Tuesday, June 16, 2009

White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal

These two centres of art in central Russia, Vladimir and Suzdal, with their magnificent 12th and 13th-century public and religious buildings, above all the masterpieces of the Saint Demetrios collegiate church and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, hold an important place in Russian architectural history.

The Golden Gates of Vladimir (Russian: Zolotye Vorota, Золотые ворота), constructed between 1158 and 1164, are the only (albeit partially) preserved instance of the ancient Russian city gates. A museum inside focuses on the history of the Mongol invasion of Russia in the 13th century.
The Golden Gates existed in the holiest cities of Eastern Orthodoxy - Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Kiev. On making Vladimir his capital, Andrew the Pious aspired to emulate these structures, commissioning a lofty tower over the city's main gate to be erected in limestone and lined with golden plaques. It is probable that the masons were invited from Byzantium, as they used Greek measures rather than Russian ones. The main arch used to stand 15 meters tall. The structure was topped with a barbican church dedicated to the Deposition of the Virgin's Robe and symbolizing the Theotokos's protection of Andrew's capital.
The gates survived the Mongol destruction of Vladimir in 1237. By the late 18th century, however, the structure got so dilapidated that Catherine the Great was afraid to pass through the arch for fear of its tumbling down. In 1779, she ordered the detailed measurements and drawings of the monument to be executed. In 1795, after many discussions, the vaults and barbican church were demolished. They constructed two flanking round towers in order to reinforce the structure and then reconstructed the barbican, following the drawings made in 1779

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