Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ (1552-62, 1652, 1770s), South Panorama from Onega River, with Bell Tower (1767-78), Kargopol', Russia


This south view, from the frozen Onega River, of the church ensemble on Cathedral (or New Market) Square in Kargopol' (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) 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. 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 origins of the Onega River (which flows into the White Sea) enabled Kargopol' to benefit from trade in salt, fish, and products of the northern forests. The resulting wealth led to the construction of impressive churches, a number of which have survived. This architectural ensemble at the center of town includes the Cathedral of the Nativity (on the left), built in 1552-62, early in the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The cathedral’s massive, archaic limestone form culminates in five elevated onion domes. Damaged in 1765 by a 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. The center of the ensemble is marked by the cathedral bell tower, built in 1767-78. Visible through the trees on the right is the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist, built of brick in 1740-51.

Last updated: January 11, 2016