St. Cyril (Kirill)-Belozersk Monastery, Ferapontov (Moscow) Tower (1660s), Kirillov, Russia


This south view of the Ferapontov (Moscow) Tower of Saint Kirill Belozersk Monastery (Vologda Oblast) was taken in 1993 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 rapidly acquired dual significance as a religious center with connections to the Muscovite court and as a fortress on Muscovy's northern flank. During the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century, the monastery repulsed a number of attacks by marauders. 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 northern Russia against the Swedes. The northwest corner of the fortress was anchored by the Moscow Tower, a massive polygonal structure supporting a steeply pitched roof capped with a watchtower. These walls and towers were obsolete by European standards and never saw battle. The largely visual function of this tower was emphasized by a steeple added in the 18th century.

Last updated: January 11, 2016