Friday, 31 January 2014

Cathedrals of Vladimir, Russia

The emergence of the principality of Suzdal or, to be more precise, Rostov-Suzdal, dates back to the period of the decline of Kievan Russia. Almost simultaneously the principalities of Polotsk, Smolensk, Novgorod and Murom-Ryazan arose in the north, Rostov-Suzdal's neighbors, and those of Kiev, Chernigov-Seversky, Volhynia and Halich in the south. The life of the Southern Slavs, however, was gradually disrupted by the incursions of nomadic tribes, and they began to move northwards.

This video contains nearly all of the historic cathedrals from the City of Vladimir, located in Russia's famed Golden Ring. The clip features the sounds of Russian Orthodox monastic vespers.

The farmers were attracted by the fertile Suzdalian plains, rich forests and rivers. The first prince of these lands was Vladimir Monomachus. In order to pro­tect his new principality he erected a fortress of the high bank of the River Kliazma, thereby laying the foundations of the town which bears his name to this day. In a single century, during the reign of Vladimir Monomachus, his son Yury Dolgoruky (Yury the Long-Armed) and his grandsons Andrey Bogoliubsky and Vsevolod III, known as Vsevolod the Big Nest because of his many children, the principality became strong and powerful. 

True, the interests of the princes did not lie exclusively in these lands, but Andrey Bogoliubsky actually left Kiev against his father's wish­es to reign In the Suzdalian principality. He made the comparatively new town of Vladimir his capital, instead of the older ones of Suzdal and Ros­tov where the boyars were powerful. While striving hard to unite all the Russian lands, Andrey was always concerned to enhance the importance of his own possessions.

His fellow countrymen and foreign guests were most impressed by the splendid buildings in the capital, Vladimir, the state centre, and the fortress in Bogoliubovo. Prince Andrey met with a tragic end as the result of a boyars' plot. After some bitter fighting his younger brother Vsevolod came to the throne. During this period the prin­cipality reached its height. After the death of Prince Vsevolod the Big Nest its might.declined, but building went on in the various towns and Vsevolod's sons erected the cathedrals In Suzdal and Yuriev-Polskoy.

In 1238 the Mongols invaded Russia disrupting its economic and cul­tural development for many a long year. One can trace almost the whole history of early Russian architecture through the many fine churches and palaces of the Vladimir-Suzdalian principality.

In this article we shall try to help the reader understand the develop­ment of the Vladimir-Suzdalian school to architecture, a most Important branch of early Russian architecture as a whole. The illustrations in this album cover a broader area, however, extending beyond the stylistic and temporal limits of the Vladimir-Suzdalian school and showing practically all the important old buildings in Vladimir, Suzdal,   Yurlev-Polskoy   and the surrounding area. They also Include the now extant early frescoes which give one a more vivid picture of the churches and their Interiors.

The first of the Vladimir-Suzdalian monuments is the splendid cathe­dral in Kideksha, the residence of Prince Yury Dolgoruky, Just outside Suzdal, This white-stone church, dedicated to the canonized Russian princes Boris and Gleb, was erected tn the middle of the twelfth century on the high bank of the River Nerl. Originally it was surrounded by palace buildings and a moat. Looking at It from the opposite bank in the eve­ning, when the outlines are particularly vivid, you can see the clear-cut cube of the main body (which used to have a powerful drum and a huge helmet-shaped dome, later replaced by a smaller one) and the semicircular apses.

One's attention is focused on the main body. The few architectural details on the exterior merely enhance the overall impression and confirm the building's logic. Everything is structurally right: the drum rests on vaults and the walls originally terminated in the arched vaulting (the vault­ed roof was later replaced by a hipped one). The vaults In their turn were supported by four powerful cruciform pillars, and the rest of the thrust was transferred to the pilaster strips on the walls. The choir gallery, which was reserved for the prince, his family and retinue during services and possibly during sieges as well, is indicated on the exterior by a band of blind arcading, above which the walls become thinner. The details help to explain the building's structure. Lancet windows and portals in the form of simple recessed niches add to the cathedral's austere appearance.

The buildings belonging to Andrey Bogoliubsky's reign are quite differ­ent. All the prince's efforts were directed towards making his principality strong and great, adorning the capital of Vladimir which was aspiring to be the political centre of feudal Russia, and fortifying his residence at Bogollubovo. The erection of magnificent edifices was one of Prince Andrey's most important activities, and the chronicler compares It to the build­ing done by Solomon, qplltng Andrey "a second Solomon the Wise". As they sailed up to Vladimir visitors from the Oka and Volga and envoys from the distant lands of the Orient wese to see and take note of the splendor of the powerful principality.

The white-stone Cathedral of the Dormition was erected on the high bank of theRlier Klyazma in Vladimir. The speed of Its construction shows that it was a matter of great political importance which would brook no delay. Like Yury Dolgoruky's cathedral in Kideksha It had a single dome and four pillars. Different ideas had produced a different image, however. Unlike Its modest predecessor, the Cathedral of the Dormition was most magnificent.   The   exterior  was   decorated   with   sculptures and  frescoes.

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