Russia's abandoned beauties
March 14, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Russia's Wooden Churches - A century after celebrated Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin called for preservation of Russia's decaying wooden churches, architectural photographer Richard Davies revisits the churches to document and raise awareness of these gorgeous historic architectural treasures.

Related: The Kizhi Open Air Museum, a World Heritage site located on the Island of Kizhi in Lake Onega, is a historical and cultural complex, which preserves many examples of wooden architecture, including dozens of wooden chapels, windmills, houses, barns and other buildings - most noteworthy being the 22-domed Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior.

The museum site has a lot to explore. Related to this post:
Catalog of pieces of wooden architecture
Virtual reconstruction of the iconostasis of Transfiguration Church

There are many other treasures on this site. I liked the old postcard collection; photos of area residents; and icons from XVII-XIX
posted by madamjujujive (29 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
These things look like the winners from MTV's Pimp My Barn.
posted by flarbuse at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

The link to the Church of the Transfiguration alone made this post great -- thanks! And wow is that thing cool.
posted by Toecutter at 2:00 PM on March 14, 2010

I agree; the Church Of the Transfiguration is just crazy cool. Someone sure liked his onions. This is a great post, madam. Thank you.

Can't wait to check out the webcams from the third link once the sun comes up.
posted by heyho at 2:40 PM on March 14, 2010

This is going to my Russia Prof from last semester. Thanks for posting.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2010

Thanks, great images..

now get the "Lara's Theme" earbug out of my head, would ya!
posted by HuronBob at 3:01 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For those in the New York area, Our Lady of Kazan, an Orthodox church in Sea Cliff, New York (Long Island), replicates this architectural style quite beautifully.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:11 PM on March 14, 2010

This is fantastic—Russian wooden architecture and Bilibin are two of my favorite things! (I have a nice book on the architecture, but it's kind of rendered obsolete by the gorgeous color photographs in the first link.)

A pity the captions in the iconostasis link weren't done more carefully; a lot of them provide transliterations of the Russian name rather than English equivalents, so "Nafan" is Nathan and "Aggei" is Haggai, but that's a teeny quibble. Thanks for this post, madam!
posted by languagehat at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love me some Ivan Bilibin.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:29 PM on March 14, 2010

Incidentally, I think Bilibin deserves his own FPP.

Thanks for the post!
posted by archagon at 3:36 PM on March 14, 2010

Gorgeous. Mudbound Ladas and churches built like windmills, AM radio and vodka in plastic bottles. Made me nostalgic for somewhere I've never been.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:40 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The virtual tour is so cool, thanks for the links!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 3:48 PM on March 14, 2010

I can't figure out what I love more about the churches - the exteriors or the interiors. Fascinating! madam jujujive, you post some of the most fantastic stuff!
posted by ninazer0 at 4:15 PM on March 14, 2010

There's a Russian chapel at Fort Ross State Park, north of San Francisco on Highway 1. Fort Ross is what remains of a trading post the Russians abandoned in 1841.
posted by paddbear at 4:52 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, some of those are incredible. Thanks so much for the post! (The Kizhi museum would almost be worthy of a post of its own. Check out the photos!)
posted by ubersturm at 5:05 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kizhi lies at the center of one of the best experiences of my entire life. I spent two weeks there in the summer of 2006, documenting the site in order to (attempt to) produce a virtual reconstruction of the architecture on the island, focusing on the Kizhi Pogost: the Church of the Transfiguration, the Church of the Intercession, the belfry, and the surrounding wall.

They allowed us unlimited access to the site, and we went where no tourist has ever been. I've climbed up inside those onions, even into the very topmost. I carried an HD video camera, and my collaborator a DSLR. In the archives they let us make copies of the countless engineering diagrams developed over decades of preservation efforts.

The project turned out well. My collaborator created models with millions of polygons and hundreds of megabytes of textures. For my part, I'm a computer graphics and virtual reality researcher, so I produced a renderer capable of displaying all this 30 times per second, with real-time per-pixel irradiance environment mapping and all that mumbo jumbo. Passing "Place for Games" is what we called it. It showed at SIGGRAPH 09 in New Orleans last summer.
posted by rlk at 5:16 PM on March 14, 2010 [7 favorites]

I found several other on-topic links that I had stashed away for this post and forgot about ... but since the topic seems of some interest, I guess I'll throw them in to the mix ...

Abandoned Russian Village architecture - a photo gallery
Old and new wooden architecture of northern Russia
Varzuga — The Pearl Of The Russian North
Construction of Russian Wooden Buildings of the 17th – 18th Centuries (PDF) - on the Example of St. Dmitry Solunsky’s Church in Verchnaya Uftuga in the Krasnoborski District of the Archangelsk Region
Siberian wooden houses
posted by madamjujujive at 5:23 PM on March 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Tip to people putting photos on a website: the whole "faded-out-image that you can only see when you hover your mouse over it" -thing? Yeah, that's really shit UI. Just my two bits.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:39 PM on March 14, 2010

There are also beautiful wooden churches in Małopolska and Slovakia, with the added bonus that they are all still very much in use.

Around Zakopane - I have driven by the one on the front page of that site a few times.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:47 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the supplementary links! I wasn't doing anything useful with my day anyhow.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:52 PM on March 14, 2010

Oh yeah, this is what Metafilter is about for me: cool stuff on the internet. Thanks MMJJ!
posted by marxchivist at 6:48 PM on March 14, 2010

Lovely post. I'll just add another link you might like – Russian wooden architecture [babelfish]
posted by tellurian at 7:25 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why they didn't varnish, paint or shingle the structures - the point of house painting is preservation, not aesthetics.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:36 PM on March 14, 2010

Can't compare with rlk's story, above, but I did spend a wonderful afternoon on Kizhi in 2004. Here are some photos and a description of what it's like to get there.
posted by squid patrol at 8:47 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic, and their attached blog has lots of fun little stories about their travels. Thanks for this!
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:09 PM on March 14, 2010

For those who want to see a genuine Russian church and sometimes travel to France, the Church near Sylvanes may be worth it.
posted by nicolin at 2:34 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Btw, some of the links above are astounding. Thanks.
posted by nicolin at 2:35 AM on March 15, 2010

Wow. This is fantastic, thanks, mjjj!
posted by mediareport at 5:02 AM on March 15, 2010

Tip to people putting photos on a website: the whole "faded-out-image that you can only see when you hover your mouse over it" -thing? Yeah, that's really shit UI. Just my two bits.

Don't be such a Debbie Downer. It was a great post.

Glad I had a day off to look over it all, and awesome work, rlk. Metafilter is 1/3 FPP, 1/3 snark/idle conversation & 1/3 people who know what they're talking about expanding significantly on the subject, like that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2010

Great additional links—thanks, madam et alii!

rlk: Your project looks great! However, Kizhi is probably from a Veps word meaning 'moss.' Not as much fun as "Place for Games," I know, but alas, the more boring etymology is usually the correct one.

> I don't understand why they didn't varnish, paint or shingle the structures - the point of house painting is preservation, not aesthetics.

That may be the "point" to you; it is not to everyone. In Japan, they regularly tear down and rebuild ancient wooden structures.
posted by languagehat at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2010

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