iconxCLINTON, Mass. — Weekly attendance at the two-year-old Museum of Russian Icons has doubled from about 250 to 500 since mid-October, when 16 of Russia’s most precious icons arrived on loan from the state-run Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Visitors to the “Two Museums, One Culture” exhibit see ascetic lives of saints depicted in centuries-old, tempura-on-wood creations that survived a ban by atheist Soviet officials who burned millions of the holy objects. Russians regard these icons as portals to the holy, and now, as tangible links to a resurgent Christian tradition that thrived for more than 1,000 years in Russia before Soviet rule.

“This (loan) is an exceptional gesture by the Tretyakov Gallery because these are sacred objects,” said Catherine LeGouis, a French and Russian literature expert at Mount Holyoke College and a collector of Russian icons. “This is a private, cultural exchange that shows we are not fated to perpetual enmity between our countries.”

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