S. V. Zagraevsky
Published in Russian: Çàãðàåâñêèé Ñ.Â. Íîâûå èññëåäîâàíèÿ ïàìÿòíèêîâ àðõèòåêòóðû Âëàäèìèðî-Ñóçäàëüñêîãî ìóçåÿ-çàïîâåäíèêà. M.: Àëåâ-Â, 2008. ISBN 5-94025-099-8
About the hypothetical “intermediate” building
of the Cathedral of Nativity of Virgin Mary in Suzdal in 1148
and the original form of Suzdal temple of 1222–1225
1. Analysis of the chronicle data for the construction of Suzdal cathedral
We have to consider the problem,
which attracted the attention of many researchers and had a considerable
resonance in scientific and popular literature: whether a cathedral of Nativity
of Holy Virgin was built in the city of
In this study we shall analyze all
possible arguments pro and contra the existence of this hypothetical cathedral
in Suzdal. First of all, we must
consider the data of ancient documentary sources, which tell about the
construction of a pre-Mongolian cathedrals in the city of
“Laurentian” Chronicle reports under 1222: “Grand Prince George founded the stone Church of Holy Mother of God, at the old place, having destroyed the old building, which began to collapse because of its oldness and its top fell; that church was built by his great-grandfather Vladimir Monomakh and blessed bishop Ephraim”1.
Thus, the chronicler clearly states that Grand Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich in 1222 destroyed Suzdal cathedral, which had been built by Vladimir Monomakh and dedicated to the Holy Virgin, and constructed the new temple at its place. The construction of this cathedral was completed in 1225, as “Laurentian” Chronicle reports: "The Church of Holy Mother of God was built and consecrated by Bishop Simon in 8 day of September"2. There is nothing said about the building of an "intermediate" cathedral in 1148: according to the Chronicler, the temple, which had been built by Monomakh (who died in 1125), was destroyed in 1222.
Another documentary evidence relating to the
construction of the cathedral in the city of
Ancient documentary sources, which directly tell about the construction of a Suzdal cathedral, can be considered exhausted at this message.
Before we consider these reports to determine the presence of contradictions there, we must pay attention to the date of the first Suzdal cathedral, as it is not given in these sources.
The message of “Laurentian” Chronicle under 1222 mentioned Bishop Ephraim as a builder of Suzdal cathedral. Perhaps this refers to Metropolitan Ephraim of Pereyaslavl (a contemporary of Vladimir Monomakh), since the rank of Metropolitan refers to the “third degree” of priesthood, and all clergies of this degree are generally called bishops.
The date of Ephraim Pereyaslavsky’s death is unknown
to us. Most frequently we meet
But N.N. Voronin did not realize the fact that Ephraim was not a Bishop, but a Metropolitan (in this case it does not matter whether there was a metropolitanate in Pereyaslavl7 or Ephraim was only a "titular" Metropolitan8), and Lazarus may have been consecrated also during the life of Ephraim.
We also do not have one hundred percent certainty that Bishop Ephraim of “Laurentian” Chronicle’s message is identical to Metropolitan Ephraim of Pereyaslavl9. Consequently, we have no right to tie Suzdal cathedral dating with the life dates of the Metropolitan, even if we had known them for sure.
Another doubt in Suzdal cathedral’s dating by 1101 is
that the message about the second visit of Monomakh to Suzdal region referred
to the founding of the cathedral in Smolensk10, and Suzdal cathedral
is not mentioned. And a supplement of existing chronicle details by the
assumptions that at this time could have happened something like that, which
escaped the notice of the chronicler, looks absolutely illegal. Since the
chronicler wrote about
The personal presence of Vladimir Monomakh at the foundation and construction of Suzdal cathedral was also absolutely unnecessary (in Suzdal in early XII century there were a local Prince and Monomakh’s governor).
Accordingly, we have no right to tie the construction of the temple in Suzdal with any Vladimir Vsevolodovich’s trip to Suzdal land.
Thus, we must note that the only satisfactory dating basis for the first Suzdal cathedral is marked by “Laurentian” Chronicle: the fact that it was built during the lifetime of Monomakh, so the most rigorous and well-grounded dating of this temple – not later than 1125.
Let us remember architectural and archaeological surveys
conducted in the Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin in the city of
We can now proceed to the analysis of the texts of Chronicle and Paterik.
Both of “Laurentian” Chronicle’s messages have no
internal contradictions and are consistent with the data of studies of
1937-1940, and 1987, and 1994-200115, which opened two foundations –
Fig. 20. Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin in Suzdal. General view.
Fig. 21. Combined plans for Monomakh’s cathedral and the temple of 1222-1225 (by P.L. Zykov).
But “Laurentian” Chronicle calls Monomakh the builder of the first cathedral in Suzdal, and Paterikon says that Monomakh erected the temple in Rostov17, and the cathedral in Suzdal was built by Yuri Dolgoruky. What Yuri’s temple is referred to in Paterikon? And which temple was erected during Monomakh’s reign, isn’t there a contradiction with “Laurentian” Chronicle?
The fact that Paterikon tells about Suzdal cathedral, which was built by Yuri in Monomakh time, and that this message does not contradict “Laurentian” Chronicle, is confirmed by the following provisions.
Firstly, Paterikon says that Dolgoruky built the
temple in Suzdal "in the same measure" as the temple in
Secondly, by the context of the message of Paterikon,
some decades could hardly pass between the construction of Monomakh’s temple in
Third, the dates of Yuri Dolgoruky’s birth (early-mid 1090s), the beginning of his reign in Suzdal (range of dates offered by researchers – since 109619 to 111320) and the construction of the first Suzdal cathedral (not later than 1125) are quite conventional. The spread of all these dates is so large that we are justified in believing: Yuri Dolgoruky at the time of construction of Suzdal cathedral could be the Prince of Suzdal land, and a grown man, capable to be a churchwarden of the cathedral himself.
Fourth, the historical fate of the first years (and possibly of the first decades) of Yuri Dolgoruky’s reign in Suzdal principality was inseparable from the historical fate of the reign of his father, so Monomakh could be called in the sources a churchwarden of the temple along with Dolgoruky – as the Grand Prince (if the cathedral was built during the reign of Vladimir Vsevolodovich in Kiev), or as an authoritative father of a young son (if the cathedral was erected earlier).
Fifthly, it is likely that Yury Vladimirovich, Suzdal Prince, had during the life of Monomakh no political or financial independence, and he was a churchwarden of the temple only formally, in fact acting by the will of Vladimir Vsevolodovich.
Thus, in Paterikon it is said about
Let us summarize our study of ancient documentary
sources, which directly tell about the construction of the cathedral in the
We have shown that the messages of “Laurentian” Chronicle and Paterik have no internal contradictions and do not contradict either to each other, nor to the results of archeological researches. Consequently, according to the specified documentary sources, the first Suzdal cathedral was erected not later than 1125, the second – in 1222-1225. Monomakh and Yury Dolgoruky were the churchwardens of the first temple, Yuri Vsevolodovich – of the second21.
There is nothing said about any "intermediate" construction in these sources, moreover – “Laurentian” Chronicle precludes such construction.
2. The arguments in favor of a hypothetical construction in 1148
First Novgorod Chronicle under 1148 reports: “Nifont went to Suzdal to make peace with Gyurgevi, and was accepted by Gyurgi with love, and made the great consecration of the Church of the Holy Virgin, and all people from New Torzhok got freedom, and all merchants were alive, and he went to Novgorod with honor, but peace was not given”22.
Doesn’t this message (even not directly) mean that in
Such was the position taken by A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina23. G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina in their studies followed the majority of the arguments of A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin in favor of the building of a new cathedral in 1148, so for simplicity we shall combine the positions of all these researchers.
Here are all the arguments advanced in favor of the existence of the hypothetical cathedral of 1148.
1. As we have already noted, A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina believed that First Novgorod Chronicle reports that Nifont in 1148 consecrated the new cathedral, which had been built on the site of the first temple.
2. Inside the southern forechurch of the existing
cathedral at the depth of
3. The forechurches of the existing cathedral are "attached" to it (have no bind masonry), the level of the socle of the southern forechurch is below the level of the socle of the temple, and the top of the southern forechurch cuts into the arcature-columnar zone. This gave the researchers possibility to argue that the forechurches were erected in 1148, i.e. belonged to the hypothetical temple. In support of that position the message of Chronicles was used, which confirmed that the cathedral had forechurches in the end of XII century: in 1194, when the temple was repaired, it was “covered with tin from the top to the arched gables and forechurches”25.
4. Under the portal of the north forechurch of the
existing cathedral the study of 1937-1940 found the remains of a previous
portal (fairly simple, consisting of only two ledges) and a socle deflux. These
fragments are similar by ease of execution to the corresponding architectural
details of Holy Transfiguration cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalessky and the
5. Between stratigraphic layers of the construction of
Monomakh’s temple and of the cathedral of 1222-
6. The quantity of roughly treated tuff-like limestone (in historical and architectural common parlance usually referred to as “tuff”26) in the lining of the first tier of the existing temple is very large – according to V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina, about 40% (Fig. 22). Tuff-like limestone is the primary lining of the lower tier of the cathedral, and fragments of well-treated white stone wall masonry are traces of repairs, as it is evidenced by the following data:
– According to the study of 1998, tuff-like limestone was laid on a pink lime with “tsemyanka” (admixture of plinthite powder), and white stone – on a light mortar with the addition of white stone powder;
– According to the archaeological study of 1994-1996, the walls are rubbled with lime with the addition of “tsemyanka”, i.e. this mortar is closer to that of the masonry of tuff-like limestone;
– According to the observations of the author of this study, the masonry of tuff-like limestone is homogeneous, and of well-treated white stone – variable and of different times (Fig. 22).
In connection with the primacy of tuff-like limestone masonry, A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina believed that the lower part of the existing temple was built of tuff-like limestone in 1148, and the upper part was rebuilt of well-treated white stone in 1222-1225 (and later was again rebuilt in XVI century, already in brick). Accordingly, by their opinion, the foundations and lower parts of the walls belong not to the cathedral of 1222-1225, but to the hypothetical temple of 1148.
Fig. 22. The masonry of the walls of Suzdal cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin.
7. Those researchers drew attention to the fact that the profiled portals and the arcature-columnar zone of the existing cathedral (Fig. 23) is "embedded" in the lining of tuff-like limestone, and believed that those architectural details appeared on the hypothetical temple later than in 1148 (respectively in 1222-1225).
Fig. 23. Arcature-columnar zone of the Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin.
8. The mentioned researchers saw the following logical path of development of construction in Suzdal land: the era of Monomakh – plinthite and “opus mixtum”, 1148 – tuff-like limestone, since 1152 – well-treated white stone. Otherwise, in their view, the cathedral facing by tuff-like limestone in the beginning of XIII century would have meant regression of construction technique.
Thus, those researchers believed that the hypothetical cathedral of 1148 had six pillars, three apses and three forechurches, and was faced by tuff-like limestone. This cathedral, in their view, was a "transition" from the technology «opus mixtum» of Monomakh time to well-treated white stone technology, which appeared in 1152; in 1222-1225 the top of the hypothetical temple of 1148 was rebuilt to arcature-columnar zone, and the lower part of that temple is inherently preserved to this day (note that in the case of acceptance of the position of those researchers we would have to change the basic dating of the existing cathedral from 1222-1225 to 1148).
Arguing that the hypothetical temple was built in 1148, those researchers inevitably faced with the problem of interpretation of the messages of “Laurentian” Chronicle and Paterikon (see Section 1). They felt that since Paterikon did not indicate the date of construction, its message tells about the building by Yuri Dolgoruky not of the first cathedral in Suzdal (of Monomakh’s times), but of the hypothetical cathedral of 1148. And concerning the report of “Laurentian” Chronicle under 1222, which clearly negates the existence of any "intermediate" cathedral in Suzdal, those researchers had to declare it a mistake and ignore.
3. Consideration of the pros and cons of the construction in 1148 and concerns about the original form of the cathedral of 1222-1225
In order to understand whether the message of
“Laurentian” Chronicle under 1222 may be disavowed, we must consider all mentioned
in Sect. 2 arguments in favor of the existence of the hypothetical temple of
1148. If at least one of them will be indisputable and irrefutable, we shall
also have to admit Chronicles’ message as a mistake and believe that Yuri
Dolgoruky built in the city of
But first of all let us note that in this case we shall have to disown the message not only of “Laurentian” Chronicle, but also of Paterikon – in the part which says that Dolgoruky built the temple in Suzdal "in the measure" of Pechersky. As we have seen in Section 1, this "measure" corresponds only to the foundation of Monomakh’s temple.
Naturally, a priori critical attitude to invaluable documentary information of the beginning of XIII century is unacceptable, and it will be possible to consider the messages of “Laurentian” Chronicle and Paterikon as erroneous only in the case of exceptionally robust and significant arguments without generating any doubts. Let us see whether any of these mentioned in Section 2 arguments of A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina may be qualified for such an exceptional value and reliability.
And we shall start with the first argument – First Novgorod Chronicle’s report that Nifont in 1148 “made the great consecration of the Church of the Holy Virgin” in Suzdal.
And we now can consider the second argument contained in Section 2 – the floor, opened by archaeological investigations of 1937-1940 and dated by the interval between the dates of Monomakh’s cathedral and the existing one. N.N. Voronin, who denied the existence of the temple of 1148, quite rightly thought that in that year the first cathedral was repaired and the level of the floor was raised28.
It was impossible not to move the altar when raising the floor level. Accordingly, "great consecration" after the renovation of 1148 was mandatory, and about it, most likely, the message of First Novgorod Chronicle tells29.
The third and fourth arguments for the existence of the hypothetical cathedral of 1148 were related to the forechurches. Let us briefly repeat the problematic issues:
– the temple, according to the chronicles, had forechurches in 1194;
– the existing forechurches are not tied to the temple, the southern forechurch covers the arcature-columnar zone;
– under the northern portal of the existing forechurch the remains of the previous portal and socle were found.
The acceptance of the version of existence of the cathedral of 1148 does not solve these problems, because if we believe that remnants of the portal and the socle under the existing forechurch belong to a forechurch of the hypothetical cathedral, then we must consider the existing forechurches belonging to the cathedral not of 1148, but of 1222-1225, and it remains unclear why the existing forechurches are not tied with the temple. And if we assume that the existing forechurches belong to the hypothetical cathedral of 1148, it remains unclear to what temple the remains of the portal and the socle are related.
N.N. Voronin considered that the existing forechurches are not tied with the temple for two reasons:
– the forechurches and the temple had various perspectives of settling;
– such was the sequence of construction of various parts of the temple30.
And this researcher, who denied the existence of the cathedral of 1148, was to assume as "mysterious" the existence of the remains of the portal and the socle under the existing forechurch31. However, as we have just shown, the acceptance of the existence of this hypothetical cathedral would not have given a satisfactory solution of this problem.
Consistent answers to these questions is given by the understanding of a very important fact: in 1222-1225 the plans of the churchwarden, priests and builders changed many times during the construction of the building (in later chapters we shall show that a similar situation occurred during the construction of the Church of Nativity in Bogolyubovo, the Church of Intersession on the Nerl and the Cathedral of St. Demetrius in Vladimir).
1. Initially, Yuri Vsevolodovich’s cathedral was designed with 3 forechurches. The foundation of this cathedral was placed on top of the foundation of the first temple, and to provide the necessary stability it was needed to raise it above the floor level of 1148 and to sprinkle ground, having created a small artificial hill, which was shown by the archaeological investigations of 1994-2001. And the level of the floor of the forechurches, under which there were no other foundations, was planned at a lower point – at the level of the floor raised by the repairs of 1148. Portals and socles were to be simple enough (portals – in the form of a simple ledge, skirting board – in the form of a simple deflux).
2. Having raised the southern and northern forechurches to the level of the socle, the builders rejected them – may be it was decided that the cathedral will look more coherent without them. Accordingly, upon the completion of the construction in 1225 the cathedral had only the western forechurch (the latter is tied with masonry of the temple).
Note that during construction, as N.N. Voronin rightly supposed32, in some moment the concept of the altar part of the cathedral also changed, and the builders had to construct new apses (their masonry is also not tied with the masonry of the cathedral).
This position clarifies the question why under the existing portals there are remnants of previous ones, and why the existing forechurches are not tied to the temple and overlap the arcature-columnar zone. Consequently, the existing forechurches and the remnants of the portal and the socle under them belong not to the hypothetical temple of 1148, but to the cathedral of 1222-1225.
But the question remains: about what forechurches was said in the chronicle report under 1194?
Archaeological investigations have not given a clear answer to the question whether Monomakh’s cathedral had forechurches33. But even if we assume that the "solid" (built in the technique of «opus mixtum») forechurches did not exist, the Chronicles’ mention of them under 1194 has the following explanation: the forechurches were wooden (archeological research in such complex stratigraphy are virtually unable to detect their residues). In some years after the construction of the first cathedral, a considerable amount of "utilitarian" wooden additions to it was to appear, and among them might have been the forechurches. It is absolutely unnecessary that these forechurches were spoiling the appearance of the temple: they could have been plastered, lined by "quadras", whitened, and even decorated by some ornament34.
Concerning the sprinkled soil layer between stratigraphic layers of the construction of Monomakh’s temple and the cathedral of 1222-1225 (the fifth argument in favor of the existence of the hypothetical temple of 1148), the explanation of this fact we have already given above: archaeological study of 1994-2001 showed that the foundation of the existing temple was placed on top of the basement of Monomakh’s cathedral, and to provide the necessary stability of the second foundation it was needed to raise and sprinkle the ground, having created a small artificial hill.
Let us turn to marked abundance of tuff-like limestone in existing parts of the cathedral and the primacy of such stone masonry on well-treated fragments (see Fig. 22). Basing on these data, those researchers believed that the hypothetical cathedral of 1148 was built of tuff-like limestone, and then was ornamented with profiled white stone details in the period of the construction of the temple of 1222-1225 period (as we remember, that was the sixth argument in favor of the hypothetical temple of 1148).
But, basing on the same architectural and archaeological data, we can to make a fundamentally different conclusion: tuff-like limestone was the facing not of the hypothetical temple of 1148, but of the cathedral of Yuri Vsevolodovich. Profiled white stone decoration also belongs to 1222-1225. Thus, the temple, built by Yuri Vsevolodovich, had a unique appearance: its rough-treated tuff-like lining was combined with richly ornamented decor of high quality white stone.
The seventh argument of A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina – the "breakout" of the portals and the arcature-columnar zone into the lining of tuff-like limestone – can not testify about the different time of profiles details and masonry, as complex (and even more so covered with a very thin carving – see Fig. 23) details of architectural decoration in the vast majority of ancient churches were hewn out separately and then inserted into masonry. Otherwise, the process of hewn parts scrapping would have been greatly complicated (they were to be removed from masonry).
But wasn’t this unprecedented architectural design of the cathedral of 1222-1225 – the combination of tuff-like limestone masonry with profiled ornamental details of white stone – a regression for the beginning of XIII century, as it was considered by A.D. Varganov and A.F. Dubynin, G.K. Wagner, V.M. Anisimov and T.O. Bachurina (see the eighth argument of these researchers in Section 2)?
No. On the contrary, this solution combines two essential qualities: efficiency and aesthetics.
Rough-treated tuff-like limestone was significantly (possibly several times) cheaper than well-treated white stone. This fully reflects the desire of the builders of the cathedral to the maximum savings. In turn, this tendency is confirmed by the fact that the walls of the cathedral of 1222-1225 were in large part rubbled by the wreckage of the first cathedral (and sometimes, as the study of 1994-2001 showed, entire fragments of the walls of the first temple were used instead of rubble). It is also very significant that the builders did not fully line by tuff-like limestone the part of the cathedral wall, which was covered by the western forechurch, and used there the fragments of masonry of Monomakh times and probably plinthite of their own production35 (as it was correctly assumed by N.N. Voronin, such savings took place due to the fact that this section of the wall still intended plaster and painting36).
Most likely, the need for cost savings was due to the
turbulent political situation (in 1216 the Battle of Lipitsa took place, Yuri
Vsevolodovich became the Grand Prince again only in 1218 and until 1222 hardly
had time to fully establish himself on
And aesthetic of such architectural solutions as in Suzdal cathedral of 1222-1225 was conditioned by the fact that the "careless" masonry of tuff-like limestone set off richly ornamented profiled parts of high quality white stone. In general, the temple looked very "smartly".
It should be noted that this decision – the combination of rough-treated walls masonry with well-treated profiled details of architectural decoration – became widespread in the first third of XIV century, when under the difficult economic situation since the Mongol yoke the Church of St. John Baptist Conception in “Gorodishe” in Kolomna, St. Nicholas church in Kamenskoye village of Moscow (Naro-Fominsk) region (Fig. 24), the Church of Nativity of the Virgin in Gorodnya village of Tver region, the first Cathedral of Assumption in Moscow (the author’s reconstruction is shown on Fig. 25) and several other temples were erected in such technique38.
25. Assumption Cathedral in
So, none of the arguments, which were put forward in favor of the existence of the hypothetical cathedral of 1148, is reliable enough to disavow the message of “Laurentian” Chronicle under 1222, which clearly negates the erection of any "intermediate" temple between Monomakh’s cathedral and the temple of 1222-1225. All architectural, archaeological and documentary evidence cited in favor of the hypothetical cathedral of 1148, can be attributed to two Suzdal cathedrals named in “Laurentian” Chronicle.
Accordingly, we must fully agree with the Chronicler
and consider that in 1148 no cathedral was built in the city of
Nevertheless, we must note that the detailed analysis of hypotheses related to the temple of 1148, which never existed, considerably enriched our knowledge of the architectural history of the Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin in Suzdal. In particular, we were able to consistently resolve the issue of the original view of the cathedral of 1222-1225.
© Sergey Zagraevsky