The museum is composed of two buildings which stand a few metres from each other between the church and the cemetery at the entrance to the village. The major part of the icon collection and that of antique objects is situated on the two floors that make up the so-called 'New Museum', which is of more recent construction and larger capacity. In the other building - smaller but the original location of the museum - are kept the supplementary sections of the collection.
The project and its protagonists: Fr Zosim Oancea and the village of Sibiel
The creation of the museum was completely the idea of Fr Zosim Oancea with decisive material support from the people of Sibiel and other donors.
Having arrived in Sibiel as parish priest in January 1964, Fr Zosim developed the idea of establishing a museum of icons on glass when, in 1965, following the restoration of the old village church dating from1765, the building was declared a national historic monument. This designation resulted from the re-discovery of the church's frescoes painted between 1771 and 1775 by the painters Stan and Iacob di Răşinari. It was Fr Zosim's intention to enrich the village's cultural patrimony in order to have it included in a larger cultural tourist circuit. Thus, in 1969, Fr Oancea invited the people of Sibiel to donate the icons on glass which were lying in their homes (often in dark and dusty attics) so that they could be gathered in a museum and made accessible to a wider public. From this, thanks to the personal donations of the people of Sibiel and to some acquisitions, the first collection of between 150 and 200 icons was assembled and housed in the first seat of the Museum, and old storage-shed situated behind the church, completely rebuilt for the purpose between 1970 and 1971.
The expansion of the collection and the growth in the number of visitors, including visitors from abroad, led to the construction of the second building, begun in 1976 and completed in 1983, which today is the main seat of the Museum. This building was made possible by international donations, mainly from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
Visitors from all over the world
At present the Museum has about 15,000 visitors a year from all over the world. In the course of its history many illustrious visitors have been received, among them prominent churchmen such as the various Metropolitans of Transulvania, the Anglican bishop, Robert Runcie, later Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, world-famous theologians such as Oscar Cullmann, Jürgen Moltmann, Oliver Clément, Dumitru Stăniloae, cultural figures such as the Romanian poet Ana Blandiana and the writer Ioana Postelnicu, government delegations and foreign diplomats as well as public personages.