S. V. Zagraevsky
Published in Russian: Çàãðàåâñêèé Ñ.Â. Íîâûå èññëåäîâàíèÿ ïàìÿòíèêîâ àðõèòåêòóðû Âëàäèìèðî-Ñóçäàëüñêîãî ìóçåÿ-çàïîâåäíèêà. M.: Àëåâ-Â, 2008. ISBN 5-94025-099-8
Questions of architectural history and reconstruction of Andrey Bogolyubsky’s
Assumption Cathedral in
Bogolyubsky began the construction of Assumption Cathedral in
In the second half of 1180s Vsevolod the Big Nest built around the temple high galleries with new apses and small heads, having dismantled the apses, the walls and small heads of Andrey's cathedral (we shall speak below about the reasons of this construction).
Assumption Cathedral was repeatedly repaired and restored. The most ambitious restoration was held in 1888-1891 under the guidance of I.O. Karabutov3, when helmet-shape covering of the domes was arranged, the roofs were made by arched gables, buttresses, added to the temple in the beginning of XVIII century, were removed, large parts of the walls were turned, portals were rebuilt, a significant part of the decor of the arcature-columnar zone was replaced by remakes (which repeated the old forms apparently quite accurately4). But the cathedral, built by Andrey and rebuilt by Vsevolod, retained its pre-Mongol appearance on the whole (Fig. 34).
Fig. 34. Assumption Cathedral. General view.
The cathedral of 1158-1160 had 6 pillars, 3 apses, and
was constructed of high quality white stone (the quality of stone of the
The side of the omphalos of the temple of
1158-1160 – about
The plan of remaining parts of Andrey’s cathedral and Vsevolod’s additions is shown on Fig. 359.
Fig. 35. Assumption Cathedral. The plan of the existing building.
The walls and cross-like pillars are relatively thin, the pillars correspond to the lisenes – both to internal and external (with pilasters, topped by deciduous capitals; the profile of the lisenes over the arcature-columnar zone is complicated by the tore).
The transition from the arches to the central 12-windows drum is arranged by tromps, and this construction can be considered as unique for pre-Mongolian architecture of North-Eastern Russia.
According to archaeological investigations of 1951-1952, Assumption Cathedral of Bogolyubsky had three forechurches7. The socle was a simple non-profiled deflux, as in the temples of Yuri Dolgoruky. The walls were crossed by the arcature-columnar zone (a part of it is preserved in situ on the northern wall), above it there is the “porebrik”. The capitals of columns are close to the Romanesque "cubic" form, in their bases there are wedge-shaped consoles. The spaces between the columns were plastered and decorated with frescoes8.
The foundation of the temple of 1158-1160 is made of cobblestones, shed by mortar not to the whole depth, but only the top two rows. On them small white quarrystone was laid, and then the walls were erected. Archaeological excavations discovered “lezhni” (large logs) beneath the foundations of the northern wall of the northern forechurch9, but it is more likely that those “lezhni” belonged to the foundations of Vsevolod’s galleries (see Chap. 9). The depth, width and form of the foundation of Bogolyubsky’s cathedral is still unknown (perhaps it was belt-like, as in Assumption Cathedral in Rostov10).
Assumption Cathedral of Andrey Bogolyubsky was decorated by sculptures of zooanthropomorphous type. This decoration of the cathedral, built up by galleries in the second half of 1180s, is not preserved in situ, but N.N. Voronin reasonably believed that the fragments of decoration are present on the walls Vsevolod’s galleries11 (Fig. 36). V.I. Dobrokhotov saw stones with traces of upset reliefs in the masonry of the socle of the altar apses of Vsevolod’s galleries12. We must agree with N.N. Voronin, that the total zooanthropomorphous decor of Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160 had approximately the same scale as the decoration of the Church of Intercession on the Nerl13 (see Fig. 42).
Fig. 36. Fragment of the upset decoration on the walls of Vsevolod’s galleries.
The question of the original form of the Cathedral of 1158-1160 requires special consideration.
"Stereotypical" option for its reconstruction was until recently contained in the fundamental work of N.N. Voronin14 (Fig. 37, 38). But in this reconstruction we see the discrepancy between axonometry (Fig. 37) and plan (Fig. 38) of the cathedral. In the axonometric drawing the forechurches are not given, and two stair-towers for the entrance to the choir are shown (combined with hypothetical "Bishop’s room" and a "house"15 – see about them below). But at the plan the forechurches and one stair-tower are shown.
Fig. 37. Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160. Reconstruction by N.N. Voronin. Axonometry.
Fig. 38. Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160. Reconstruction by N.N. Voronin. Plan.
The presence of such obvious contradictions between the plan and axonometry, albeit briefly mentioned by N.N. Voronin (axonometry was an "initial experience of reconstruction"16; it is likely that there was no time to prepare a new axonometric drawing, corresponding to the plan, before the date of signing of the manuscript for printing), creates significant confusion. For example, in a modern textbook on history of Russian architecture17 the reconstruction of N.N. Voronin, in which axonometry does not match the plan, is given without any reservations.
So, our reconstruction of the Cathedral of 1158-1160, having the reconstruction of N.N. Voronin in its basis, is especially obliged to take into account the forechurches and single stair-tower. That stair-tower was at the north, and it can be proved.
First, the presence of the northern tower was confirmed by archaeological data, and of the southern – was not18.
Secondly, there never was an arcature-columnar zone on the western part of the northern wall of the Cathedral of Bogolyubski (in the place of the junction of the northern tower), and the appropriate part of the southern wall had the arcature-columnar zone19.
Third, the images of XVI century, given in the fundamental work of N.N. Voronin20 (Fig. 39), are artistic synthesis, and it is impossible to determine, what temple is shown on them – single-headed with two symmetrical towers, or five-headed without towers. Accordingly, it is inappropriately to involve them as at least indirect evidence of the symmetry of the extensions to the cathedral (as N.N. Voronin did21).
Fig. 39. Assumption Cathedral. Miniatures of “Litsevoj” Chronicle of XVI century.
Fourth, "Bishop’s room" and a "house", referred to in the chronicles22 – is most likely the same complex of buildings that various chroniclers called differently (and not various buildings, adjacent to the cathedral from the north and the south, as N.N. Voronin thought23). This is confirmed by the fact that in the fire of 1185 religious books and utensils were burned in the "house"24.
Fifth, there was not enough space for a hypothetical
complex of the southern extensions – the cliff begins approximately in
Thus, we have shown that Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160 had only one complex of extensions, which was located on the northern side of the temple. This complex was connected with the cathedral by a "pillar"25, to which N.N. Voronin rightly referred as to a "stair pillar", i.e. as to a stair-tower26. In principle, it is possible that "Bishop’s room", the "house" and the "pillar" were one and the same building that played a role of the stair-tower and utility room.
We can now turn to the question about the number of heads of the Cathedral of 1158-1160.
“Ipatyevsky” Chronicle unequivocally and repeatedly (under 1158, 1175 and 1183) tells about Bogolyubsky’s cathedral as a five-domed: Andrey "accomplished the church of five domes, and covered all the domes with gold, and made there the diocese"; “and covered five its domes by gold"; “and all its five golden domes were burned”27). N.N. Voronin, who considered that the temple had one head, very sharply called these reports “an error of the chronicle”28 (however, having noted the discussions that took place on this subject in the late XIX-early XX century – in particular, the opinion of E.E. Golubinsky on the five-domed cathedral29).
As a proof of one-domed cathedral N.N. Voronin brought a message of “Avraamka” chronicle about a "single head"30 and images of XVI century, which we have already referred to, and the researcher assumed the extremely unlikely event that it that time "the memory of the one-domed cathedral of Andrey was preserved".
In modern times T.P.Timofeeva drew attention to the messages of “Ipatyevsky” Chronicle about five domes31. The researcher showed the validity of these reports, basing on the analysis of this and other Chronicles, and on the considerations that the five-domed cathedral was more consistent with Grand Prince ambitions of Andrey Bogolyubsky32.
We suppose that the positions of E.E. Golubinsky and T.P. Timofeeva are totally substantiated.
First of all, “Ipatyevsky” Chronicle as the source, which directly incorporated the Chronicle of Grand Princes of Vladimir33, deserves much more confidence than any of later chronicles.
E.E. Golubinsky did not acknowledge the obvious fact of the building the Cathedral up with galleries by Vsevolod34 and, apparently, this misleading of the researcher led to the situation that all his other thoughts on Assumption Cathedral were not taken seriously in the future. Such a situation is regrettable, because E.E. Golubinsky quite rightly thought that in the later chronicles (including “Avraamka” Chronicle – S.Z.) an incorrect message about the "single dome" of the Cathedral of Bogolyubsky emerged because of a literal interpretation of the message of “Laurentian” Chronicle under 1160: "and covered its dome with gold”35. However, as the researcher noted, there is the same text in “Ipatyevskaya” Chronicle (under 116136 – S.Z.), and there is written "and covered its domes with gold”.
This leads to the conclusion that the "Laurentian" Chronicle, which also used the Chronicle of Grand Princes of Vladimir37, might contain an error of a copyist. There could not be such an error in “Ipatyevsky” Chronicle: as we have seen, it is repeatedly said there about five domes.
About the ambiguity of the interpretation of images of XVI century (see Fig. 39) we have already spoken above: it is impossible to determine what the temple is depicted there – a single-headed with two symmetrical towers or a five-domed without towers.
Architectural and archaeological data, and "engineering" arguments also are an evidence in favor of the five-domed Cathedral of 1158-1160.
N.N. Voronin believed that the fire in 1185 burned down the wooden bonds of Assumption Cathedral, the temple came to emergency state, and therefore Vsevolod strengthened it by high galleries, which played the role of buttresses38. However, the researcher showed no evidence of an emergency condition of the Cathedral of Bogolyubsky.
After the examination of the cathedral, done by the author of this book in 2003, we may assume that such evidence exists. The author managed to find the slope of a central head of Assumption Cathedral at 2.5 degrees to the east. By itself this fact proves nothing (in theory the head could get such a slope later than XII century), but let us look at other facts:
– in Vsevolod’s galleries there no corner compartments from the northeast and southeast, despite the fact that they could substantially increase the altar part of the cathedral;
– small eastern heads, that could have stood on the corner compartments, form a centrally symmetric composition and contribute to the lighting of the altar, are moved to the west;
– small eastern heads are smaller (and therefore lighter) than the western ones;
– the walls of Vsevolod’s galleries are thicker than
the walls of Bogolyubsky’s cathedral (average
– the walls of the Cathedral of 1158-1160 during the construction of galleries were strengthened by additional pylons, and between them and the galleries at the level of the choir arched bridges, which played the role of arc-boutants, were built.
All that could not be a mere coincidence or a whim of Vsevolod the Big Nest.
Situation is seen as follows: the Cathedral of Bogolyubsky in 1180s came to the emergency state, and its vaults with the heads and arches "moved" to the east (western side was strengthened by the choir). Because of that, the craftsmen of Vsevolod, building the temple up with galleries-buttresses, making the additional pylons and bridges-arc-boutants, were forced to refuse of the eastern corner compartments and to reduce the thrust of the central drum in the north-east and south-east by exceptionally reliable constructions, each of which consisted of two perpendicular walls.
In the east the thrust was additionally reduced by semicircular apses, in the west – by the choir, in the north and south – by arched bridges (and partly also by the choir), and because such a substantial strengthening the cathedral was well preserved to this day.
All that is the evidence in favor of the fact that Bogolyubsky’s cathedral in the second half of 1180s was built up by galleries-buttresses precisely because of emergency condition (the shift of the vaults and the slope of the central head to the east).
Now let us remember that the Cathedral of 1158-1160 came
to emergency condition very quickly – a quarter century after the construction
(and possibly earlier). Even despite the fact that the temple exceeded the
"limit of reliability", defined for white stone buildings (internal
space – up to
Vsevolod’s craftsmen were to dismantle these heads in the second half of 1180s. The demolition was forced: if there had been the slightest chance to save these heads of Andrey's cathedral, the Vsevolod’s craftsmen would have benefited it. Nine-domed Cathedral would have looked even more spectacular, and the internal space would have been lighted much better.
The demolition of four small heads also meant the rebuilding of the vaults of relevant compartments. Until recently, the fact, that the vaults were rebuilt, was not confirmed by architectural and archeological data. The external examination of the arched gables and vaults of the cathedral, conducted by the author of this book in 2004 with the kind assistance of T.P. Timofeeva, was inconclusive, since during the restoration of 1888-1891 the arched gables of Andrey's Cathedral were completely turned, and the vaults were covered by a thick layer of plaster inside of the cathedral, and there was no possibility to hold probing.
However, in 2006 the author found the traces of relaying of the vaults at the drawings of I.O. Karabutov "The western side of Andrey's arches before the restoration" and "The southern side of Andrey's arches before the restoration"39 (Fig. 40, 41).
On these drawings the stones of external lining of the arched gables are shown. And since in pre-Mongol architecture the form of the upper rows of the external lining usually repeated the form of vaults behind them, we can judge about the form of the vaults by these rows of the external lining, combined with the sight from the interior of the temple.
Fig. 40. “The western side of Andrey's arches before the restoration”. Drawing by I.O. Karabutov.
Fig. 41. “The southern side of Andrey's arches before the restoration”. Drawing by I.O. Karabutov.
These drawings by I.O. Karabutov immediately draw our attention to the contrast between relatively regular shape of torispherical vaults (except for one, shown at Fig. 41 by the letter "A"), and the poor condition of masonry below them (in Fig. 40 and 41 we see that rowing significantly deviates from the horizontal). This situation can be explained only by the fact that Vsevolod’s new vaults were put on the old wall blocks with the violation of rowing. And the stones, remaining of the previous vault, are seen under the vault with subsided abutments (marked by the letter "A" on Fig. 41).
For all of the above, we consider Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160 as five-domed.
Accordingly, we have developed at the basis of the reconstruction by N.N. Voronin our version of axonometry (Fig. 42) and plan (Fig. 43) of Andrey Bogolyubsky Cathedral of Assumption in Vladimir: with five heads, one stair-tower ("pillar") from the north, and the forechurches from the south, north and west.
Fig. 42. Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160. Reconstruction by the author. Axonometry.
Fig. 43. Assumption Cathedral of 1158-1160. Reconstruction by the author. Plan.
On the capitals, which crowned the pilasters of the lisenes of the Cathedral of 1158-1160, "beast" white stone water-jets were located40 (Fig. 44). For unknown reasons, N.N. Voronin did not include them into his reconstruction (Fig. 37), but they are present at our reconstruction of the temple (Fig. 42).
Fig. 44. "Beast" white stone water-jet of Assumption Cathedral. Reconstruction by B.A. Ognev.
© Sergey Zagraevsky