Artists assemble mosaic icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs for the Alexander Nevsky Lavra

Photo © Igor Akimov

A three-meter mosaic icon depicting the Holy Royal Martyrs Tsar Nicholas II and his family is being assembled by a team of artists for the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. According to one of the artists: “each of the coloured smalt[1] mosaic tiles is so tiny, that the assembly is similar to creating a jigsaw puzzle.”

Alexandra Serditova, executive director of the Kedr Charitable Foundation added: “as the icon is so large, we divided it into two parts. The top half has already been completed – the lower part is almost finished. The most difficult thing has been the faces.”

Photo © Igor Akimov

The beautiful icon depicts the seven faces of the Holy Royal Martyrs: Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children: Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Nikolaevna.

It is the work of a small group of artists and experts from the Monastyrskaya Sloboda Center, who have alreadly completed other mosaic icons of saints: Alexander Nevsky and his older brother Theodore of Novgorod, Ksenia of Petersburg, John of Kronstadt, and Seraphim of Vyritsky. These four icons now adorn the Alexander Nevsky Lavra[2] in St. Petersburg. The mosaic depicting the Emperor and his family became their most ambitious project, one which utilized all the reserves of the workshop.

“It’s a great team effort! We hope that we will not experience any special challenges in its completion. But there is a possibility that the process may be delayed, so we are not even talking about deadlines at this stage, as we do not want to rush ourselves,” says Alexandra Serditova.

Photo © Igor Akimov

What is so unique about the mosaic icons is that they have been created by artists with disabilities. These include people with hearing impairments, others suffering from mental and cardiovascular diseases, and those confined to wheelchair. These dedicated souls have been making icons since 2019, for them it is not just a hobby, but a job – each of them receiving a monthly monetary reward for their gifted talent.


[1] a deep blue pigment consisting of a powdered glass that contains oxide of cobalt

[2] Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra or Saint Alexander Nevsky Monastery was founded by Peter I of Russia in 1710 at the eastern end of the Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 May 2023