Saint Sophia Cathedral

Vologda, Russia

Saint Sophia Cathedral is the oldest surviving building in the city of Vologda. It was built in 1568-1570, when Ivan the Terrible introduced the Oprichnina and made Vologda its capital. The model after which the cathedral was built was the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. Ivan personally supervised the construction, and the builders were permitted to use almost unlimited resources. Ivan also, for unknown reason, ordered the cathedral's unusual orientation: its altar apse does not face east as is common in Orthodox Churches but rather northeast.

In 1571, Ivan the Terrible unexpectedly left Vologda and returned to Moscow. Soon afterwards, he abolished the Oprichnina and never showed any further interest in Vologda. He even gave an order for the cathedral to be demolished before he left the city, but subsequently withdrew it. By that time, the cathedral was constructed but not yet decorated or consecrated. The cathedral was completed during the reign of Feodor Ivanovich, the son of Ivan the Terrible, and consecrated in 1587. The frescoes inside the cathedral were made between 1685 and 1687 by a group of painters from Yaroslavl under the direction of Dmitry Plekhanov.

The bell-tower of the cathedral is the highest construction in Vologda, and is 78 metres high. The first wooden bell-tower of the cathedral was built at the end of the 16th century. The octagonal stone bell-tower was built in 1654-1659. The vaulted dome of the bell-tower in the pseudo-gothic style was built in 1869 by Vladimir Schildknecht, the chief architect of Vologda Governorate, by order of Bishop Palladius. The bells have proper names. The Big Holiday Bell was cast in 1687, the Water Carrier Bell was cast in 1643, the Watch Bell was cast in 1627, the Archangel Bell was cast in 1689, the Big Swan Bell was cast in 1689, and the Little Swan Bell was cast in 1656. The Bell-tower also known as a Watch tower. The chimes have been manufactured on the Brothers Gutenop factory in Moscow in 1871. The observation deck has a panoramic view.

In Soviet times, the cathedral was shut down and now it serves as a museum.



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Founded: 1568-1587
Category: Religious sites in Russia


4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

TheRin30 (2 years ago)
Шедевр русского зодчества XVI века. Древнейшее сохранившееся каменное сооружение на территории Вологды, построенное в 1568 — 1570 годах по распоряжению Ивана Грозного. В соборе сохранилась роспись XVII века ярославских живописцев. А фреска «Страшный суд» занимает площадь около 400 квадратных метров. Прекрасен барочный иконостас, созданный в 1733—1741 годах.
Хороший Папа (2 years ago)
Прекрасный архитектурный ансамбль. Очень рекомендую к прогулке. Прекрасные виды.
Big Boss (2 years ago)
Saint Sophia Cathedral (Софийский собор) is a Russian Orthodox cathedral, the oldest surviving stone building in the city of Vologda. It was constructed between 1568 and 1570 under personal supervision of Tsar Ivan the Terrible in the period when Vologda was the capital of the Oprichnina lands in Russia, and completed in 1587. The cathedral is located on the right bank of the Vologda River
Veronika (3 years ago)
зимой закрыт. очень жаль. но в целом в комплексе симпатичный
Федор Муркин (3 years ago)
Древнейшее сооружение на территории Вологды Софийский собор Премудрости Божьей 1568-1570 создан по указу Ивана Грозного. Своего рода жемчужина Вологодского кремля. Между Софийским и Воскресенским соборами возвышается колокольня с видовой площадкой и действующим музеем колоколов. Хотя реставрация собора завершена в 2007, с режимом туристического посещения бывают сложности.
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.