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Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin


The Church of the Assumption in Suzdal was replaced by the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin which was built on the same spot and partly on the same foundation by prince Yurii II (George) Vsyevolodovich in 1222-1225. The new cathedral repeated most of the features of the cathedral of the Assumption at Vladimir, including the blind ornamental decorative band of carved arcature niches, and a few masks of women beneath the windows to show that it was dedicated to the Virgin. As almost all other churches in Russia, this cathedral was also the victim of fire, pillage, reconstructions, "Embellishment," etc. In the middle of the 15th century its entire roof structure collapsed, and only in the 16th century was its upper half rebuilt and a new roof with five cupolas added. The onion shaped cupolas date from the mid eighteenth century. Of interest is the porch and its doorway on the southern side, with richly ornamented reliefs that includes lions, birds and floral decorations. The decorations on the shafts are interrupted by plain oval spaces called "Dinka" (melon) because of their shape, a very popular detail in wood carving construction. Only in the middle of the 14th century did dinkas appear for the first time in the architecture of Moscow where it was, most probably, introduced by Suzdal stone carvers. The "Golden doors" on the two main entrances, the southern and western sides, are the elaborate work of 13th century craftsmen who used the special technique of "Hot gilding" to engrave concave copper panels of approximately one square foot, called "Kleimo " in Russian. The panels were first covered with black lacquer, then the picture was drawn with a needle and , finally, the design was covered with a mixture of gold and mercury and exposed to strong heat. The mercury evaporated and the gold stuck to the copper along the lines drawn by the needle. Most of the panels depict events and holidays described in the bible, saints, or figures of lions and griffins, with flowers around them. The western door contains 28 panels, 14 on each side. Of the 13th century frescoes only a few fragments still remain: Some floral ornaments on the western wall and figures of saints in the south apse. In the 17th century the cathedral was entirely redecorated and it's frescoes have been repainted several times since. Of these only a few fragments can still be seen. At the end of the same century the cathedral received its present iconostasis of carved, gilded wood, with some of the icons that were painted by the monk Gregory Zinoviev who became a well known tsar's iconographer. Inside the cathedral there is also an enormous portable tsar-lantern, from the end of the 17th century. It is in the form of a church with fire gilded, onion-shaped cupola with crosses. In the absence of colored glass, mica was used for its windows and doors. The lantern is about eight feet high and four feet in diameter. Several dozens of large candles were used to light it inside. It was carried around the cathedral during religious processions. For illustrations see Suzdal.




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