Saturday, June 30, 2012



This morning I travelled to Bogolyobovo (Боголюбово), which is a nuns monastery and historic church located 10 km outside of Vladimir. It was a fascinating excursion, as I gained insights into Russian history and acquired a new batch of fun facts about Vladimir, Russian history, art and architecture.

While I am not an art historian, but having studied independently, Bogolyobovo is essentially a hybrid of European, Russian and Asiatic artistic traditions, serving as a testament to Russia's unique identity as a vast territory spanning two continents. For example, the colorful frescos on the walls of the monastery come from the Italian artistic tradition. The arabesque-like painting on the window ledges is also a foreign detail. In fact, the tour guide noted how the building's foundations were reminiscent of a European style. At the same time, the subject matter of icons and their depiction in a strict canon of proportion, all of them wearing golden halos, mirrors Andrei Rublei's iconographic depictions.

The first thing I noticed, however, was the bright blue onion domes on the top of the church spirals. They reminded me of the Timurid-style spiral I saw at Yasawi's mausoleum in Turkestan, Kazakhstan. While the onion dome is a traditional Russian architectural feature, the bright blue color is the hallmark of Timurid architecture. What's more is that these spirals are wider than spirals of churches in Siberia. Historically, the wider onion domes reflect European influence, while the traditional "pure" Russian onion domes have a narrow base. Despite their likeness, the cathedral at Bogolyobovo and Timurid architecture are not related directly, as the former was built in 1157, thereby predating the Tatar-Mongol invasions of the 13th century.

Meanwhile, the Cathedral's alter is in a traditional Russian style of painted icons in gold frames. There was actually a baptism occurring while we toured the church, which was pretty interesting to observe. The Cathedral's interior was filled with oil paintings of scenes from the bibles and icons. Yet, on one panel near the entrance, there is a full-size image of Tzar Nicholas II. This was such a thrill to see, as the Tsar's image in a church represents the delicate balance between the Romanov Dynasty and the Orthodox Church in Russian history. (Apologies, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the Church)

Finally, we went to The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl River.  The church's interior was looted during the revolution, but the European style and limestone shell remain on full display. On the front, there are even small, stone carvings of faces that remind me of the statues on European Gothic cathedrals.

So it was a fascinating morning. I then spent the rest of my day doing Russian homework and am now about to venture out to enjoy Vladimir's night life. So long!

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