Church of the Ascension (1648-49, 1670s, 1742), Interior, East Wall and Icon Screen, Velikii Ustiug, Russia


This view of the iconostasis in the Church of the Ascension in Velikii Ustiug (Vologda 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. Settled by Russians as early as the 12th century, Velikii Ustiug became an important center during the medieval period not only for trade, but also for missionary activity by the Orthodox Church. Of the town's many churches, the most floridly decorated is the Church of the Ascension, endowed by the merchant Nikifor Reviakin and built in 1648-49 in a florid, 17th-century Muscovite style. The magnificent five-tiered icon screen was completed circa 1750, making it one of the first of Ustiug's remarkable baroque iconostases. This view includes all five tiers: the Local Row, with the Royal Gate (intricately carved and gilded) in the center; the Festival Row; the Deesis Row, with Christ Enthroned; the Prophets Row; and the Patriarchs Row. The tiers culminate in a large carved crucifix, with a background wall painting of Jerusalem. This soaring construction concludes at the top of the vaulting with a depiction of the Ascension, flanked by carved angels in red robes. The artists' vision fully utilizes the architectural space.

Last updated: January 11, 2016