Russian Orthodox Church Architecture

  1. Basic architectural problem
    1. Same as Byzantine church architecture.
    2. Problem: how to reconcile the symbolic content of the building with the difficulty of getting it to stand up.
      1. Symbolic content
        1. church building is a symbol of the universe
        2. dome above stands for the open heavens
        3. square/rectangular base stands for the earth below
        4. the light from the heavens above "breaks in" to the earth below and transfigures our world. a fundamentally different approach to church architecture than in the Western tradition (e,g. Gothic) where our attention is directed above to transcend this world.
      2. Structural Problem
        1. how to get a round dome on a square base
        2. essential nature of solution: throw something across the corners of the building
        3. variations of this structural solution along with decorative variations for the history of Russian Orthodox church architecture.
  2. Early Byzantine Influence
    1. Hagia (St.) Sophia in Kiev (1036-1046). 010
      1. built by Yaroslav the Wise
      2. imitation of Justinian's Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. 036, 034, 035
      3. basilica: series of 5 aisles East to West
      4. central dome over the great crossing symbolizing Christ
      5. 12 smaller domes representing the Apostles
      6. originally low "helmet" domes over the "drums"
      7. probably an overall pyramid shape
      8. decorated with mosaics and wall paintings
      9. some secular decorations
        1. 2 actors (one masked) fighting
        2. musicians playing string instruments
      10. by 1018 there were 400 churches in Kiev
    2. Church of the Transfiguration in Chernigov
      1. "cross in the square" floor plan
      2. porches added from monastic influence
      3. lack of fancy decoration on outside walls
  3. Vladimir/Suzdal Period
    1. Vladimir superseded Kiev as capital of Russia
    2. classic Russian modification of Byzantine style
    3. 3 aisles terminating in apses at the east end
    4. appearance of a narrow, cylindrical drum upholding the dome
    5. Church of the Pokrov on the river Nerl. 012
      1. small scale
      2. cubic proportions
      3. single dome
      4. sculptured decoration on walls
    6. Cathedral of St. Dmitri at Vladimir (1194-97) shows sculptured decorations, some reminiscent of wood-carving. 013, 014, 039
  4. The Novgorod Period
    1. St. Sophia (1045-52). 042
      1. town's principal church and coronation church of its princes
      2. 5 domes, 3 aisles
    2. Church of St. George in the Yuriev Monastery (1119). 011
      1. only 3 domes
      2. transformation of squat Byzantine dome into the pointed Russian one was under way. Strong resemblance to the helmet worn by Russian soldiers at that time.
    3. Late 13th century marks a halt in Novgorod's cultural life. Novgorod pays tribute to the Mongols.
    4. Introduction of sloping roof. Better suited to the Russian climate.
    5. Three-fold division of exterior walls, heightened and decorated drum, helmet shaped dome.
  5. Wooden Churches. 021, 022, 023, 025, 026, 027, 028, 032
    1. Contributed to the Moscow architectural style.
    2. Octagonal plan, tent shaped roof.
    3. External staircase with a sloped roof.
  6. The Moscow Period
    1. The Russian Church transforms its seat from Vladimir to Moscow in 1328
    2. Cathedral of the Assumption built by the Italian architect Fioravanti for Ivan III, after the cathedral of the same name in Vladimir. 003, 006
  7. Later developments in architecture
    1. kokoshniki: arches thrown on top of arches. 004,
    2. decorative effect of kokoshniki
    3. first Italian influence in Moscow Kremlin: Renaissance details on walls of exterior. 007, 047
    4. tent-shaped churches (first built of logs)
    5. extreme verticality implemented with kokoshniki
    6. St. Basil's in Red Square. 040,
    7. basis for bell towers after Patriarch Nikon: Tower of Ivan the Terrible in Kremlin. 052,
  8. Successive Western Influence
    1. Baroque: rounded walls, sweeping staircases
    2. St. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg
    3. Neoclassicism: Holy Trinity Cathedral in Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg
  9. Interior of Russian Churches
    1. light of the divine presence transfiguring the cosmos
    2. light diffused through narrow lanced windows in drums. 034,
    3. based on Revelation's description of the New Jerusalem with constant light from no known source (bathed in light)
    4. use of frescoes and icons to make present the whole community of saints
    5. main dome over great crossing: Pantocrator (God the Ruler of all) at top of dome; prophets of Israel, angels at lower ranks in drum. 037, 038
    6. main walls: major scenes from Gospels; church feasts and councils; saints
    7. iconostasis: 002. Royal doors have four evangelists and feasts of Annunciation; Last Supper on lintel above Royal doors; image of Savior to right of Royal doors and Virgin to left; Deacons and angels on other doors; second rank 12 feasts of church year; 3rd rank: Lord in Glory flanked by John the Baptist and Mother of God and saints and church fathers (called the Deisis); highest rank: prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament
    8. main apse behind the iconostasis: Mother of God
    9. Russian architecture treats iconostasis increasingly as a wall
    10. only people in holy orders can enter beyond the iconostasis
    11. only priests and deacons can pass through Royal Doors