The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, 1714

Unfortunately, the names of the carpenters who built the Church of the Transfiguration on the island of Kizhi remained unknown. Only a legend has been told about the master Nestor who, on completing the construction, threw his axe into Lake Onego and said: "There has not been, nowhere is and never will be a church like this!" Indeed, the church is one of the best examples of the world folk architecture and the pinnacle of the carpenters’ craft.

The Church of the Transfiguration is magnificent and fantastic. Its pyramidal silhouette is decorated with numerous curves of the domes, "bochka"-roofs, carved boards and crosses. Not without a reason the church gives rise to thousands of poetic associations.

It is known that the church was built by a team of Zaonezhye carpenters and the inhabitants of the whole region helped them. As it was usual at that time in Russia, the church was built without any design or drawings but only according to the traditions which were transferred from generation to generation, by word of mouth. The church was built as a traditional many-domed round church, so-called "a church with twenty walls", crowned with twenty two domes. There were many similar churches in northern Russia. The merit of the local carpenters is in the fact that they managed to create an entirely unusual structure using well-known traditional elements and techniques.

The church is based on a solid timber octahedron upon which a significantly smaller one is installed; the third smallest octahedron rests on the second one. These three octahedrons create a pyramidal basis of the church which is supported with four apses making the whole structure stable. The western apse is enveloped with a spacious refectory with a high two-flight porch.

The total height of the church is 37 meter. So not without a reason, the church silhouette is a dominant structure of the neighbourhood. However, the height and the power of this huge log building do not overawe a man standing near the church. On the contrary, the church is in proportion to the man. This effect is achieved by the artistic combination of volumes. The volumes of octahedrons are different. The apses are made of two tiers. The volumes of domes are varying from tier to tier. The rhythm of the varying volumes is intended for perceiving the building from below and imparts a special dynamism to the structure as a whole. The domes installed on "bochka"-roofs are arranged in cascade. The particular integrity of the silhouette is achieved owing to the fact that every dome seems to be pushed into the next upper "bochka"-roof. This is a brilliant find of unknown carpenters.

The magnificent upper part of the church and the abundance of festive elements do not only serve as decoration of the building. The carpenters adhere to the "golden rule" according to which any construction is based on three principles: use, strength, beauty. The details of the upper part of the church which at first sight seem to be purely decorative are integrated into a well-balanced system of protection of the church framework against moisture and rain. Rain drops from the upper dome are rolling down from shingle to shingle, from a dome to a "bochka"-roof and further down to the boards of the roof overhanging far from the framework. Inside the church a flush roof with two sloping surfaces turned upside-down is built in. If the outer roof gets rotten and moisture penetrates inside, it flows down the flush roof into a large drain to be discharged out of the church. Should anything happen to the drain, under it there is one more installed just the same as the first. Probably, owing to the protection system like this, the church has been standing on the island for nearly almost 300 years, the limiting period for structures of this type.

During this period the Church of the Transfiguration has been subject to quite a number of repairs and alterations.

Since 1987 the structures of the church have been subject to biological, physical-and-chemical and engineering studies with the use of up-to-date methods. In 1996 the Research and Production Centre of Building Structures of the town of Kirov under the guidance of the Professor of the Kirov Technical University Yu.V. Piskunov worked out the "Conceptual design of the reinforcement system for the Church of the Transfiguration". The design based on the many-aspect research work offers the methods of the church strengthening with a minimum interference into its structure. The project implementation includes the complete reconstruction of the church interior.

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