White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal

Cathedral of the Nativity

The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Suzdal is one of the eight White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal. One of the most complex monuments of Russian medieval architecture. It was originally constructed during the reign of Vladimir II Monomakh during the late 11th century. The Cathedral of the Nativity is surrounded by a ring of earthen walls in an oxbow of Kamenka River. It is notable for being the first cit ...
Founded: 1102 | Location: Suzdal, Russia

Suzdal Kremlin

The Suzdal Kremlin is the oldest part of the Russian city of Suzdal, dating from the 10th century. Like other Russian Kremlins, it was originally a fortress or citadel and was the religious and administrative center of the city. It is most notably the site of the Cathedral of the Nativity. Together with several structures in the neighboring city of Vladimir, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. While archeo ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Suzdal, Russia

Saint Euthymius Monastery

The Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius was founded in the 14th century, and grew in importance in the 16th and 17th centuries after donations by Vasili III, Ivan IV and the Pozharsky family, a noble dynasty of the region. Among the buildings erected during this period were the Assumption Church, the bell tower, the surrounding walls and towers, and the seven-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. The cathe ...
Founded: 1352 | Location: Suzdal, Russia

Dormition Cathedral

Dormition Cathedral or Assumption Cathedral used to be a mother church of medieval Russia in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is part of the World Heritage Site entitled White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal. The cathedral was commissioned by Andrew the Pious in his capital Vladimir and dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), whom he promoted as the patron saint of his lands. Originally erected in 1158 ...
Founded: 1158 | Location: Vladimir, Russia

Cathedral of Saint Demetrius

The Cathedral of St Demetrius (1194-97) is a royal church, built to the order of Grand Prince Vsevolod III. It is cubic in form, with three internal naves and a helmet dome. The cathedral is one-domed and four-pillared. Originally it was surrounded by galleries with towers that connected it to the prince"s palace. They were demolished during the restoration in the 19th century. The church is famous for its white-sto ...
Founded: 1194-1197 | Location: Vladimir, Russia

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate of Vladimir, constructed between 1158 and 1164, is the only preserved ancient Russian city gate. A museum inside focuses on the history of the Mongol invasion of Russia in the 13th century. The Golden Gates existed in the holiest cities of Eastern Orthodoxy: Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Kiev. On making Vladimir his capital, Andrew the Pious aspired to emulate these structures, commissioning a lofty towe ...
Founded: 1158-1164 | Location: Vladimir, Russia

Church of Boris and Gleb

Church of Boris and Gleb was built in 1152, on the orders of Prince Yuri Dolgoruky. It was probably part of the princely (wooden) palace complex, but was only used by Dolgorukii for a few years before he left to become Grand Prince of Kiev in 1155. The village, four kilometers east of Suzdal, was an important town before it was destroyed by the Mongols and declined in stature. The church, built in limestone probably by a ...
Founded: 1152 | Location: Kideksha, Russia

Bogolyubovo

The Princely Castle at Bogolyubovo (1158-1165) contains the remains of the 12th century Royal Palace, in the form of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Staircase Tower of Andrei Bogolyubskii. Bogolyubovo was once the residence of the Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky. Great Prince Andrei spent 17 years of his reign in Bogolyubovo before he was murdered there in 1174. After Prince Andrei"s death, Bogolyubovo ...
Founded: 1158-1165 | Location: Bogolyubovo, Russia

Saint George Cathedral

Saint George Cathedral in Yuryev-Polsky is one of a dozen surviving white-stone churches which were built in Vladimir-Suzdal Principality in the northeastern Rus prior to the Mongol invasion. Constructed between 1230 and 1234, the cathedral was also the last of these churches to be built, completed just three years before the invasion. Unlike most of the other pre-Mongol Vladimir-Suzdal churches, the St. George Cathedral ...
Founded: 1230-1234 | Location: Yuryev-Polsky, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.