Very Old Tiles Found during Excavations. Kirillo-Belozerskii Monastery, Kirillov, Russian Empire


A major component of the Volga-Baltic Waterway (formerly called the Mariinsk Canal System), linking Saint Petersburg with the Volga River basin, is the Sheksna River, which drains the southeastern part of White Lake (Beloe ozero). One of the most important settlements near the Sheksna is Kirillov, founded in 1397 by the monk Kirill (Cyril) as part of his Dormition Monastery, subsequently named the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. Seen in this 1909 photograph are ceramic tiles found during excavations at the monastery. Some of the tiles have polychrome glaze, while others others are unglazed. The tiles display a mixture of decorative patterns and botanical motifs, as well as a unicorn and an archer. Such tiles were particularly widespread in Russian churches during the 17th century, both on church facades and as a cladding for large brick stoves. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Старинные изразцы, найденные при земляных работах. [Кирилло-Белозерский монастырь, Кириллов, Российская империя

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at

Last updated: September 23, 2016