Mother of God Church. Smolensk


Smolensk is one of the oldest cities of medieval Rus’, mentioned in written sources as far back as the ninth century. The church in this 1912 photograph is dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, one of the most revered images in the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1728 a wooden church was erected to house the Smolensk icon, situated in the space created when one of the towers of the city walls was razed. In the 1790s this church was rebuilt in brick in a neoclassical style. In 1811–12 the church, seen here from the south, was modified so that its lower level could serve as a passageway (since enclosed). On the opposite (north) side is a street that runs along the Dnieper River embankment. 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 parts of the empire. In connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Prokudin-Gorskii photographed sites along the invasion route in 1911 and 1912. Prominent among them was the city of Smolensk, which endured a devastating attack in August 1812 that led to the destruction of most of the city by fire.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Богоматеринская церковь. Смоленск

Additional Subjects

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