Assumption Cathedral

Staraya Ladoga, Russia

Assumption Cathedral, also Dormition Cathedral is one of the oldest churches of Russia, dating from the second half of the 12th century. It is one of the few surviving pre-Mongol buildings in Russia, and the northernmost one. The cathedral is the katholikon of the female Assumption Monastery, one of the several monasteries in Staraya Ladoga, and is located on the left bank of the Volkhov River.

Staraya Ladoga was the first seat of Rurik in 862, and, after Rurik moved the seat to Novgorod, remained in the Novgorod Lands. It controlled one of the most important waterways at the time, the Trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks, of which the Volkhov River was a part of. The cathedral was built presumably in the third quarter of the 12th century by Novgorodians. It was rebuilt several times since. In 1761, a side-chapel was built at the northern side of the cathedral, and in 1854-1856 another two were built at the western side, and a bell-tower was erected. In 1925, the cathedral was closed for service. In the 1950s, a complex restoration was performed, the side chapels and the bell-tower were demolished. In 2005, the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The cathedral is made of plinthite and has a very simple composition. The western wall has two relief crosses. In the 12th century, the interior of the church was covered by frescoes. The 20th century restorations uncovered approximately 50 square metres of the original painting, but most of them in fragments, so that it is difficult to reconstruct the original topics and disposition. The frescoes seem to be close in style to those in Polotsk and in Veliky Novgorod.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Russia

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Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

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In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.