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Museum of Russian Icons

Museum of Russian Icons

Maria writes...

Recently I posted a tile on the Zentangle Mosaic App with the following story:

Armed only with a small (3 1/2 x5”) sketch book, and the tools of my trade, I approached my mission, wholeheartedly. I was hired to find the real reason for these icons. The mission was vague but also interested me. It all began at the Museum of Russian Icons, in central Massachusetts. The fortresslike armory (?) was intimidating, although very beautiful. It must have been a jail of some sort, at some other century. There were cells (albeit lovingly restored) obviously designed for discomfort, surrounding the galleries of this otherwise serene venue. The images on the walls spoke of harsher, more difficult times, where people and their thoughts were imprisoned by religious “rules”. Even performing the sign of the cross in a way not sanctioned, could force them to be imprisoned for life. These were times unthinkable to us as we live our lives now, worrying about things that might cause us to miss our morning coffee. With these thoughts floating through me, I searched the icons for some sort of pattern to help with my mission. The faces of the paintings seemed to look right through me, sad eyes, with no smiles anywhere. I took notes of seemingly meaningless tangled lines, that jumped out at me, hoping that putting them all together would give me some answers. Then it hit me. All the icons were surrounded by simple patterns hammered into metal backgrounds, created by loving hands, almost in spite of the sadness the images projected. I finally found my reason for being there. How these people got through these difficult times: it was the meditation of the patterns. They were there in every image. They knew. . . They knew.


Rick and I had the great good fortune recently of visiting The Museum of Russian Icons, in Clinton Massachusetts.The substantial collection of art is housed in a group of buildings, including a circa 1850's mill building, courthouse and police station. ​ Lovingly restored and presented, this is one man's private collection of icons he started in the 1980's.  

We took our time, he with his cameras and I with pens, and my journal, ready to capture any and all tangle-like designs we could find. And then some. . .

All pieces were religious in nature, art that lived in people's homes, not just museums. They were shrines for folks to comfort them, even when they could not be in church.

The Museum is really well organized, with special exhibits and lectures, costs are reasonable.   If ever you find yourself in central Massachusetts, it is (my opinion) worth the effort.

And. . . we had a lovely meal afterward at the Clinton Bar and Grill, also worth trying.



Rick Roberts


  • Museum icons are stunning. Wish I had known about it when I was visiting! Envy you the task of collecting “tangles” and those gorgeous boots - amazing tooling and colors plus the soles look comfy!!!

    marlene pechura on

  • Wow, what a cool place! I didn’t know it was there. We have friends who live in Clinton. Thank you for sharing your pictures (and you boots) with us. We are blessed!

    Barbara Burgess on

  • Thank you for sharing the information about this museum. There are so many museums for people to visit it is helpful to hear about your experience first hand. And, love the cowboy boots! :o)

    Maureen Stott on

  • The Russian Icon Museum is a magical place .. just past the Russian tea room is a room perfect for teaching Zentangle – I have had the privilege to run many classes there and hope to again soon …thinking an assignment might be to have students explore and return with an idea for a new pattern … tangle on – Karen

    Karen Keefe on

  • Rumer Godden’s The Kitchen Madonna is a sweet story about the power of love and icons, which you might enjoy. I bet it makes icons rejoice to be looked at the way you look at them!

    Suzy Shedd on

  • Many hours can be lost being drawn into viewing these exquisite forms of art… taking time out to feed our souls and enriching our creative journeys…..wonderful to be able to share your visit…. thank you

    Caroline McNamara on

  • Glorious to spend the time to soak in the exhibits. So often we rush through to get to the next place. Zentangle teaches us so much. Slow down soak it in.

    MartyG on

  • I love imagining you both, and seeing you from the pictures, working your way around the exhibits. Sucking up every pattern you could see. Taking in the art of the past, to turn into art of the present, which will of course one day feed into art of the future. I hope the visit inspires a new Russian-style tangle perhaps!

    Jem Miller on

  • How awesome! Icons have always interested me. They are labors of love. The metal work is amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience with us all!

    Paulette Kirschensteiner on

  • I love the Russian icons. Those and the Byzantine Mosaics as well as the illuminated manuscripts are my favourite art. Beautiful stuff! If I am ever in the area, I will definitely check out that museum. What a wonderful time you must have had!

    Karen Lloyd on

  • What a thrilling experience!! Maria…this can’t be the same little Italian leather journal your sister gave you? I had the privilege of holding this and looking through the beautiful pages of your sketches at Seminar 16, Oct 2014. I heard a rumor that you are returning to 1440 Multiversity in September? I can’t attend this time, as I am going to Ireland!! But, I would love to tell my students about it …Cristy that went with me last year was so impressed, she signed up for CZT seminar in October! Thank you for continuing to inspire us!

    Kim VanZyll CZT 16 on

  • What a great opportunity to capture history from years gone by. BTW, I have those very same boots. LOVE them

    Marsha on

  • Thank you for sharing this interesting and beautiful museum It is inspiring!

    Brenda NIckerson on

  • Wow, that is so cool. I love the pic of you drawing in your fancy cowgirl boots!

    Kim Kohler on

  • Thanks for sharing your deeper insights and observations as you recorded some art in this museum. I think this is one of the main purposes of good art—to invite us to go deeper. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles does that for so many.

    Paula Schneider on

  • As you probably noticed, icons are written (not painted) with the perspective point coming toward the viewer rather than disappearing into the horizon. That is so the viewer is drawn into the scene. Icons are considered windows into heaven, which is why the perspective is the way it is. It sounds like a wonderful space!

    Valerie Hess on

  • Thank you for this amazing share!

    christine maskaly on

  • This museum looks amazing. Stunning art….so inspiring. 😍

    Joanna QUINCEY on

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