Monastery, Canal (19th Century), Solovetskii Island, Russia


This photograph of a canal on Large Solovetskii Island was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Situated in the southwestern part of the White Sea, the island and its archipelago are the site of the Transfiguration-Solovetskii Monastery, one of the most revered monastic institutions in Russia. Founded as early as 1429 by the monk Savvatii, the monastery experienced its greatest development in the second half of the 16th century under the direction of Hegumen Filipp. Despite the monastery's turbulent history, each subsequent century witnessed the expansion of the monastic ensemble. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the monastery undertook ameliorative projects such as a system of canals linking some of the many lakes on the main island. Built by peasants who had taken a year's vow of service to the monastery, these waterways not only improved drainage but also facilitated access to outlying areas on the island, including those that contained a type of monastic retreat (skete). In use to this day, the canals create a haunting effect with their dark water channeled in granite-lined banks through the surrounding forests.

Last updated: July 28, 2017