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Culture of Kievan Rus' (9th -11th Centuries), Part 2
November 30, 2014 22:32

The adoption of Christianity in Russia promoted not only the development of Russia literature, but also laid the foundation to the Russian art and first of all church architecture and church painting. Lots of churches were built in Russia and ancient architects selected most beautiful places for churches.
Upon its Christianization Russia adopted the cross-domed church. Its rectangular interior was divided with rows of columns into longitudinal naves and the four central columns were connected with arches that supported the light dome drum crowned with a hemispherical dome.
The Byzantine school played the major role in development of the stone construction technology in Russia. The first known church was the Dormition Church the image of which can be restored based on the remains of its base and written sources. 
In 1037 Yaroslav the Wise founded the stone St. Sophia Cathedral with five apses and 13-domes in Kiev. The modern look of the cathedral resulted from its reconstruction following the Ukrainian baroque style in the 17th century. After completion of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev it was built in Novgorod and Polotsk in many ways copying the church in Kiev.
Having become part of the Christian world, the Russian principalities got ample opportunities for development of political and cultural ties not only with Byzantium, but with European countries as well. The end of the 11th century saw noticeable influence of Romance architecture. The white stone sculpture-carved churches of the Vladimir Principality owe its existence to Andrey Bogolyubsky, who invited masters “from all around”. According to the Russian historian Tatishchev (the 18th century) the architects were sent to Vladimir by the German emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. However, these churches are no way identical to Romanesque constructions of Catholic Europe. They represent peculiar synthesis of the Byzantine cross-dome church and the Romanesque technology of white stone architecture and ornamentation. 

Such a mixture of Greek and West European traditions became possible only on the Russian ground. One of its famous results is the famous masterpiece of the Vladimir architecture: the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the Nerl River is the symbol of cultural identity of Old Russia.
Mosaics and frescos played the main role in the fine arts of Kievan Rus’. Russian artists adopted the mural painting system from Byzantine.  Church frescoes conveyed and illustrated the basic principles of Christian doctrine and served as a sort of “gospel for the illiterate”. Mosaics covered the most important church parts, namely its central dome and the altar. The remaining part of the church was decorated with frescos.
Icon was a classical form of medieval art for Russia. Icons were painted on lime and pine boards coated with a thin layer of plaster primer. The icon paints pounded on egg yolk had special brightness and durability.
Monk Alimpy of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra was one of the first Russian icon painters. He studied from Greek iconographic masters. His works have not been preserved mostly. 
At that time already Russian icons had their own peculiar artistic language. It can be very well seen in the Old Russian iconography masterpiece Gold Haired Angel (12th century) with serene kindness unlike the stern angels of the Byzantine tradition. The very style of this icon pervades with peace and uplifting mindset.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian History     

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