The Church of Epiphany

The Church of Epiphany
Region
City / settlement Chelmuzhi

The text - by Т. Vakhrameeva and Е. Kurguzova

Up to now many monuments of national architecture, which show the architecture talent of our far grandparents, are still preserved in Zaonezhje. The Church of Epiphany in the village of Chelmuzhi is one of them. For more than three and a half centuries it towers above the sandy shore of Povenetskiy bay and serves as a lighthouse.

The history of the church is closely connected with the events, which happened in Russia in XVI — XVII centuries, and with the names of some politicians of that time. Thus, Boris Godunov imprisoned grand duchess Romanova in the George's pogost, which is 15 km away from Chelmuzhi. Ermolai Gerasimov, local priest, rendered different services for her while she was in living in exile.

In 1605 accroding to the legend the prisoner was pardoned by Vasil Shuiskiy and she founded a church in the village of Chelmuzhi and called it the Chruch of Epiphany. That was her gratitude for her salvation.

However there are some material in the archives that indicate 1577 as the year of the construction of the church. Besides there used two be two carved crosses in the altar. On the front of one of them there was a date — 1577, on the fron of the other - another date - 1605. It is supposed that originally a small cathedral was built in Chelmuzhi in 1577. That was one of the oldest types of churches, which were made of logs.

In 1605 the Church of Epiphany was probably rebuilt on the donations of the former prisoner. The church became higher because of a deckhouse and a large cupola.

After this renovation in the beginning of XVI I century the church has got a biaxal composition. The vertical axis was defined with a deckhouse of pent-roof top, the horizontal axis formed by the extended volume of the refectory and the inner porch.

The sizes of the refectory and its considerable space were conditioned by the features of the social life of that time. After a dip in XV century of Novgorod republic its lands proceeded to the Moscow centralized state and the peasants received freedom. There were favourable conditions for the home rule, which activated in the period of building of the church in Chelmuzhi village (XVI — XVII centuries).

During this period refectories played the role of a village centers. People all over the region came here to discuss current issues, so these buildings were very large. The area of the refectory of the Chuch of Epiphany is larger than its main rooms and there are special benches standing along its walls.

Here is one curious detail: in the archives of Povenetsky and Petropavlovsky cathedral there is a record, which tells that the church of Chelmuzhi was built by parish in 1778. In the records of Povenetskoe administration the date of the building of the church is 1605. How can the contradiction of these two historical documents be explained?

Apparently in the end of XVIII century the building was renovated for the second time, which is confirmed by a number of architectural and design features - the refectory was build on, there appeared a belfry above the inner porch. The entrance was removed from the western end to the northern wall of the inner porch.

All these modifications had their reflection in the art appearance of the building: it has lost austerities and balance because of scale and stylistic mismatch of laconic and monumental space.

After that there was now renovation works in the church for a long time. Only in 1844 its cribwork was sheathes.

The originating of heightened attention and concern to the monuments of national culture in late XIX century promoted realization of broad examinations of Russian lands with the purpose of detection of monuments of architecture, analysis and definition their condition. Chelmuzhi church according to the information of the imperial archeological commission had considerable destruction in the beginning of XX century.

The connection of the building history of the church in Chelmuzhi with the name of Marfa Romanova influenced the renovation works, which were made in the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov by a famous architect Mileev. In 1913 the works were completed. Mileev restored the initial entry, which used to be on the axis of the building, because it met the structure of the composition. During The WWII the front line passed near the Chelmuzhi village. Because the church was a reference point for long-range artillery of the opponent, it decided to disassemble the tent and the belfry.

After the end of the war alongside with the recovery of the national economy of our country, the recovery of the monuments of national culture also began. In 1950 according to the project of architect V.

Gnedovskiy the restoration works, which brought the church its initial look, were completed. At the same time the roof above the refectory and altar were remade.

The composition of the interior of the Church of Epiphany is built on the principle of a suite of rooms. All the rooms are arranged on one axis and form a prolated orthogon 7*18 meters. General timbered walls part the inner porch and the refectory.

The effect of psychological influence on the visitors, which increases emotions, is boosted due to the motion "to the light ", from poorly lighted and low inner porch ( 2,35 meters high) to the refectory, which is light and high (2,78 meters).

The traces of cuttings of old altar are well-preserved. It consisted of three circles, disjointed with shelves, on which the icons were placed.

All icons of old altar were taken out by the expedition of the Karelian museum of fine arts in 1963 and now are stored in store-rooms. The lower circle of the altar was made of icons of a "local" series with the faces of saints, which were most esteemed in Zaonezhje. The second consisted of icons with the figures of saints and angels, which are petitioning the Christ for human beings. The third one is "prophetical" and it consisted of two-row icons with the images of the prophets and holidays. Thus, the altar had a canonical structure. Two icons of XVIII century from the first circle are well preserved. These are "The Acts of the Apostles Peter and Ioann" and "Crucifixion". The second circle is represented with 12 icons of XVII century, the third one - with 12 icons of XVIII century.

Seeing such a monument as the chapel of Epiphany can not leave the man indifferent. Its fate is a living history, the history of the people, who lived many years before us, the history of the state, and the history of building art. The fourth measurement of the architecture - time - enriched the appearance of the monument.

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