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This exhilarating museum perfectly preserves the glory of the medieval art works that lie within, which are displayed in a contrastingly modern architectural space, for the perfect blend of old with the new.
The National Museum of Medieval Art in Korça is one of those places where the modern and the old blend seamlessly together, creating an otherworldly, timeless space. It is an ultra-modern venue, though one which restores life to the Byzantine era. Originally built in 1980 and reconstructed in 2016, it is located on the main “Fan Noli” boulevard in the city. This, the newest museum in the country, preserves some artworks which have miraculously survived countless obstacles of the communist regime, to help them be where they are today.
The word that best describes this museum is harmony. Its exterior is harmonious with the surrounding environment and the traditional constructions of the southeastern city. Its interior is separated into halls of varying colours, which serve as stunning backdrops to the hundreds-of-centuries-old objects adorning its walls. The play of colours in this museum is so masterful that it cannot be fully expressed in words! Suffice to say that the eyes greatly benefit from its beauty and harmony. Ingeniously designed by the German architectural firm Bolles + Wilson, the museum offers “different experiences” at every turn, all resulting in a journey chock-full of beautifully intense encounters.
Within the museum, there are more than 7,000 works of art and cultural objects, mostly icons, as well as wood, stone, metal, and textile works that depict an entire history of Albanian iconography. The Golden Wall, which covers two floors with its 9.5 metre height, exhibits the impressive 16th-century collections whose sheer volume is astounding. This is followed by the White Balcony, where the oldest icons of the Museum, those of the 14th century, are exhibited. Here, you will find one very rare and symbolically significant icon from the Church of Saint Mary, which features St. Michael (Shën Mëhill), who in one hand holds the globe with Christ’s initials engraved in it and, in the other hand, a sword.
The Black Labyrinth Pavilion exhibits the works of the famed Albanian artist Onufri, whose signature bright, fiery red is especially radiant against the ominous background. This labyrinth is a corridor that particularly facilitates the special attention required of the twenty icons of the 16th and 18th centuries displayed here. The Red Room, in the centre of which is located the 18th century iconostasis with carvings of apocalyptic motifs, is one of the most exhilarating and warm environments of the Museum. It is, quite literally, the red hot centre of it all.
The conclusion of the journey occurs, fittingly, in the Parade Room, a divine setting that holds two masterpieces by the Zografë brothers. As the great Constantine emerges, along with his soldiers, on his long journey towards Christ’s crucifixion, you find that your beautiful journey through the mysterious world of medieval art has, mysteriously, come to its end.