The shared vision of the Menil Foundation and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus included a commitment to seeing the Byzantine frescoes’ original spiritual purpose restored. The Menil Foundation proposed to the Church plans for the construction of a consecrated chapel in Houston to house the frescoes. His Beatitude, Archbishop Chrysostomos I, gave final approval of the architectural plans before construction began in 1994. Because the frescoes had entered a new context—their history forever altered by looters—both the Foundation and Archbishop felt a simple recreation of the chapel in Lysi would not convey the complex history of events that brought these sacred artworks to Houston. An architectural solution was needed that would draw upon the traditions and forms of the past that had informed the frescoes’ original context and also provide a protective and safe environment, recognizing the delicate state of the frescoes and their relic status.
As discussions took place as to what would befit the sacred and poetic nature of the frescoes, Dominique de Menil formally requested the help of her son, Francois, an architect. She wrote:
“Dear Francois: I need you. I need your help to design a building for the Cypriot frescoes. . . . It was my intention to reconstruct in Houston a chapel similar to the one from which the frescoes had been ripped off. I thought this would be the way to do justice to the frescoes. Obviously it is not the best way to look at them. . . . Only a consecrated chapel, used for liturgical purposes, would do spiritual justice to the frescoes. . . . I have confidence in your imagination and your architectural ability. [We] are confident you will come up with an original solution . . . I am anxious to see you start working on this project, very dear to my heart.”