Lost, stolen, destroyed

Many of churches with frescoes by Dicho Zograf are located in remote or rural parts of the country. Unfortunately, due to this geographic dispersion, as well as the absence of long-term strategic approach to the conservation and preservation of the cultural heritage in the region, there have been considerable losses over time. In addition to the destruction caused by bad policies or neglect, there have also been numerous thefts - especially over the last three decades. Thousands of icons by various painters - including innumerable works associated with Dicho Zograf and his studio - have been stolen and smuggled out of the country for sale in the illegal art market.

The church in his native village of Tresonce, for instance, was broken into and robbed of almost all of the icons in 2013. This theft was followed by several others in the same geographic area - most likely a coordinated effort by criminal gangs aware of the fact that these churches are in largely uninhabited villages - and that they are almost never protected by reliable alarm systems.

The most egregious example of destruction resulting from bad policy is arguably the Church of St Nicholas in Mavrovo. In 1952, the church was submerged in the artificial lake that was created for the purposes of a major new electric plant. Though many of the icons by Dicho Zograf and his studio were taken out before the submersion, many other sacred objects and books were left "forgotten" inside. Most importantly, this submersion in the name of progress led to a destruction of all of the fresco paintings that decorated the walls. Due to environmental changes, this church is now again above water level for much of the year - a ghost of its former self and a sad testimony to a history of bad policies and sheer negligence.

Stolen icons from the Icon screen, Gopesh

Portion of the submerged church, Mavrovo

Damaged dome in the church in Gopesh

Articles about lost and stolen works of art by Dicho Zograf and other icon painters - examples from the media