Feast for the eyes and the soul

Автор: Maks Дек 9, 2020

The remarkable wooden church on the island of Kizhi in Lake Onega stands forty metres in height. Built in 1714, the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord has twenty-two cupola domes. Most amazing, and a source of great pride to local Russians, is the astonishing fact that the builders, who were no doubt priests but whose identity remains unknown to modem historians, used not a single metal nail in construction, only wooden pegs.

The name Kizhi first appeared in 1496 in a chronicle containing an inventory of lands and geographical points belonging to the grand princes of Moscow. At the time the island was at the centre of a sizable territory that included villages on other islands and on Onega peninsula; by 1600 there were approximately 130 such settlements surrounding Kizhi.

According to descriptions by chroniclers the island was home to storage sheds and shops, and its bazaars were frequented by surprisingly large crowds from nearby villages and islands.

The construction of the Church of the Transfiguration in 1714, however, gave the island of Kizhi a much different image, one of spirituality and at the same time, dramatic complexity. Complex the structure indeed is; in fact, the church is probably the most complicated piece of wooden architecture to be found anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

The lowest tier consists of three octago-nals placed one atop the other. This feature, combined with the incredible number of cupolas, gives the church a majesty, a regal bearing wholly unexpected so far from major metropolitan areas.

The fortress-like log wall that encircled the island lasted only until the 1700s but was rebuilt in 1959 as part of a program of restoration. The Sha-trovaya Belltower, an original structure that was built in 1874, represents the most recent architecture on Kizhi and the nearby islands.

Kizhi is in itself neither a very large nor an important island; it is, in fact, rather lost in the rocky skerries of Lake Onega. The singular Church of the Transfiguration has, however, made the island one of Russia’s most well known landmarks.

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