Bulgaria may pull out of 'insulting' Louvre icons show

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Bulgaria may pull out of 'insulting' Louvre icons show
This file photo shows the Apollon Gallery on January 14, 2020 at the Louvre museum in Paris after the reopening of the Gallery following ten months of renovations. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

SOFIA (AFP).- Bulgaria is considering pulling out of a forthcoming exhibition of Christian Orthodox icons at the Louvre museum in Paris after an outcry from nationalists and the Orthodox Church.

The nationalist VMRO party, a junior partner in the conservative government, has condemned the show as a "mockery" and an "insult" because it plans to explore the influence of Islam over Christianity.

Bulgaria's Orthodox Church has said it refuses to send icons and objects from a monastery and two church museums to the event. Eighty percent of the country's population are members of the church.

"It is likely that the exhibition will be cancelled or replaced by another one," a culture ministry spokeswoman told AFP on Tuesday. Talks with the Louvre were already underway, she added.

A statement Monday from the ministry said it would be best to withdraw from the event given "the reactions of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and public opinion".

Emanuil Mutafov, a historian from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and a government advisor, told the private bTV television channel Tuesday: "The influence of Islam over Christianity in Bulgaria was indirect, sporadic and limited."

It could not form the basis of an exhibition at the Louvre -- and it was not appropriate to put the icons on display in the Louvre's Islamic Art section, he added.

The Paris museum was not immediately available to comment when contacted by AFP.

The exhibition had been planned for the second half of 2020 under the working title "Art and culture in Bulgaria (16-18th century)".

It would have featured around 60 objects -- icons, church vases, manuscripts and jewellery -- from the period when Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule, between 1396 and 1878.

© Agence France-Presse

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