The Byzantine Fresco Chapel, completed and open to the public since 1997, is a consecrated space of peace and contemplation that offers the public access to the largest intact Byzantine frescoes in the Western Hemisphere. These extraordinary works of art were rescued in 1984 by the Menil Foundation, which purchased them on behalf of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the rightful owners of the works. In gratitude for these actions, the Church and the Menil Foundation entered into a long-term loan agreement which included a stipulation that the frescoes be restored to their original spiritual purpose. Under the visionary leadership of Dominique de Menil, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel was commissioned for this purpose—to exhibit the frescoes and return them to their original purpose as objects of artistic and sacred importance. The Menil’s stewardship of these works continues until the expiration of the loan agreement in February 2012, after which time the frescoes will be returned to Cyprus.
Located at the southeast corner of the Menil Collection campus, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel offers visitors a range of uncommon experiences. The Chapel is a liturgical site for the Orthodox Church, a place of spiritual refuge and contemplation for the general public, and also offers scholars and museum visitors unparalleled access to these extraordinary frescoes. The award-winning structure, designed by Francois de Menil, also serves to make visitors aware of the divided state of Cyprus and the ongoing cultural preservation challenges resulting from this division.
Along with the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, the Menil campus comprises the Menil Collection museum, the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, and the Rothko Chapel, all of which were built on the principle that art and faith are central to a shared human experience and are powerful forces in contemporary society, capable of fostering a greater understanding between world cultures.