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.



Your name


Founded: 1568-1587
Category: Religious sites in Russia


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Нина Смелкова (5 months ago)
Amazing frescoes by one of the best icon painting teams of the second half of the 17th century: Dmitry Plekhanov.
Андрей Испеньков (ispandrey) (5 months ago)
The very center of the city. A must for all excursions
Legalman (6 months ago)
A grandiose old building in Russia.
Karina Tigr (9 months ago)
Russia, power, beauty
Valentin Orlov (11 months ago)
I saw him for the first time in February 1973: passing through Vologda, we went for a walk before going to sleep and quite accidentally came out to this square. Night. Frost. Snow white and Cathedral white. Deserted. Silence. AND THE MOONLIGHT ... the first impression of this Council will be forever in my memory. Then I saw many other church buildings: in Reims, and in Cologne, and in Girona, and in Barcelona, ​​and in many other places (Rome, Vienna, Milan ...) and St. Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod. But this one, although small in comparison with the ones listed above, stands out among them for its some kind of purity of proportions, underlined by asceticism, the absence of small details on the facades, some kind of elastic density of lines. Unfortunately, the bell tower completely falls out of this style: it took too long to build and too much of everything of different times was mixed in it; I am interested in it only as an opportunity to climb onto its viewing platforms, from where interesting panoramas of the city open up and from where the St. Sophia Cathedral appears in a completely unusual perspective. All surfaces in the interior: walls, vaults and pillars are completely covered with frescoes, which are very well preserved. Excellent acoustics. A small detail: when I saw the Cathedral for the first time, an entrance portal was attached to the current entrance to the temple, completely out of the general style. When they guessed to demolish it, fragments of the frescoes that had previously framed the entrance were revealed under it ... The cathedral is clearly visible almost from everywhere: it is not only a specific, but also the main semantic point of the city. And so it was until 25 years ago, the regional and city authorities decided to erect a gigantic, completely monstrous-looking building of their administration not far from the Cathedral, designed by a certain Russian - an honored architect of Vietnam: an absurd urban planning blunder ...
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Falaise

Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.

The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.

In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.