Church of St. Nicholas Gostunskii (Gostinnyi) (1680s, 1720s), with Bell Tower (1720s), Northwest View, Velikii Ustiug, Russia


This northwest view of the bell tower and Church of Saint Nicholas Gostunskii at Velikii Ustiug (Vologda Oblast) was taken in 1996 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. During the medieval period, Ustiug became an important center not only for trade, but also for missionary activity by the Orthodox Church. Commerce and faith are combined in the Church of Saint Nicholas Gostunskii, which was built in the 1680s on a bluff above the Sukhona River, near the town's main trading square. (In some sources the church is named "Gostinyi," an honorific for "merchant".) The church was the first in Ustiug to be constructed in two levels, of which the lower, with an altar dedicated to saints Zosima and Savvaty, was used for worship in the winter. The structure was partially rebuilt in the 1720s, at which time a bell tower was erected to the north of the church. The ensemble is remarkable for its decorative details outlined in black on whitewashed brick facades. The church culminates in a tower of octagons supporting a cupola. The interior of the upper church has no piers and is amply lit by large windows. During the Soviet period, the church was, for a time, used as a saw mill. A restoration in 1986 converted it into a gallery of local art.

Last updated: January 11, 2016