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
To the question of reconstruction and date of the Church of the Intercession
of the Holy Virgin on the Nerl
1. Questions of the original view of the
The temple stands on a unique foundation, which
consists of eight rows of high-quality well-treated white stone (about
The main volume of the
The divisions of the northern and southern walls of the temple are asymmetric, the eastern parts are very narrow. However, the sum of protrusion of the apses and the width of the eastern wall parts is almost equal to the width of the middle wall parts, and through this the composition of the temple looks balanced when viewed from either side.
The ratio of the width of the western facade of the
The drum of the
Multi-profiled pilasters with semi-columns on the outside walls of the Church on the Nerl correspond to the internal lisenes. They are thicker than the walls nearly two times, and that creates a very clear constructive "image" of the temple.
Tapering up columns of the arcature-columnar zone are very close to each other (much closer than in Assumption Cathedral), and arcs are strongly compressed and have a horseshoe shape. This architectural design also emphasizes the general “tendency upwards”.
Above the arcature-columnar zone and the deflux new profiles start – arched gables and windows. On the apses the arcature-columnar zone with “porebrik” is located on top, some columns are replaced by semi-columns, which lead down to the basement and create a coherent and vertically-oriented “pattern” of apses decoration.
At the whole, the impression of “tendency upwards” is so strong that the completely vertical walls of the Intercession church seem narrowing upward.
And in the interior the cross-like pillars really narrow upward, and in the condition of small size of the temple they create an additional sense of interior "elevation".
In general, the church gives the impression of not only of "high", but also of very "smart", despite the relatively modest (compared, for example, with Dmitrievsky Cathedral in Vladimir) decor of zooantropomorfous type. The tympanums of arched gables have the images of King David, lions, pigeons, griffins with lambs and female masks, and the bases of columns of the arcature-columnar zone – the images of masks, animals and monsters. The drum is decorated by the arcature-columnar and crenate zones. The paired lions are placed in the abutments of omphalos arches in the interior.
Perspective portals of the temple are decorated by the
leafy capitals and carved semicircular archivolts. The socle
of Attic profile is similar to the profile of the socle
Archaeological studies by N.N. Voronin in 19503 showed that the temple had galleries, which stood on the foundation, just as unique as at the temple, although somewhat less deep4 (Fig. 73). The availability of the galleries is proved by the discovery of their foundations, and of a profiled white stone block, which probably belonged to them5 (Fig. 74).
73. Section and plan of the
Fig. 74. Profiled white stone block, opened by the excavations of N.N. Voronin.
Later attempts to cast doubt on this discovery of N.N. Voronin do not look convincing. For example, P.N. Arkatov6 and K.N. Afanasiev7 believed that additional foundation walls were built to enhance the artificial hill, which was sprinkled around the temple.
P.A. Rappoport, criticizing the positions of P.N. Arkatov and K.N. Afanasiev, cited numerous examples of galleries in architecture of Suzdal land and other ancient Russian principalities8. However, the counterarguments of P.A. Rappoport can not be called exhaustive, as all his examples relate to closed galleries-porches, and N.N. Voronin believed that the galleries of Intercession church were opened9 (see the reconstruction by N.N. Voronin at Fig. 73 and 75). We can cite additional arguments in favor of the existence of galleries:
– P.N. Arcatov and K.N. Afanasiev ignored the above-mentioned archaeological find, which was rightly identified by N.N. Voronin as a piece of galleries;
– there was no reason to strengthen the hill by extremely powerful retaining walls of well-treated stone foundations, located so close to the temple, because it still would have been diluted outside these walls. In this case it would have made sense to "move" these walls to the edges of the hill, what would have made them much lower and would have saved much well-treated stone;
– the artificial hill was strengthened more reliably than by internal walls – by solid white stone causeway10.
Thus, we confirm the existence of galleries at the
– were the galleries erected simultaneously with the temple or later;
– if later, then how later;
– were the galleries open or closed.
First, we must note that, according to archaeological
researches of N.N. Voronin11, the rubble basement of the foundation
Basing on the fact that the layers of construction debris inside the church were identical to the layers of construction debris between the foundation walls of the temple and galleries12, we are obliged to follow N.N. Voronin and consider the simultaneous construction of those foundation walls (but not the elevated parts of the temple and galleries, as we shall see soon).
The question, why the rubble foundations of the galleries were laid half a meter above the rubble foundations of the temple, and the top of the well-treated foundation walls of the galleries is located below the socle of the temple almost a meter, N.N. Voronin did not study.
The question of unreasonable "wasteful" use of well-treated stone for the foundations also remained open. N.N. Voronin considered that such foundations ensured better stability of upper parts of the building. This version looks a bit stretched, as normal rubble foundations or foundations of roughly treated stone could also have ensured stability.
We have already said that archaeological excavations revealed the column, which, in all probability, belonged to the galleries13. Consequently, the galleries had above-ground parts, which stood on the foundation walls. But then there are two questions:
– why don’t the walls of the temple, including the arcature-columnar zone, have traces of the vaults of the galleries?
– why did the galleries close the completely finished (and very time-consuming in execution) arcature-columnar zone?
N.N. Voronin gave absolutely exhaustive answer to the first question: the vaults of the galleries were wooden and adjoined the walls of the temple through some transverse beams, which jacks were later heaped (those jacks were discovered in 1970 by S.M. Novakovskaya-Buchman14).
Answering the second question, N.N. Voronin wrote: “That was the system of
However, in Chap. 7 we have shown that there was no
"original logic", moreover “Sisyphean labor”, in the work of Bogolyubovo craftsmen. At the time of construction of the
Church of Nativity of the Virgin the craftsmen had yet no unambiguous view, how
the choir of the church will be connected to the palace complex, – it could be
not a cumbersome stone passage above the arch, but a light wooden bridge, or
even a simple wooden staircase. Accordingly, the actions of craftsmen, who
completed the arcature-columnar zone of the
The same thing we can say about the galleries of the
But, as we have seen above, the foundation walls of the galleries were built simultaneously with the foundation walls of the temple. Isn’t here a contradiction?
Here is no contradiction, and we can show that by attempting to reconstruct the stages of construction of the Intercession church and its galleries, taking into account all the issues that we have raised:
– why the rubble foundations of the galleries was laid half-meter above the rubble foundations of the temple;
– why the top of the foundation walls of the galleries is located below the socle of the temple for almost a meter;
– why there was unduly "wasteful" use of well-treated stone for the foundations;
– why fully completed arcature-columnar zone was closed by the galleries.
Apparently, the problem was that, as it often happened with buildings, to which the rulers paid close attention (and the Church of Intercession did not only mark a particularly important intersection of trade routes, but certainly was visible from the windows of the Prince Andrew’s palace in Bogoliubovo), the plan of construction was changed several times in the course of implementation. Most likely, there were approximately the following steps:
1. The architect and craftsmen (we shall collectively call them the builders) initially conceived the temple without galleries, standing on a high well-treated podium.
2. Having laid the rubble foundations and erected well-treated walls of the podium for about half a meter (the level of the first filling by small white stone fragments, determined during the excavations19), the builders decided to surround the temple by the galleries, standing on such a podium.
3. The builders laid the rubble foundations of the galleries (half a meter higher, as the level of the day surface during the previous construction had grown) and began to build the podium walls of the temple and galleries in parallel. Both walls were built of well-treated stone, including the internal wall (of the temple), as well as stone for it had anyway been prepared beforehand.
4. Having finished the construction of both walls almost to the top, the builders abandoned the construction of galleries. Perhaps they realized that the temple with galleries would lose the “tendency upward”, which, as we have shown in the beginning of this chapter, had great importance.
6. The construction of foundation walls of the galleries, respectively, was stopped, and the podium of the temple was additionally raised at the height of two stone blocks20.
7. The Church of Intercession on the Nerl was built on this podium in the form, which has reached our days. In this regard, we must recognize that the modern view of the temple adequately reflects if not the original design of the architect (who probably designed the temple standing on a well-treated podium), but the basic stage of its constructive implementation.
8. During the construction of the temple the way of the entrance to the choir had not yet been resolved (because the builders had refused of the galleries), so the arcature-columnar zone was fully completed.
10. Later (possibly in some years, or even after the death of Andrey Bogolyubsky) the galleries, which fragments were opened by the excavations21, were however built on the previously constructed foundation walls.
In connection with all foresaid, we may ask, how those galleries looked like. N.N. Voronin believed that they were open, as they "were in the best harmony with the forms of the temple"22 and were to emphasize the "ceremonial" status of the Intercession church. But there are serious doubts on this position:
– firstly, all our statements about "the best harmony" concerning Ancient Russia are unevitably subjective;
– secondly, powerful foundation walls of the open galleries would in fact have been bond foundations – despite the fact that the temple does not have such foundations;
– thirdly, we are unaware of precedents of open galleries in ancient Russia23;
– fourthly, N.N. Voronin’s attempts to identify the white stone block with a pilaster and ornament (see Fig. 74), which he had found during the excavations, as a part of the pillar of the open galleries, forced the researcher to give the reconstructed pillars of hypothetical galleries the form, extremely complicated and unprecedented in the old Russian and world architecture24 (Fig. 76). It is much more likely that this block belonged to a corner of the walls of closed galleries.
Fig. 76. Pillar of the hypothetical open galleries. Reconstruction by N.N. Voronin.
Thus, we may assume that the galleries were closed, i.e. had the character of porches25. This is understandable by the goals of expansion and warming of the building, increasing its area, making chapels and ancillary facilities (such a situation occurred in many ancient temples). Consequently, we can not accept the reconstruction of N.N. Voronin (see Fig. 73 and 75) for any intermediate stage of forming of the image of the Intercession church.
N.N. Voronin reasonably connected the disappearance of galleries with the construction of a new porch in late XVII century26.
Where the sculptures of lions, opened by excavations of N.A. Artleben27, stood, we can only guess. They could be above a hypothetical staircase to the temple from the wharf, as B.A.Ognev suggested28, or directly in front of the temple, like in many Romanesque cathedrals (Fig. 77).
77. Lions near the portal of the Romanesque cathedral in
Based on the foresaid, we consider that the modern view of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl in a whole (except the shape of the dome – see Chapter 10) corresponds to the original. Closed galleries (porches) were added to the temple in some years (perhaps even decades) after its construction.
2. Date of the
Let us turn to the question of dating of the
Many researchers (including V.I. Dobrohotov29, N.N. Voronin30 and P.A.Rappoport31) dated the temple on the basis of “Life of Andrey Bogolyubsky”, which had been written in connection with the canonization of the Prince in 1701. Here is the message of the “Life”:
“That year (1165) his first son Izyaslav Andreevich was gone to the Lord, and was laid in the Cathedral of Assumption of the Holy Mother of God. The Grand Prince Andrey had great sorrow for his deceased son, and grieving, he became more occupied with godly deeds; he began to build the church in the name of Honorable Intercession of the Holy Virgin not far from Bogolyubovo monastery, on the meadow near the River Klyazma, at the mouth of the River Nerl, of stones from Bulgaria, collected and exported within 2 years for the construction of the Cathedral of Assumption of Holy Mother of God, and the tenth part of those stones was saved at that place by his will, and he erected that church within one year and made a monastery near it with the help of the Holy Virgin”32.
basing on this message of “Life”, dated the
P.A. Rappoport believed that the construction of the temple began immediately after the death of Izyaslav (already in 1165) and ended in 116734. But in there is an internal contradiction in the position of the researcher, since the temple, according to the accepted by P.A. Rappaport message of “Life of Andrey Bogolyubsky”, was built in one year.
N.N. Voronin took an
unclear position regarding the dating of the temple. In his view, the
But Izyaslav Andreevich died in autumn 1165, and during the winter the
Thus, we must
note that the dating of the
However, there is a number of reasons why we can not
accept “Life” message as a basis for dating of the
First, “Life” is very late (the beginning of XVIII century), and even if it had no apparent contradictions, it might have been accepted as the basis of dating only in the absence of other dating information (which, as we shall soon see, we have).
Secondly, there are other variants of “Life of Andrey”, besides the published by V.I. Dobrokhotov, and nothing is said there about the
construction of the
Thirdly, in this message of “Life” a number of insoluble internal contradictions is present:
– it is unclear, when Andrey was to start "collecting and exporting" stone from Volga Bulgaria for the construction of Vladimir Assumption Cathedral, since his campaign against the Bulgarians took place in 1164, and the construction of the cathedral began in 1158;
– even if we assume that the Prince began to "collect" stone in Bulgaria for Assumption Cathedral before his campaign, he could not do that in 1156. And according to the “Life”, it was “collected and exported” within 2 years;
– stone could not be "collected" – it was not lying on the ground, its extraction and processing was very difficult (see Chap. 1);
– the results of micropaleontological researches of 1950s-1960s showed that the stone of Intercession church was affiliated to Myachkovo horizon of limestone deposits, consequently, stone was mined in the southwest of Suzdal principality, not far from Moscow. We can also note that Intercession church stone is extremely white (it is considerably more white than stone of any ancient Russian temple), and Volga Bulgarian limestone has gray-brown tinge44;
– if the temple had been built in memory of Izyaslav, it would have been more likely that it would have been consecrated at the namesake of Bogolyubsky’s son. But the church is dedicated to Intercession;
– “Life” says that the stone was "stored" at the place of the future construction of the church of Intercession even during the construction of Assumption Cathedral. It turns out that Andrey in 1158 had already known that in 1165 his son will withdraw from life and a temple will be built in his memory.
All these insoluble contradictions do not allow us to establish the dating of the Church of Intercession on the message of late “Life of Andrew Bogolyubsky” (let us note that N.A. Artleben, D.N. Berezhkov and N.P. Kondakov also did not trust the “Life” and dated the temple in wide time interval since 1158 till 1190s45).
We have an opportunity to determine the date of the temple confidently enough on the basis of consistent messages of pre-Mongolian chronicles, which were previously ignored by the researchers for unknown reasons.
First of all, let us once again recall the message of “Brief Vladimir Chronicler”: “And then Andrey Yurievich came from Kiev, and built the city of Bogolyubovo, and surrounded it with ramparts, and erected two stone churches”46. The fact that here it is said about the churches of Nativity of the Virgin in Bogolyubovo and Intercession on the Nerl, is confirmed by the message of First Novgorod Chronicle: "And he erected for her (Mother of God – S.Z.) the temple on the Klyazma river, two stone churches in the name of Holy Mother of God"47.
As we have
already shown in Sec. 7, both chronicle messages clearly link the foundation of
the city of
Therefore, we must accept this year as the date of the
In Chap. 7 we have seen that this position is confirmed by the message of Vladimir Chronicle49 under 1158: “This Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky built the ramparts of the city, and erected the stone Church of Nativity of the Holy Virgin on the Klyazma river, and another church of Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the Nerl, and founded the monastery”50.
It remains to consider the question, if the Church of the Intercession could be built during 1158.
We believe that in this case we can trust the message of “Life of Andrey Bogolyubsky” that the temple was built "in one year". In all the above mentioned chronicles it is said that the Church of Intercession in 1158 was “erected” – as we have shown in Sec. 4 and 7, the term "to erect" usually meant in chronicles the construction within one year, and many temples were actually erected within one construction season.
Consequently, we accept 1158 as the date of the
The galleries, as we have seen above, could be built in some years (if not decades). For example, the galleries were added to the Cathedral of St. Demetrius no less than in 8 years after the completion of the temple (see Chap. 10).
N.N. Voronin called the
Church of Intercession on the Nerl "the best
building of Vladimir architects"51, "the most perfect
monument of the number of the buildings of Prince Andrey,
as if completing their pleiad"52. But now we have to consider
that after the
Therefore, in no way detracting from the exceptional architectural merits of the Church of Intercession, we shall give it some different characteristics: it is the most famous building of pre-Mongolian North-Eastern Russia (perhaps even more famous than the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir), and many problems, that researchers face in this monument, are caused by its world fame, which generates a lot of stereotypes.
3. The Church of Intercession on the Nerl as a possible prototype of the Church of Our Saviour in Vladimir; considerations on Vladimir courtyards of Yuri Dolgoruky and Andrey Bogolyubsky
The Church of Transfiguration of the Saviour was built by Andrey Bogolyubsky of white stone in the south-west of “New Town”
of Vladimir fortifications of 1158-1164 (see Fig. 45), near the
In a fire of 1778 white stone church was destroyed,
and at its place a new brick church, which exists at present, was built (Fig.
78). Location of the old temple at this place was proved by the excavations
conducted under the direction of N.N. Voronin in
195354. White stone in the secondary use is widely used in the walls
78. Church of Our Saviour in
It is important that the craftsmen of late XVIII century built the church in “antique” style, not copying the old temple (as the builders of the Cathedral of Vladimir Nativity Monastery in 1860s and of Old St. Nicholas Cathedral in Mozhaisk in 1840), having not built a new temple in contemporary style (as the builders of the Church of Nativity of the Virgin in Bogolyubovo in the middle of XVIII century and of the Church of St. George in Vladimir in 1780s), but combined the features of pre-Mongolian architecture and Baroque. The result of their work was a unique architectural monument, which has no parallels in architecture of XVIII-XIX centuries.
We currently do not know the plan, shapes and size of
The decor of Saviour Church of XII century is also unknown, except that the temple was likely to have an arcature-columnar zone and perspective portals, which were reproduced in XVIII century (Fig. 79).
Fig. 79. Church of Our Saviour. Northern wall.
There is no architectural and archaeological evidence
that Andrey Bogolyubsky’s
church replaced a plinthite Savior
The year of foundation of the
However, as we have already mentioned in our study, a few chronicle sources concerning the pre-Mongolian time are so precious that we are not entitled to disavow, and even more to ignore any of these dates. The discrepancy between the chronicles in the dating has entirely logical explanation in this case: since a solemn liturgy “at the foundation of the church” was commonly understood as a "foundation"62, we can assume that the "zero cycle" of the temple construction was delayed, and the liturgy “at the foundation” was to be repeated many times: in 1160, 1162 and 116463. The last foundation was final, and after it construction began. The church, as many temples of its scale, was built within a year (see Section 2).
Accordingly, we date
N.N. Voronin suggested
that “the building of a new white stone church next to the
However, we can not agree with this suggestion for a number of reasons.
Firstly, neither N.N. Voronin,
nor any other researcher cited any argument that
Secondly, the main residence of Prince Andrew was in Bogolyubovo.
Fifthly, the location of the Church of the Savior can
be considered as unique: it is situated not only very close to the slope of the
Klyazma (and thus it was perfectly visible from the
river), but also on a hill, overlooking many surrounding streets. That also
underscores the importance of the temple, but excludes the presence of a
courtyard around it, because there no room for a palace, a number of utility
buildings and fortifications on that hill (unlike, for example, the area around
Sixthly, Andrey inherited
the courtyard with white stone
– Yuri, the
Prince of Suzdal since the beginning of XII century,
in 1150s could hardly have no own courtyard in Vladimir – one of the largest
(if not the largest) city of
– the area around the
– in 1152, when St. George’s church was built (the justification of this date see in Sec. 4), it was still outside the city walls, as the walls of “New Town” were built only in 1158-1164 (see Fig. 45). Consequently, there were to be some fortifications around the church, and that could be only the Prince’s courtyard;
dedication of the Church to St. George – namesake of Dolgoruky
– can not serve as a self-sufficient proof that it was the home
Consequently, it is unlikely that Andrey
Bogolyubsky needed to build another courtyard close
to his courtyard in
We can conclude from the above, that the Church of Our Saviour was not a “home princely temple”, but a detached "parade" church, which prevailed over the south-western part of "New Town" and was designed to enhance the image of Grand Duchy of Vladimir in the eyes of foreign ambassadors and "guests" (merchants).
In light of this understanding of the status of Saviour church we suggest that its architectural prototype
But only new archaeological researches can determine the original view of Saviour church67.
© Sergey Zagraevsky