Russian – Late Muscovite period 1612–1712

20 Jun
Patriarch Nikon’s residence, the New Jerusalem Cloister, is representative of his conservative aesthetic views. One of Naryshkin churches in Moscow. Intercession Church at Vytegra. Fine examples of Russian wooden architecture survive on the shores of the Lake Onega, notably in Kizhi and Kondopoga.
     
After the Time of Troubles the state and the church were bankrupt, and could not finance any construction works. The initiative was taken by rich merchants of the city Yaroslavl-on-the-Volga. In the course of the seventeenth century, they built numerous large churches of cathedral type, with five onion-like cupolas, and surrounded them with tents of bell towers and aisles. At first the churches’ composition was sharply asymmetrical, with different parts balancing each other on the “scale-beam” principle (e.g., the Church of Elijah the Prophet, 1647-50). Subsequently the Yaroslavl churches were strictly symmetrical, with cupolas taller than the building itself, and amply decorated with polychrome tiles (e.g., the Church of John the Chrysostom on the Volga, 1649-54). A zenith of Volga architecture was attained in the Church of St John the Baptist (built 1671-87), the largest in Yaroslavl, with fifteen cupolas and more than five hundred magnificent frescoes. All the brick exterior of the church, from the cupolas down to the tall porches, was elaborately carved and decorated with tiles.The seventeenth-century Moscow churches are also profusely decorated, but their size is much smaller. Earlier in the century, the Muscovites still favoured the tent-like constructions. The chief object of their admiration was the “Miraculous” Assumption Church in Uglich (1627): it had three graceful tents placed in a row, reminiscent of three burning candles. This composition was extravagantly employed in the Hodegetria Church of Vyazma (1638) and the Nativity Church at Putinki, Moscow (1652). Assuming that such constructions ran counter with the traditional Byzantine type, the Patriarch Nikon declared them uncanonical. He encouraged building of fairy-like ecclesiastical residences, such as the Rostov Kremlin on the Nero Lake, with five tall churches, innumerable towers, palaces, and chambers. Nikon personally designed his new residence at the New Jerusalem Monastery which was dominated by a rotunda-like cathedral, the first of its type in Russia.

Since the tents were banned, the Muscovite architects had to replace them with successive rows of corbel arches (“kokoshniki”), and this decorative element was to become a hallmark of the seventeenth-century Moscow “flamboyant” style. An early example of the flamboyant style is the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square (1633-36). By the end of the century, more than a hundred churches in the fiery style were erected in Moscow, and perhaps as many again in the neighbouring region. Among the more splendid specimens are the Moscow churches of the Holy Trinity at Nikitniki (1653), St Nicholas at Khamovniki (1682), and the Holy Trinity at Ostankino (1692). Probably the most representative flamboyant style structure was the Church of St Nicholas “the Grand Cross” in the Kitai-gorod, brutally destroyed at the behest of Stalin.

As Russian architecture degenerated into pure decoration, it was also influenced by the Polish and Ukrainian Baroque. The first baroque churches were small chapels built on the Naryshkin family estates near Moscow, hence the name of Naryshkin baroque often applied to this style. Some of these churches are tower-like, with cubic and octagonal floors placed on top of each other (the Saviour Church at Ubory, 1697); others have a ladder-like composition, with a bell tower rising above church itself (the Intercession Church at Fili, 1695). The Baroque and flamboyant style decoration is often so profuse that the church seems to be the work of jeweller and not of mason (e.g., the Trinity Church at Lykovo, 1696). Perhaps the most delightful jewel of the Naryshkin baroque was the multi-domed Assumption Church on the Pokrovka Street in Moscow (built 1696-99, demolished 1929). Its architect was also responsible for the “red and white” reconstruction of several Moscow monastic structures, notably the Novodevichy Convent and the Donskoy Monastery.

The Baroque style quickly spread throughout Russia, gradually replacing more traditional and canonical architecture. The Stroganov merchants sponsored construction of majestic Baroque structures in Nizhny Novgorod (the Nativity Church, 1703) and in the remote tundra region (the Presentation Cathedral in Solvychegodsk, 1693). During the first decades of the eighteenth century, some remarkable Baroque cathedrals were built in the eastern towns of Kazan, Solikamsk, Verkhoturye, Tobolsk, Irkutsk, and elsewhere.

It is also interesting traditional wooden churches by carpenters of the Russian North. Working without hammer and nails, they constructed such bizarre structures as the twenty-four-domed Intercession Church at Vytegra (1708, burnt down 1963) and twenty-two-domed Transfiguration Church at Kizhi (1714).

 
After the Time of Troubles the state and the church were bankrupt, and could not finance any construction works. The initiative was taken by rich merchants of the city Yaroslavl-on-the-Volga. In the course of the seventeenth century, they built numerous large churches of cathedral type, with five onion-like cupolas, and surrounded them with tents of belltowers and aisles. At first the churches’ composition was sharply asymmetrical, with different parts balancing each other on the “scale-beam” principle (e.g., the Church of Elijah the Prophet, 1647-50). Subsequently the Yaroslavl churches were strictly symmetrical, with cupolas taller than the building itself, and amply decorated with polychrome tiles (e.g., the Church of John the Chrysostom on the Volga, 1649-54). A zenith of Volga architecture was attained in the Church of St John the Baptist (built 1671-87), the largest in Yaroslavl, with fifteen cupolas and more than five hundred magnificent frescoes. All the brick exterior of the church, from the cupolas down to the tall porches, was elaborately carved and decorated with tiles.The seventeenth-century Moscow churches are also profusely decorated, but their size is much smaller. Earlier in the century, the Muscovites still favoured the tent-like constructions. The chief object of their admiration was the “Miraculous” Assumption Church in Uglich (1627): it had three graceful tents placed in a row, reminiscent of three burning candles. This composition was extravagantly employed in the Hodegetria Church of Vyazma (1638) and the Nativity Church at Putinki, Moscow (1652). Assuming that such constructions ran counter with the traditional Byzantine type, the Patriarch Nikon declared them uncanonical. He encouraged building of fairy-like ecclesiatical residences, such as the Rostov Kremlin on the Nero Lake, with five tall churches, innumerable towers, palaces, and chambers. Nikon personally designed his new residence at the New Jerusalem Monastery which was dominated by a rotunda-like cathedral, the first of its type in Russia.

Since the tents were banned, the Muscovite architects had to replace them with successive rows of corbel arches (“kokoshniki”), and this decorative element was to become a hallmark of the seventeenth-century Moscow “fiery” style. An early example of the fiery style is the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square (1633-36). By the end of the century, more than a hundred churches in the fiery style were erected in Moscow, and perhaps as many again in the neighbouring region. Among the more splendid specimens are the Moscow churches of the Holy Trinity at Nikitniki (1653), St Nicholas at Khamovniki (1682), and the Holy Trinity at Ostankino (1692). Probably the most representative fiery style structure was the Church of St Nicholas “the Grand Cross” in the Kitai-gorod, brutally destroyed at the behest of Stalin.

As Russian architecture degenerated into pure decoration, it was also influenced by the Polish and Ukrainian Baroque. The first baroque churches were small chapels built on the Naryshkin family estates near Moscow, hence the name of Naryshkin baroque often applied to this style. Some of these churches are tower-like, with cubic and octagonal floors placed on top of each other (the Saviour Church at Ubory, 1697); others have a ladder-like composition, with a bell tower rising above church itself (the Intercession Church at Fili, 1695). The baroque and fiery style decoration is often so profuse that the church seems to be the work of jeweller and not of mason (e.g., the Trinity Church at Lykovo, 1696). Perhaps the most delightful jewel of the Naryshkin baroque was the multi-domed Assumption Church on the Pokrovka Street in Moscow (built 1696-99, demolished 1929). Its architect was also responsible for the “red and white” reconstruction of several Moscow monastic structures, notably the Novodevichy Convent and the Donskoy Monastery.

The Baroque style quickly spread throughout Russia, gradually replacing more traditional and canonical architecture. The Stroganov merchants sponsored construction of majestic Baroque structures in Nizhny Novgorod (the Nativity Church, 1703) and in the remote tundra region (the Presentation Cathedral in Solvychegodsk, 1693). During the first decades of the eighteenth century, some remarkable Baroque cathedrals were built in the eastern towns of Kazan, Solikamsk, Verkhoturye, Tobolsk, Irkutsk, and elsewhere. But perhaps the most interesting was Baroque interpretation of traditional wooden churches by carpenters of the Russian North. Working without hammer and nails, they constructed such bizarre structures as the twenty-four-domed Intercession Church at Vytegra (1708, burnt down 1963) and twenty-two-domed Transfiguration Church at Kizhi (1714).

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