Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Russia part 4 - Church of the Intercession on the Nerl

Dominating the town's southern view, the shining golden dome could be seen about twelve kilometres away on the high ground where the road to Murom and Ryazan ran through dense Sorest. The cathedral was clearly visible from the west, the town side, and also, from the north and east, i. e., the roads to Yurlev-Polekoy, Suzdal and Bogoliubovo. A few decad­es later the cathedral lost its original appearance due to Ure and sub­sequent rebuilding. We shall examine It further below.

Andrey also took steps to fortify the capital. It’s ring of defences was extended. The circumference of the earth ramparts was increased to seven kilometers and they were topped by wooden walls containing a system of gateways, which were called the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Irina gates. The Golden Gate (1158 - 1164) is still standing. Being a fortified structure, It was designed without any provision for sculptural ornament. The mate­rial used was local well-dressed stone. Its original elongated proportions were distorted buy the addition of circular towers in the eighteenth century.

The actual arched gateway, fourteen meters high, has not been altered and helps one to reconstruct the original proportions of the building as a whole. H was a huge triumphal arch for ceremonial entrances Into the town. The vaults of the arcfe rest on simple imposts and plain pilaster strips. An arched cross-piece was added halfway up the gateway for defen­sive purposes. The carved oak gates, covered with sheets of gilded cop­per, reached up to the cross-piece. At the same level as the cross-piece was a wooden platform from which the town's defenders could shoot arrows at the enemy. The staircase in the wall to the look-out platform is a com­mon feature of this type of fortified structure.

Bogoliubovo with Prince Andreyls palace contpiex is on the outskirts of Vladimir. Us centre was the cathedral which was begun about the same time as the Cathedral of the Dormition and was built in accordance with the traditions of its time. This cathedral survived until the end of the seventeenth century. A new one was erected on the same spot in the eighteenth century, incorporating details of the old one. It too was dedi­cated to the cult of the Virgin Mary - the Nativity of the Virgin. The priest Mikula, who was a close friend of the prince, left a description of the beauty and lavish decoration of the original cathedral, Its ''gold" floors, the portals and doors decorated with bands of "gold", and the sumptuous church-plate, and also of how the prince ordered envoys from Kiev and other lands to be taken up to the choir gallery so that they might see the cathedral in all its splendor witnessing to the glory of the Vladimir prince. The cathedral impressed everyone by the abundance of light In Its soaring interior. Its bronze floor and also the mirror-like surface of the majolica floor in the choir gallery reflected the light streaming in throught the windows and coming from the burning candles.

Next to the cathedral stood the Prince's palace, linked to it by an arched passageway and a tower. There was another passageway which led to the fortress walls in case of sudden attack. A slender, eight-columned cinorlum with a chalice (replaced by the existing one in the seventeenth century) for holy water stood by the west front. All the buildings in the ensemble, which was completed by 1165, were stylistically united by traditional decorative elements. They were surrounded by white-stone paving with guttering to drain water from the palace square. All that has survived of this splendid palace, however, is a fragment of the Prince's cathedral with the adjoining passageway on semicircular arches and the lower sec­tion of a square tower with a stone spiral staircase.

The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl (1165) is an exquisite specimen not only of the Vladimir-Suzdalian school but of world archi­tecture m general. Ereсted to commemorate a victory over the Volga Bulgars, it also served as a memorial to Andrey's son Iziaslav who paid for this victory with his life. It was built on an artificial mound, originally paved with white stone, to keep it above the spring flood waters. This was the first miracle In stone seen by visitors arriving by boat. It comes into view as soon as you leave Bogoliubovo and cross the water-meadows carpeted with flowers and grasses to the Old Kliazma Pond gleaming in the sun.

The structure of its architectural divisions is such that it seems to be soaring into the sky. This impression is enhanced by the barely protruding apses, partially covered with powerful corner pilasters. The central apse is somewhat higher, thereby breaking the horizontal line of the band of arcading and the sanctuary window. More vertical emphasis is supplied by the multiple pilasters and, in the upper tier, by the shap­ing of the arched wall terminations and the tall, narrow windows, as well as the slender, closely spaced columns of the band arcading on brackets. The exquisite sculptural ornament is arranged in such a way that it covers the horizontal lines between the rows of white-stone masonry, again stres­sing the general vertical movement. Each of the three fronts has the same compositions - King David in the centre with a lion and a bird of prey on either side. Beneath it are female masks with braided hair.

After the murder of Andrey Bogoliubsky In 1174 a struggle ensued which resulted in Vsevolod III coming to the throne. For almost ten years he sought to subject enemies "to his will". There was hardly any building during this period. Not until 1185 after a great fire in Vladimir did Vsevolod begin  to build   new galleries   round   the   Dormition  Cathedral.

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