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Russian Architecture of the 16th Century
June 16, 2014 14:13

Moscow architecture adopted traditions of Vladimir, Suzdal, Pskov and Novgorod architecture. New status of the city required development of great public buildings.

The Moscow Kremlin became the architectural symbol of the state power, with its walls started to be put up anew under the reign of Ivan III in the late 15th century. Milan engineers were invited for reconstruction of the Moscow Kremlin. They headed the building of the Tainitsky, Vodovzvodny, Spassky, and Borovitsky Towers as part of the Kremlin. When inviting foreign masters, Ivan III wanted to use the latest developments of European engineering art and at the same time keep up national traditions. Therefore the architects almost entirely preserved the old lay-out of Kremin walls, having made them even more majestic and high. Brick walls with 18 towers and the total length of over 2 km long came to make not only a formidable fortress, but also a remarkable work of architecture. After completion of its walls and towers in 1515 the Kremlin became one of the best fortresses in Europe. The Kremlin almost entirely followed the draft Dmitry Donskoy’s Fortress. New cathedrals came to be built generally in the areas of old churches built under the reign of Ivan Kalita. This is how Moscow emphasized its ancient roots. Old churches were shabby and small and did not meet the heightened political status of the capital city of Russia.

The New Assumption Cathedral was intended to become the main church of the Moscow state and outshine the greatness of St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. The architect Fioravanti was invited from Italy for building the cathedral. He was suggested to go by the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir, since Moscow tsars considered themselves to be successors of Vladimir princes. The talented architect managed to quickly grasp the beauty and logic of Old Russian architecture and, and creatively blended the most essential Old Russian traits with his Renaissance perceptions. Fioravanti repeated the salient features of Vladimir Cathedral in the Moscow Assumption Cathedral. However, the Moscow cathedral made an impression of a more monolithic and majestic piece of architecture, which was in line with the idea of statehood of that time.
The Archangel Cathedral was erected in the central square of the Moscow Kremlin and became the sepulcher of Moscow tsars. Its construction was headed by the Italian architect Aloisio the New, who kept up traditional shapes and layout of the Russian five-domed church with choruses and supplemented it with exuberant architectural details of Venetian Cinquecento. They were organically combined with Russian architectural traditions and fit into the traditional outlook of the Orthodox Christian church.
The Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin was constructed by Russian masters and served as a house church for grand princes and the imperial family and thus was directly connected with palace rooms. The cathedral building was completely compatible with Russian architectural traditions and intertwined characteristic features of various architectural schools: from nebuly molding like in Pskov to blind arcading on apses like in Vladimir and Suzdal and corbel keel arches from Moscow architecture school.
Having faced the West European art, Russian masters opted out of it in favor of an independent way in response to collision of new ideas with old canons that Russian culture was rooted in. This period in the Russian culture is called PreRenaissance, but the 16th century was marked with its modification, which manifested itself, in particular, in new types of churches that came to be constructed in Russia. Thus, steepled churches (with a tent-shaped top) and pillar churches appeared.
The Ascension Church in Kolomenskoye Estate is the best-known steepled church. It is a genuinely Russian construction, which broke free from the habitual image of the Byzantine cross-in-square church type. The church arrangement consists of four basic elements: a basement, a massive quadrangular frame with antechurches shaping a cruciform plan, an octagonal structure and a tented roof. The heavenward light building of the Ascension Church is at the same time solemnly monumental. Besides its original architectural idea the building amazed its contemporaries with the architectural décor, such as column caps, eaves and the ornamental pattern of the tent brickwork.
The Intercession Church, better known to the whole world as St. Basil's Cathedral, is no less remarkable monument of Russian architecture of the 16th century. It was constructed by the Russian architects Barma and Postnik in honor of the conquest of the Kazan Khanate. The architectural complex of the cathedral with its complex star-shaped layout is made of nine pillar churches or various heights: the central tent church is surrounded with eight others. All of its parts rise from a uniform heavy stone scaffold and connect with a promenade gallery. The initial color palette of the building consisted of the combination of red brick and white carved decorative stone, highlighted with sparkling white iron coated domes and heads covered by, and color majolica decorations of the central tent. Elegant onionshaped domes of the cathedral were made in the late 16th century, whereas its florid painting appeared in the 17th – 18th centuries.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian Architecture Russian History   

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