Church seeks funding to repair icon damaged by Alaska quake

A painted icon of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that sits behind the altar in a Kenai church is closer to being repaired, months after it was damaged by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

The quake struck the Kenai Peninsula Jan. 24, damaging a highway and destroying several homes. It also caused a heavy cross inside Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox church to fall over and tear through the canvas of the icon, The Peninsula Clarion reported (

The church council decided Saturday to send the icon for repair to Colorado, where an art conservator will fix the large rip covering most of Jesus' right arm as well as a burn mark left by a candle.

Holy Assumption is now working to raise the funds needed for the repair work. The church is still seeking a cost estimate for the restoration, but the work is expected to cost between $5,000 and $6,000, according to Dorothy Gray, a church member and secretary of the nonprofit preservation group Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska.

The Gethsemane icon featuring Jesus with two angels by his side before his arrest and crucifixion is part of an Eastern Orthodox tradition of religious art illustrating stories and personalities from the Bible. The piece was created by Alaska Native iconographer Grigorii Petukhov, an Aleut who lived in Sitka during the mid-1800s.

The 121-year-old church has several icons that fill the sanctuary, many of which have been coated with soot as a result of candle lighting and incense burning. Gray estimated the church has sent over a dozen icons for restoration in the past 20 years.

"They're not only repaired, but they're cleaned, and then there's a protective coating that is layered on top to help preserve them and keep them from any type of further damage, from water, from smoke, from the candles, incense, and to keep them clean," Gray said.

The Gethsemane icon, however, is the first to be repaired for such a large rip.


Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion,