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S. V. Zagraevsky


Some issues of organization of ancient Russian construction



Published in Russian: Заграевский С.В. Некоторые вопросы организации древнерусского строительства. В кн.: Материалы межрегиональной краеведческой конференции (28 апреля 2011 г.). Владимир, 2012. С. 292–302.





The author exposes the scientific criticism of the theories formerly dominant in the history of Ancient Russian architecture: "Folk-Builder", "Architect-Artisan", "Natural projecting" and "Several independent architects on one object". It is shown that in fact, the organization of construction in Ancient Russia was not fundamentally different from modern organization. It provided layouts, drawings, project approval by the client, unity of command at the building site, and the availability of professional specialized craftsmen.





The following text was translated from Russian original by the computer program

and has not yet been edited.

So it can be used only for general introduction.




It is no exaggeration to say that in the Soviet period in the history of ancient architecture was dominated by the view of the construction process, voiced in the late nineteenth century, I.E. Zabelin1. This view can be summarized as follows: the principal and the principal author of each monument of architecture of Ancient Russia was the people in the broadest sense of the word. According to this theory, supported by many leading researchers, even unique stone building, even architectural masterpieces of the scale of the assumption Cathedral in Vladimir or the Cathedral of intercession on the Moat was erected by "nation-Builder", using standard modules2. Copyright start was limited primarily to the specifics of Church donor's order3, and the role of the architect - especially to the leadership team of builders4. Accordingly, the architect was only some sort of a mediator between the churchwarden and builders.

Exceptions were made only for the "wandering stars" such as Aristotle Fioravanti or Aleviz New: they could not be "artel", and had to admit their sole authorship, to explore their creative style, etc. But, for example, to the EAST Ermolino theory "architect-porter" was applied in full: in the early twentieth century, I.E. Zabelin announced that Yermolin only "was the most experience in the construction business, but was not the architect or contractor, but only a Trustee of the case"5. This view is found in our days6.

In turn, the theory of "people-Builder and architect-porter" has created the theory of a "full-scale design", consisting in the fact that building up to the end of XV century were built without the preliminary draft (at least in the form of a layout or the General drawing7), and with the churchwarden was consistent only the overall size and some of the features of the architectural appearance of the building8.

Accordingly, the main and often the only author of each building was the team that worked on the order of one or another churchwarden (king, Prince, Bishop, boyar, monastery and the like). It is not surprising that in the second half of the twentieth century monitoring of navigation routes of ancient pre-Mongol collectives from the construction site to the site, from city to city, from the Principality in the Principality was erected in almost cult9. And even in those cases when the transition scheme contradicted the chronicle dates, scientists often focused not on the record, but on the schema10.

And from these three theories - "nation-builders", "architect-porter" and "full-scale design" is quite logical, spawned another one: the availability in the same farm (respectively, on the same object) two or more mutually independent architects with their own creative hand each. This theory has been very "convenient" for an explanation of any architectural influences and borrowings: they said that the architect can design some elements of the building in the same style, the other - the other elements in a different style, etc.11

The fact that all four of these theories does not correspond to contemporary architectural practice, Soviet historians of the ancient Russian architecture could not understand. There is no doubt that they were familiar with the "Ten books on architecture Alberti and other classic works12speaking about that, as in the Middle ages, and in modern times throughout the civilized world:

- at construction sites has been a monarchy;

- the author and the responsible executor of the construction project was the architect, not a churchwarden and not the whole gang;

- if available for architects, sponsors, they were United by a single author of the idea and carried severally liable for the execution of the order;

- any major building project must be made in the form of drawings and layouts (for presentation to the customer and construction work). Construction without drawings and layouts equivalent construction without the project;

- in case of more or less serious alterations and changes of the author's intention in the course of construction (traces of which are often found on the monuments of architecture in Russia and in the world) was done and approved new drawings and / or new layouts.


Medieval drawings Milan Cathedral (plan with a fragment of the section, the facade of the proportional scheme).


Medieval drawings Milan Cathedral: a plan with a fragment of the section, the facade of the proportional scheme (General history of architecture. L-M, 1966. So 4. C. 654).


Why Soviet historians of architecture at the same time believed that the ancient builders was a "their", "special" way, far from the logic and rationality, and from the world practice, - we can only guess.

Apparently, there were several reasons. First, of course, ideological: the understanding of the people as the main author of buildings and architecture as a self-developing "tree" in line with the theory of dialectical materialism. And "ideological justification", in turn, contributed to the preservation of the monuments of ancient architecture that this approach was not "Royal" or "Church"and "popular".

I think that was one good reason: the need to save additions, modern and ancient temples.

The idea of cleaning the temples of the "orogovevshi" additions and the isolation of the main, the "author" of the middle of XIX century was so the pressures that led to the demolition of galleries Cathedral in Vladimir. Scientists soon realized the great fallacy of such drastic actions (any ancient building priceless), but the inertia of the practitioners of restorers was so strong that in the twentieth century were dismantled cloisters of the Church of the Transfiguration in Vyazemy and the Annunciation Cathedral in Kirzhach, under threat of demolition was galleries intercession (now Trinity) Cathedral in Alexandrov Sloboda, churches of St. Peter the Metropolitan in Pereslavl, of the ascension in Kolomenskoye and some other temples.


Demetrius Cathedral in 1843 (before the demolition of annexes). Drawing By F. Dmitriev.


Demetrius Cathedral in 1843 (before the demolition of annexes). Figure F. Dmitriev.


And because of the extension, covering column-type belt of the Church of the Nativity of the virgin in the hierarchy, of the Intercession on the Nerl and the Dmitrievsky Cathedral, could not be part of the author's intention from the point of view of logic, and architectural archeology (unlike galleries temples of the XVI century, all the pre-Mongol of the extension were not tied to the main volume of buildings), - N.N. Voronin and P.A. the Rappoport had to declare the actions of ancient builders "illogical from a modern point of view"13. This "irrationality" could be attributed only to the "people-Builder" in accordance with the theory of "full-scale design"14.


Blocked column-type belt at the junction of the arch of the Northern passage to the wall of the Church of the Nativity of the virgin in the hierarchy.


Blocked column-type belt at the junction of the arch of the Northern passage to the wall of the Church of the Nativity of the virgin in the hierarchy.


So there was formed the four organizational theory ancient building, which can be called today the stereotypical "nation-Builder", "architect-porter", "live-engineering" and "several mutually independent architects on the same object. In Soviet times, these theories is quite consistent with the dominant Marxist-Leninist ideology, now they fit into the ideology of the "special Russian way."

But in our time there is no need to involve any ideology to justify that and a historical-architectural theory, and we can consider impartially, on the basis of data from several studies in recent decades.

First of all, we have the ability to isolate a single author beginning at four pre-Mongolian monuments of Vladimir-Suzdal land that had previously been made in a wide interval 1158-1165 years and were threatening to hypothetical Grand artel15. This is the assumption Cathedral and the Golden gate in Vladimir, the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl and the Nativity of the virgin in the hierarchy. According to revised data Assembly, all these buildings were started construction in 115816and they had one and the same author - architect, who came to Andrew Bogoliubsky (by invitation still Yuri Dolgoruky17) from Frederick Barbarossa18.

Hence, the theory of "nation-Builder and architect-porter" to these buildings are in any case not applicable: they had the author, which by its status could not be directly associated with any of the existing building cooperatives. He could give the farm in a row, it could dispose of or place to dispose of any of came with him helpers, but in any case it is not shared with the team of authorship.

And since this writer was one of the leading architects of Western Europe (after all, it is sent by the Emperor), then we can confidently say that about any "full-scale design" for its constructions we can not go. This means that an extension is not tied up with the basic volume of a building and the overlying column-type belt, could not be part of its concept of copyright19.

All of the above in respect of the extensions to the Church of the Nativity of the virgin in the hierarchy and of the Intercession on the Nerl is confirmed by the architectural and archaeological information about what extension to the Dmitrievsky Cathedral, which was also blocked column-type belt, were constructed not earlier than eight years after the main volume and was actually part of the Grand-Ducal Palace20, hardly could have one author's idea with the Church.

Rationality and consistency of actions of old masters and says such fact: the builders of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the virgin 1222-1225 in Suzdal not become fully stoning expensive21 the limestone wall of the Church covered the Western porch, and used parts of plinthite laying of Monomakh and plinthite own production (as rightly believed N.N. Voronin, this economy was caused by the fact that this section of the wall still was intended for plaster and painting22).

The fact built in 1158 two large stone churches and parallel construction began in the same year two more capital buildings (the Golden gate and the assumption Cathedral) again shows infidelity inevitable consequence of the theory of "architect-porter" - method of Dating temples by tracking schemes transition collectives in full, from architect to ordinary masons. We have repeatedly shown that this scheme does not apply to large-scale temple construction, undertaken in 1152 by Yuri Dolgoruky23 (artel may not build more than one Church per year), and now we see that in 1158, there was the same situation.

And this confirms informed us in his time position that architects and icon-painters, jewelers, sculptors and other unique and highly specialized professionals could create "construction squads"24, go from the building on the construction site and from town to town as often and to organize the construction simultaneously in several cities25and the majority of builders were formed from local staff26.

The theory of "people-Builder", "architect-porter" and "full-scale design" refuted by the fact that the author was justified in the early 2000-ies: the architect and is likely to be somewhat "older masters" Yuri Dolgoruky received training in Western Europe, including in the city of Speyer (Speyer), where they built a large Imperial Cathedral27.

Another important provision was justified CENTURIES Kavelmaherom28 and confirmed by the author of the study29: the chronicler, reported that a "master" of the St George Cathedral was Prince Svyatoslav, was not wrong (as I thought Voronin30), and Svyatoslav really was the author of the temple. And if Vasily Yermolin, Cows or Yakovich Miloneg-Peter31 could be "architects-artel" at least in theory, something about Rurikovich (and not a "rogue state"and "sitting on the lot") is not to say anyway.

Supporters of the method "full-scale design" refer to the fact that no ancient drawings before the XVI century to the present day has not survived32. But ancient documentary sources have survived in incomplete form so that the presence of these drawings (and even more volume model) could only be a very unlikely coincidence. (Probably the layout of the temple is in the hands of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich we see the fresco XIII century in the Church of our Savior on Nereditsa, but there may be other interpretations, so only note again that, and drawings, and models in the Middle ages necessarily used on any more or less large construction sites all over the world, and Russia could not be an exception: the building without drawings and layouts equivalent construction without the project33). 



Probable layout of the temple is in the hands of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich on the fresco of the Saviour Church at Nereditsa.


The theory of "multiple mutually independent architects" until recently34 developed on the example of the Church of the Transfiguration in the Island (end of XVI century), in which there are three basic stylistic components - "Moskovskaya", "Pskov" and Gothic, and in a very whimsical combination. Accordingly, the temple was "testing ground" for testing this theory. But in released in 2009 the fundamental study of this temple CENTURIES Kavelmaher wrote: "At the construction site, as on the ship at all times prevailed monarchy. At a certain stage churchwarden may, of course, to intervene, to demand something to alter etc. 35.

It V.V. Kavelmaherom add only that any big old Russian Church is a complicated engineering construction, and all components of its architectural forms and decor could not violate its structural integrity. We must not forget that someone had to bear the responsibility for possible (and common) building disaster. So, it is impossible to deny the unity of command, and one author's idea, which in the architecture inevitably involves not only aesthetics, but also with structural reliability of the building.

So we see that in relation to theories of organization of ancient building, which we tentatively identified as a "nation-Builder", "architect-porter", "live-engineering" and "several mutually independent architects on the same object, there are of doubt. And we must interpret these doubts in favor not a mysterious "special Russian way", and the normal world architectural practice that for every more or less significant project assumed the unity of command, and one author's idea, and a common responsibility, and design drawings and layouts.




1. Zabelin I.E. features of identity in the ancient Russian architecture. In collection: old and New Russia, №№ 3 and 4, 1878. Later this work was republished many times.

Note that the position I.E. Zabelin was a logical consequence of the then popular "folk" beliefs, which is most clearly expressed N.A. Nekrasov's poem "Railway" (1864).

2. For more information, see: KN Afanasiev. Building architectural forms of ancient architects. M., 1961. C. 3-12; Afanasiev KN. The experience of proportionate analysis. M., 1998; Rappoport P.A. Construction production of Ancient Rus (X-XIII centuries). St.Petersburg, 1994. C. 109.

3. Rappoport P.A. the Architects and builders of the ancient Smolensk. In the book: Ancient Rus and Slavs. M., 1978. C. 405.

4. Ibid. In another study by p. A. Rappoport wrote that in the pre-Mongolian time the architect was "the chief Mason" (Rappoport P.A. Construction output... S. 127). Of course, in a sense, any architect is the head of working on his object masters all construction specialties, but from the context of the study by p. A. Rappoport should exactly what the architect personally worked on the project as a bricklayer.

5. Zabelin I.E. the history of the city of Moscow. M., 1905. C. 114.

6. For example, see: Yakhont O.V. ABOUT the masters of ancient sculpture "St. George zeebonet" (1464) with a main tower of the Moscow Kremlin. Abstracts of the reports at the all-Russian Symposium "Russian Kremlins" (Moscow, 23-26 November 1999). M, 1999.

7. Rappoport P.A. Architects and builders... 405 S.; Rappoport P.A. Construction output... S. 109; TIC A.A. Riddles of ancient drawing. M., 1978. C. 7.

8. Rappoport P.A. Construction output... S. 109.

9. In particular, see: Rappoport P.A. of the old Russian architecture. St. Petersburg, 1993. S.255-269.

10. For example, the message Printing record under 1152 on the construction of this year Yuri Dolgoruky five temples (PSRL 24:77) on the basis of the theoretical views of collectives questioned N.N. Voronin and O.M. ioannisyan (Voronin N.N. The Architecture Of Vladimir-Suzdal Russia. In the book. "History of Russian art", M, 1953. So 1. C. 344; O.M. ioannisyan ON the early development of the Galician architecture. In the book: THE USSR ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. Short communications. No 164. Slavic-Russian archeology. M., 1981. C. 40).

11. So, P.A. Rappoport wrote about the presence of several architects with different creative hand in the pre-Mongol Prince of Smolensk artel (Rappoport P.A. Architects and builders... S. 405); the Church of the Transfiguration in the Island (end of XVI century) such argued M. Il'in and VLV Sedov (more on their positions, see: Kavelmaher CENTURY Church of the Transfiguration in the Island. M., 2009. C. 100).

12. Alberti HP-B. the Ten books on architecture. M., 1935.

Medieval design, including the use of sketches, drawings and models, and described in detail in the book: General history of architecture. So 4. L.-M., 1966. C. 637-658.

13. Voronin N.N. The architecture of North-Eastern Russia XII-XV centuries. M., 1961-1962. So 1. C. 286; Rappoport P.A. once again on the galleries of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl. In the book: The architecture of the USSR, № 1, 1984. C. 106.

14. For example, in our time, some village master carvers cut designs on the inside of their goods, knowing that these patterns inside no one will ever see. They explain this by the fact that "God sees everywhere" (reported VK in Emelin 2009.)

15. For more information, see: Voronin N.N. The architecture of North-Eastern Russia... So 1.

16. Based on the analysis of the Chronicles of data it was established that the Dating of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl and the Nativity of the virgin in the Bogolyubov - 1158 (Zagraevsky SV New study of architectural monuments of Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-reserve. M., 2008. C. 122, 141).

17. Zagraevsky SV New research... S. 45-49.

18. Message NR. Tatishchev explicitly says that the architect of operation Barbarossa built Uspensky Cathedral and the Golden gate (Tatischev V.N. History Of Russia. M., 2005. So 2. C. 319, 687, 703; correctness of this message V.N. Tatishchev was confirmed, in particular, the author of the study in the book: Zagraevsky SV New research... S. 46). Because we do know from the record that the assumption Cathedral was started construction in 1158 (PSRL 1:348), then we have to date this year and the beginning of the Imperial architect.

Detail the work of the Imperial architect discussed in the article: Zagraevsky SV Architect Frederick Barbarossa. M., 2011. The article is on the web-site

19. In the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl and the Nativity of the virgin in Bogolyubov and N.N. Voronin, and P.A. Rappoport noted that extension could be built, and later of the main Church - for example, in the next construction season (Voronin N.N. The architecture of North-Eastern Russia... So 1. C. 286; Rappoport P.A. once again on the galleries of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl. In the book: The architecture of the USSR, № 1, 1984. C. 106). The author of this study showed that the galleries of Intercession Church was built much later, were closed and had a utilitarian character (Zagraevsky SV

20. For more information, see: Zagraevsky SV New research... S. 158-160.

21. In pre-Mongol times the rate of white stone building exceeded the value of a brick is about 10 times (comparative analysis given in the book.: Zagraevsky SV Yuri Dolgoruky and old white-stone architecture. M, 2001. C. 141-143).

22. Voronin N.N. The architecture of North-Eastern Russia... So 2. C. 24.

23. For example, see: Zagraevsky SV Yuri Dolgoruky... S. 27-48; Zagraevsky SV ANDPology Rostov chronicler (to the question about the Dating temples Yuri Dolgoruky). Abstracts. In the book: Materials of the regional conference dedicated to the centenary of the birth of N.N. Voronin (19 April 2004.). Vladimir, 2004. C. 15-26; Zagraevsky SV New research... S. 77-84.

24. In the terminology B.A. Ognev (Ognev B.A. Some problems of the early Moscow architecture. In the book. Architectural heritage, so 12. M., 1960. C. 60).

25. For example, in Kiev for the construction of the Cathedral crypt in 1073 came from Constantinople, "Corporation", consisting of four artists and a few assistants (Paterik of Kiev-Pechersky monastery. St. Petersburg, 1911. C. 9).

26. For more information, see: Zagraevsky SV Yuri Dolgoruky... S. 38.

27. Zagraevsky SV ANDPology Rostov chronicler... S. 16; Zagraevsky SV New research... 40 C..

28. Kavelmaher CENTURIES Cornerstone of Lapidarium George's Cathedral in Yuryev-Polish (to the question of the so-called cross Svyatoslavovom). In the book: Old Russian art. Rus. Byzantium. The Balkans. XIII century. SPb, 1997. C. 192.

29. For more information, see: Zagraevsky SV Questions of architectural history and reconstruction of St. George's Cathedral in Yuryev-Polsky. M., 2008. C. 10.

30. Voronin N.N. The architecture of North-Eastern Russia... So 2. C. 69.

31. Note that the architect Miloneg, in baptism Peter, was a "friend" of Prince Rurik Rostislavich (PSRL 2:703), that, most likely, had a relatively high background and could hardly be "porter".

32. Rappoport P.A. Construction output... S. 109, approx. 26 S. 135; TIC A.A. Decree. cit.

33. Let's try to imagine a verbal description of any major ancient temple down to the smallest detail of the architectural decor and understand that without drawing and / or layout of such a description would be impossible to provide or churchwarden for approval, nor builders to work.

34. For example, see: Batalov A.L. Church of the Transfiguration in the village of the Island. Dating questions and the origin of the masters. In the book: DRI: Artistic life of Pskov and art of the Late-era. For the 600th anniversary since the Foundation of the city. M., 2009. With 70.

35. Kavelmaher CENTURY Church of the Transfiguration in the Island... S. 101-102.


© Sergey Zagraevsky


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