Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin (1685-90), South Facade, Ustiuzhna, Russia


This southwest view of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin in Ustiuzhna (Vologda Oblast) was taken in 2001 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 Mologa River (a tributary of the Volga River), Ustiuzhna was known already in the mid-13th century for its rich deposits of iron ore. It became one of the earliest Russian centers of metalworking and achieved special prominence in the 16th century. Although the 18th-century development of the Urals as Russia's primary metal area led to Ustiuzhna's decline, the town’s former commercial importance is reflected in an array of churches. Foremost among them is the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, rebuilt in brick in 1685-91 with a number of secondary altars (pridely), including two added in 1721-30 within a vestibule and a narthex (papert'). The central structure resembles parish church design in Iaroslavl', which exerted major influence on north Russian church art during the 17th century. The walls, with elaborate window surrounds, culminate in ornamental gables (zakomary), above which is a four-sloped roof and five cupolas over decorated drums. Since its closure in 1936, the cathedral has been occupied by the local history museum.

Last updated: January 11, 2016