St. Cyril (Kirill)-Belozersk Monastery, West Wall (1654-1680s), Interior View, Kirillov, Russia


This interior (east) view of the west wall of Saint Kirill Belozersk Monastery (Vologda Oblast) was taken in 1991 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Formally dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, the monastery was founded in 1397 by Kirill (1337-1427), a Muscovite monk canonized in 1547. The monastery had dual significance, as a major religious center and as a fortress on Muscovy's expanding northern flank. Its present brick walls, almost two kilometers in length, were erected over a 30-year period, from 1654 to the 1680s. This enormous undertaking was supported by Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, who saw the monastery as a strategic point in the defense of northwest Russia against the Swedes. The massive construction has an arcaded first level supporting the firing positions on the upper level. An angle at the center of the west wall is guarded by the Kosaia Tower (1662). The far west corner (left background) is anchored by the Belozersk Tower (1660s). For all the effort in building them, the walls were obsolete by European standards and never saw battle. The victories of Peter I (the Great) over Sweden in the Great Northern War (1700-21) rendered the fortress irrelevant for military purposes.

Last updated: January 11, 2016