Cathedral of the Dormition (1711-1717), West Facade, Kem', Russia


This west view of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Kem' (Karelia) 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 southwest shore of the White Sea, Kem’ was not only an important settlement in its own right, but also served as a gateway to the Solovetskii Islands. Built in 1711-17, the Cathedral of the Dormition is one of the most interesting wooden structures in Russian architecture—and a rare surviving cathedral (sobor) built of wood. Its core consists of three octagonal components crowned with tent towers supporting cupolas covered with aspen shingles. Each component rests on a square base and has its own altar. The central tower, dedicated to the Dormition, is over 35 meters in height, while the side towers are about 24 meters high. The south part (on the right) is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The north part, dedicated to the Solovetskii saints Zosima and Savvatii, has its own exterior entrance. The ensemble is unified by a large vestibule (trapeznaia) on its western side, whose horizontal sweep is emphasized by two slanted roofs, with a third roof over the entrance porch. Each of these roofs has carved decorative end boards (pricheliny). The structure has been the object of a prolonged restoration effort.

Last updated: January 11, 2016