Monasteries in Russia

Krestny Monastery

In 1632 the future Patriarch Nikon attempted to escape from the Solovki to the Kozheozero Monastery in the south. As Nikon later recalled, a tempest broke out and his life was at peril. The monk began to pray to the holy cross and soon his boat was cast a shore on Kiy Island, where he erected a wooden cross to thank heaven. Twenty years later, he went from Novgorod to the Solovki in order to bring the relics of Metropoli ...
Founded: 1656 | Location: Kiy Island, Russia

Kozheozersky Monastery

The Kozheozersky Monastery is a Russian Orthodox monastery founded by Niphont of Kozheozero and Serapion of Kozheozero in 1550s. It is one of the most remote monasteries in Russia; there are no roads leading to Kozhozero, and the only way to get to the monastery is 30 kilometres by foot. In 16th century the valley of the Onega River was already populated, and the ascetic monks were looking for remote places to get away f ...
Founded: 1550s | Location: Onezhsky, Russia

Pavlo-Obnorsky Monastery

Pavlo-Obnorsky Monastery was founded by Pavel of Obnora in 1414. In the 17th century, this was one of the most influential monasteries in Russia. The monastery was abolished in 1924 and reestablished in 1994. As of 2011, it was one of the four acting monasteries in Vologda Oblast. The monastery was founded by Pavel of Obnora. Pavel was looking for a remote place, and the area in the 15th century was covered by dense fore ...
Founded: 1414 | Location: Vologodskaya oblast, Russia

Troitse-Gledensky Monastery

Troitse-Gledensky Monastery is located at the place where previously a fortress of Gleden was built in the end of the 12th century by Vsevolod the Big Nest, the Grand Prince of Vladimir. Gleden was the predecessor of Veliky Ustyug and was destroyed in the 15th century during wars between Russian princes. The early history of the monastery is not well documented, however, it is assumed that the monastery was founded at the ...
Founded: 1492 | Location: Velikiy Ustyug, Russia

Transfiguration Monastery

Transfiguration monastery was founded in 1192 by Martiry Rushanin, who built the wooden Transfiguration Church. At the time, the area belonged to the Novgorod Republic, and the construction of the church was approved by Grigory, the Archbishop of Novgorod. In 1193, Martiry himself was promoted to be the Archbishop of Novgorod and Pskov. Presumably, the wooden church burned down, and in 1198, Martiry founded the stone Tran ...
Founded: 1192 | Location: Staraja Russa, Russia

Yelizarov Convent

Yelizarov or Yeleazarov Convent is a small convent founded as a monastery in 1447 by a local peasant named Eleazar. He constructed the wooden church of Three Holy Fathers, wherein he was interred upon his death on 15 May 1481. Eleazar was canonized at the Stoglavy Sobor in 1551. In the mid-16th century, the monastery was heavily fortified and attained a position of great importance and celebrity, owing to its learned heg ...
Founded: 1447 | Location: Pskov, Russia

Kizichesky Monastery

Kizichesky Vvedensky Monastery is a small male monastery in Kazan. It was founded in 1691 by Adrian—the Moscow Patriarch, who until 1690 were the Kazan Bishop. The name Kazichesky means Holy Martyrs of Cyzicus. The monastery was devoted to the martyrs because parts of their relics were brought to the monastery—according to the wishes of Adrian. In the 1690s Vvedensky Cathedral and Vladimirskaya Church were bui ...
Founded: 1691 | Location: Kazan, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.