Archangel Michael Monastery, Archangel Cathedral (1653-56), Interior, with Icon Screen, Velikii Ustiug, Russia


This view of the iconostasis of the main church (sobor) of the Archangel Michael Monastery in 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. Medieval chronicles state that the Archangel Michael Monastery, one of the oldest in the Russian north, was founded by the venerable monk Kiprian in 1212. In 1653-56 the monastery's cathedral, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, was rebuilt in brick and endowed by the merchant Nikifor Reviakin. Its interior is delineated by four piers supporting the ceiling vaults. The walls were only partially painted with panels in a Western academic style. The dominant element of the interior is the magnificent gilded three-tier iconostasis, whose frame combines baroque and neoclassical elements. Most of the icons of the first tier (Local Row) are lost, but the baroque carved Royal Gate in the center has survived intact. The icons in the Festival and Deesis rows were originally painted for the town's Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin. The iconostasis culminates in a crucifix—flanked by figures of Mary and Saint John--that extends into the drum beneath the main dome and is flooded with natural light.

Last updated: January 11, 2016