Church of the Elevation of the Cross (1747-58), Southeast Corner, Irkutsk, Russia


This southeast view of the main structure of the Church of the Elevation of the Cross in the city of Irkutsk was taken in 1999 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Built in stages from 1747 to 1760 on the Hill of the Cross, the church originally bore the name of its first altar, dedicated to the Trinity, with a secondary altar dedicated to the Elevation of the Cross. The primary altar was rededicated to the Elevation of the Cross in 1867. The elongated form of the church combined traditional 17th-century parish design (particularly as developed in the Russian north) with elements suggestive of Ukrainian architecture, such as baroque domes. The main structure culminates in such a dome, elevated on a tower of receding octagons. Of special interest are the façades of this structure, which have been cleaned and restored to reveal highly unusual terracotta ornamental motifs. These appear to be Asian in derivation, with obvious Buddhist references (Dharma wheels, stupa forms). Although the origins of these elements have not been precisely defined, it is likely that trade between Irkutsk and China played a role in creating this remarkable cross-cultural work of art.

Last updated: January 11, 2016