Church of the Nativity of Christ (1746-48 and 1786-93), Northeast View, Tot'ma, Russia


This northeast view of the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Tot'ma (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. Located on the Sukhona River, Tot’ma for centuries was part of an important trading network that led from the Russian heartland northward to the White Sea. Tot’ma’s prosperity was reflected in the number of graceful brick churches built in the 18th century. The structure of the Church of the Nativity of Christ was built in two phases: the lower winter church dates from 1746-48, and the unheated upper church was added in 1786-93. Instead of the usual five cupolas, the highly centralized structure culminates in an elongated series of octagons rising in the manner of a spire. The vestibule and porch are modest in comparison with this vertical emphasis. The lower church serves as a base for the great height of the upper church, but the design is so accomplished that the fusion of structures usually goes unnoticed. A separate bell tower, completed in the 1790s, was razed in the Soviet period. This view shows restoration scaffolding in preparation for a return of the church to the parish community. The stucco walls are now painted deep pink with white trim.

Last updated: January 11, 2016