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A Glimpse on the History of Russian Architecture
August 16, 2007 19:41


By the time of adopting Christianity the Old Rus’ was already good at wooden sculpture, moulding, and embossing. As for architecture, it surely existed, but it is hardly possible to say now at what stage of development it was, since not a single monument of the pre-Christian epoch has survived: something did not stand the test of time, while the major part was presumably destroyed by people. Christians zealously ruined everything that could remind of polytheism.

Archeological diggings and researches revealed that Old Rus’ did not have monumental stone architecture till the end of the 10th century. There used to be wooden constructions and earth-houses. In the early Christian period wooden architecture still prevailed, because wood was more affordable. Mainly these were big town cathedrals that were built of stone.

One of the first stone constructions in Old Rus’ was erected by Greek masters in the late 10th century: it was the 25-domed Church of Our Lady in Kiev. Only the basis of this building has come down to us. During the Tatar Yoke the invaders burned the church down and buried the last defenders of the city under its ruins.

 Though stone building in the 10-11th cc was mainly carried out by Byzantine architects, their creations differed much from the temples in their native land. The overseas masters had to solve new tasks in Russia, such as raising very high church galleries and delubrums, while using unaccustomed building materials. Moreover, they had to cope with the tastes of customers, brought up in traditions and aesthetic likings of the old wooden architecture. Thus, originating on the basis of Byzantine architecture, Russian stone architecture even at its early stage had its peculiar features and by the second half of the 12th century developed its own traditions.

From the 12th century the stone laying styles differed from one town to another. Various architectural schools appeared in the period of feudal disunity. The differences in architectural methods were mainly connected to the building materials used in this or that land. In Novgorod, for instance, the most widespread material was limestone, while in Kiev, Smolensk, Chernigov and Ryazan the masons still used plinth (broad and flat burnt stone that was the basic building material in Byzantine architecture and the Russian church building of the 10-13th cc). The majority of churches of the 12th-early 13th cc. were one-domed. Mosaic pictures started giving way to frescoes.

In the 14-15th cc., earlier than in other towns, brick building was renewed in Novgorod and Pskov. Resorting to the former traditions, their residents built dozens of smaller churches. Among them are notable monuments of architecture and painting, such as Fyodor Stratilat Church on Brook (1361) and Our Saviour’s Church in Ilyina street (1374) in Novgorod, and St. Basil’s Church on Hill (1410) in Pskov.

 The 16th century saw stepped-up building of stone churches and fortresses, though on the whole Rus’, both urban and rural, remained wooden. The Renaissance traits introduced by Italian architects were hardly kept up by Russian architecture which turned to the revival of Vladimir and Suzdal heritage.

In the 17th century decorative elements strengthened in Russian architecture. In spite of the opposition of church, secular principles permeated more and more into cult construction. Churches acquired nearer similarity to secular palaces with their asymmetrical forms, intricate volumes, and sumptuous decoration.

In the 18th century Russian architecture entered a new stage of development: the radial and circular planning gave way to the regular one with geometrical accuracy, symmetry, and common rules and methods.

In the first half of the 19th century the Baroque taste was replaced by classicism. The epoch of Alexander I and Nikolas I became the period of the Russian Empire style, i.e. one of the types of classicism, with the tendency toward massive forms and rich décor, as well as excessive use of military emblems and ornaments. This manifested very well in St. Petersburg, where lots of streets amaze with their unity and harmony.

The second half of the 19th century was peculiar for architectural eclectics, with variety of trends and mixture of styles.

Sources:
    arkhitektura.com
    stonecastleband.info

Photos:
    photoforum.ru
    loc.gov
    humanities.edu.ru


Tags: Russian history Russian Architecture    

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