Smolensk. Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Twelfth Century


In 1911 and 1912, in connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed sites associated with events along the invasion route. Prominent among them was the city of Smolensk. Seen in this view toward the northwest is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, originally built in the mid-12th century. Over the centuries, the church was substantially modified, particularly during decades of Polish control in the first half of the 17th century. At this time, the building was used by the Uniate Church, and a residence for the Uniate bishop was added to the west side. With the return of Smolensk to Russia in 1654, the church was returned to Orthodox use. In 1753–57 the residence was rebuilt in the Baroque style as the Church of Saint Barbara (on left). Near the station is the ancient Church of Saints Peter and Paul. In the foreground is a lumber yard located near the railroad station. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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

Смоленск. Петропавловская церковь ХII века

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: October 7, 2016