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Fading Beauty: Wooden Architecture of the Russian North
Fading Beauty: Wooden Architecture of the Russian North

Wooden buildings are a distinctive part of Russia's architectural heritage, especially in traditional villages in the north of the country. For more than a thousand years, until the 18th century, literally all buildings were erected from wood, including houses, barns, mills, princely palaces and temples.

It all started with simple wooden domes, but over the centuries wooden architecture in Russia has reached such a degree of grace that the beauty of some of these religious complexes is still admired today. The traditional wooden churches of the north of Russia are especially interesting.

In the Russian North, you can see the incredible beauty of the church

Working without hammers and nails, Russian architects erected such incredible structures as the 24-domed Intercession Church in Vytegra (built in 1708 and burned down in 1963) and the 22-domed Transfiguration Church on the Kizhi Island (built in 1714).

Village Ilyinsky Island (Mosha)

None of the first wooden churches have survived, but some cathedrals built at the beginning of the 18th century managed to survive as many harsh winters and the persecution of the church by the communists, when for almost a hundred years the magnificent churches were burned or desecrated. Most of the miraculously preserved churches are now in a state of decay and desolation.

Today many wooden churches need restoration

When at the end of the 19th century the famous artist and illustrator of Russian folk tales Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin visited the northern part of Russia, he saw these unique wooden churches with his own eyes and literally fell in love with them. With his photographs taken while traveling in the north, Bilibin managed to draw people's attention to the deplorable state of the wooden churches. It was thanks to his efforts and the sale of postcards that money was raised to restore 300-year-old churches. But since then, almost a century and a half have passed, and many wooden churches in the Russian North need restoration again.

1. Kizhi churchyard

Kizhi churchyard in Karelia

Kizhi or Kizhi Pogost is located on one of the many islands of Lake Onega in Karelia. This architectural ensemble includes two beautiful wooden churches from the 18th century and an octagonal bell tower (also made of wood), which was built in 1862. A real gem of Kizhi architecture is the 22-domed Church of the Transfiguration with a large iconostasis - a wooden altar partition covered with religious portraits and icons.

Domes of the Transfiguration Church

The roof of the Transfiguration Church in Kizhi was made of fir planks, and its domes were covered with aspen. The design of these intricate superstructures also provided an efficient ventilation system that ultimately kept the structure of the church from decay.

One of the tallest wooden buildings in the world

This massive church, about 37 meters high, was made entirely of wood, making it one of the tallest log structures in the world. Not a single nail was used during the construction.

The architectural ensemble of Kizhi

During the 1950s, dozens of other churches from various parts of Karelia were moved to the island for conservation purposes, and today 80 historic wooden structures form the national open-air museum.

2. Church in Suzdal


In Suzdali (Vladimir region) you can find at least 4 interesting wooden churches built between the 13th and 18th centuries.

One of the domes of the Suzdal Temple

Some of them are exhibits of the Museum of Wooden Architecture, created in Suzdal.


3. Church of All Saints in Surgut

Historical and cultural center "Old Surgut"

The temple in the name of all the saints who shone in the land of Siberia, built in Surgut, was restored in 2002 according to all the canons of Orthodox architecture - a wooden structure without a single nail. And they collected it at the very place where the Cossacks founded the city and built the first church.

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with

The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in 1531 in the village of Peredki. Subsequently, it was transferred to the open-air museum of Vitoslavlitsa.

4. Church of Elisha the Pleasant on Sidozero

The destroyed church of St. Elisha

Church of St. prop. Elisey Ugodnik is located in the Podporozhsky district of the Leningrad region on the shore of Lake Sidozero, not far from the summer cottage village of Yakovlevskaya. Previously, not far from the village and in the immediate vicinity of the church was the village of Yakovlevskoe (Sidozero village). Now there are no residential buildings near the church - only on the other side.

Church of Elisha the Prophet - Sidozero (Yakovlevskoe) - Podporozhsky District - Leningrad Region

Orthodox church, built in 1899. The building is wooden, on a stone foundation, but at the same time it has the forms of the Russian eclectic style, characteristic of stone architecture. Closed in the late 1930s.

The fate of the church is sad: apparently, its value has faded in comparison with its luxurious and ancient neighbors - the temples in Soginitsy, Shcheleiki. Vazhin and Gimrek, who were even awarded the status of cultural heritage sites (architectural monuments) of federal significance and comprehensive restoration in the 1970s, and, in general, feeling quite well.

View of the Church of the Prophet Elisha from the west

The Church of Elisha on Sidozero was not included in any high lists (and guidebooks) in the middle of the last century, apparently because of its age and style, but now it is completely abandoned and neglected, came into disrepair - it probably has years left 5-10, until it turns into ruin … But what did not attract due attention of specialists in the 20th century - the stylish beauty of the church - after half a century is its indisputable and extremely attractive advantage

5. Church of the Resurrection of Christ, Suzdal

Church of the Resurrection of Christ from the village of Potakino

The Resurrection Church from the village of Potakino was transported to Suzdal. This church was created in 1776. The bell tower, which is built into the church itself, stands out especially in it.

6. Church of St. George the Victorious in Malye Korely

Orthodox church of St. George

Initially, the Church in the name of St. George the Victorious was built in the village of Vershiny in 1672. During the reconstruction, it was transported to the Arkhangelsk State Museum of Wooden Architecture and Folk Art "Malye Korely".

7. Temple of the Icon of the Mother of God in Upper Sanarka

Temple of the Icon of the Mother of God in Upper Sanark

Verkhnyaya Sanarka is a small village in the Plastovsky district of the Chelyabinsk region. Once upon a time Cossacks lived here. Today, many people strive to visit this village in order to see a unique attraction - the wooden church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Quick to Hearken". This amazing church took three years to build - from 2002 to 2005.

Not a single nail!

The uniqueness of the church is that it was built according to the ancient Russian technology of wooden architecture. Builders specially went to Kizhi to learn this skill. It's hard to believe, but the temple was built without a single nail.

Wooden structures were impregnated with special substances that protect against fire and decay. Now the main attack from which all Russian wooden churches suffered - fire - is not terrible for this church.

The temple has an upper and a lower room, and at the same time it can accommodate 300 believers. The height of the church is 37 meters.

8. Church of St. Nicholas in Veliky Novgorod

Church of St. Nicholas in Veliky Novgorod

9. Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the Perm region

Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the Perm Territory

10. Church of the Resurrection of Christ from Patakino

Church of the Resurrection of Christ

11. Temple in Chukhcherma

Temple in Chukhcherma

12. Temple of the Vladimir Icon of God, Podporozhye village

Temple of the Vladimir Icon of God

The Church of the Vladimir Icon of God, built in 1757, today is a monument of federal significance. The temple stands on the high bank of the Onega River. Outwardly, the temple is strong enough, the "sky" has been preserved from the interior. The roof was destroyed in some places. The central part of the temple sags downward and pulls the adjoining borders with it. Serious restoration work is needed.

13. Temple of the Great Martyr George the Victorious, the village of Permogorye

Temple of the Great Martyr George the Victorious, the village of Permogorye, 1665

Monument of federal significance. The temple is located on the banks of the Northern Dvina and is unique with three domes on a kreshata barrel. In 2011, the board on the roof of the refectory was replaced, the roof was partially repaired around the perimeter, and a drainage ditch was dug around the temple.

14. Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Nimenga village

Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Nimenga village, 1878

The village is located on the shores of the White Sea. The Nimenga River picturesquely bends around the temple from three sides. Photos were taken in June at 2 am. The temple is very large in size. Restoration is currently required.

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