Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ (1552-62, 1652, 1770s), Northeast View, Kargopol', Russia


This northeast view of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in Kargopol' (Arkhangel'sk Oblast') 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. Kargopol' is one of the oldest settlements in the Russian north, founded perhaps in the 12th, or even the 11th, century. Its location near Lake Lacha and the source of the Onega River (which flows into the White Sea) enabled Kargopol' to benefit from trade in salt and other products of the northern forests. The resulting wealth led to the construction of impressive churches, a number of which have survived. The Cathedral of the Nativity arose in 1552-62, during the early reign of Ivan the Terrible, a time of intensive development in the Russian north. Its massive, archaic limestone form culminates in five elevated onion domes. Chapels were added in 1652 to the north and south façades, including the Chapel of Saints Alexis and Philipp (visible here). Badly damaged by a 1765 fire that destroyed its cupolas, the cathedral was open to the elements until repairs were made in the 1770s, when the four corners of its walls were reinforced. Over time, the ground level has risen, thus altering the proportions of the cathedral, which gradually is being restored.

Last updated: January 11, 2016