for its unique style.”
Sr. Eliseea was raised in a devout Orthodox family, during the mid-twentieth century when the ruling communist regime attempted to crush Christianity and all who practiced the faith in Romania. Both her father and uncle were imprisoned. Her father, an Orthodox priest, did not survive imprisonment and her uncle, an Orthodox bishop, suffered lifelong disabilities. Sr. Eliseea, her mother and brother endured severe ostracism and deprivation during this period of communist oppression. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the rebirth of the Orthodox Church and the spiritual arts, she and other Romanian artists were discovered by the West.
The Smithsonian Institute first brought Sr. Eliseea to the United States to take part in its annual Folklife Festival in 1999. Soon thereafter, she returned to the US and held several exhibits at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC. Daniel Callahan, writing for Faith and Culture, the magazine of the Cultural Center, described her work as “firmly rooted in the ancient icon painting tradition, (but) infused with modern revelations and techniques.” Since then, her patronage has expanded to include not only museums and churches, but also private commissions.
All are invited to attend and learn more about Sr. Eliseea and her icons. Several icons will be for sale and she happily takes commissions for new work.
Sr. Eliseea’s scheduled events in Tennessee are:
• October 1 Nashville, Christ Church Cathedral, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.
• October 3 Chattanooga, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
• October 5 Memphis, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Sr. Eliseea’s tour is arranged by Fr. John Runkle, an Episcopal priest and historical architect living and practicing in Sewanee, TN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.