Spaso-Sumorin Monastery, Church of the Ascension (1796-1801 and 1825), South Facade, Tot'ma, Russia


This south view of the Church (sobor) of the Ascension at Savior-Sumorin Monastery near 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 had become a major center of salt refining by the middle of the 16th century. Monasteries in the Vologda region received tax exemptions from Moscow for salt production, and the Savior-Prilutskii Monastery sent one of its monks, Feodosii Sumorin, to supervise salt production in Tot’ma. In 1554, Feodosii founded a monastery nearby, on the Pesya Denga River. The Savior-Sumorin Monastery soon became one of region's major Orthodox institutions. The grandest of the monastery's surviving structures is the Church of the Ascension, built over a period of three decades from 1796 to 1825. The core structure has Corinthian porticos on the sides and culminates in five cupolas around a central dome. Still larger is the refectory, or vestibule (trapeznaia), extending toward the west (on the right) and expanded in the early 19th century with monumental Italianate details. Although the imposing neoclassical exterior has been restored, the church has remained an abandoned shell with an empty interior.

Last updated: January 11, 2016