December 23, 2011

General View of the Shah-i Zindah Mosque (Evening Photo). Samarkand

This remarkable view, taken in the light of the setting sun, shows the middle group of mausolea in the Shah-i Zindah necropolis, located at the outskirts of Samarkand. Built on an ancient burial ground, Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. From left to right are seen the Octagonal Mausoleum, the Shirin Bika Aga Mausoleum, the Shadi Mulk Aga Mausoleum, the Emir Zade Mausoleum, and the double domes of the Kazy-Zade Rumi Mausoleum, built in 1437 by Ulugh Beg, the astronomer king and grandson of Tamerlane (Timur). The photograph shows remnants of the ceramic tile decoration (including patterned script), much of which has since been restored. In the background are the snow-covered peaks of the Turkestan Range to the southeast. 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. In 1911 he made two trips to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed monuments of Islamic art.

Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ (1552-62, 1652, 1770s), South Panorama from Onega River, with Bell Tower (1767-78), Kargopol', Russia

This south view, from the frozen Onega River, of the church ensemble on Cathedral (or New Market) Square in Kargopol' (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1999 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Kargopol' is one of the oldest settlements in the Russian north, founded perhaps in the 12th, or even the 11th, century. Its location near Lake Lacha and the origins of the Onega River (which flows into the White Sea) enabled Kargopol' to benefit from trade in salt, fish, and products of the northern forests. The resulting wealth led to the construction of impressive churches, a number of which have survived. This architectural ensemble at the center of town includes the Cathedral of the Nativity (on the left), built in 1552-62, early in the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The cathedral’s massive, archaic limestone form culminates in five elevated onion domes. Damaged in 1765 by a fire that destroyed its cupolas, the cathedral was open to the elements until repairs were made in the 1770s, when the four corners of its walls were reinforced. The center of the ensemble is marked by the cathedral bell tower, built in 1767-78. Visible through the trees on the right is the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist, built of brick in 1740-51.

Cathedral Bell Tower (1767-78), East View, Kargopol', Russia

This northeast view of the cathedral bell tower in Kargopol' (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Kargopol' is one of the oldest settlements in the Russian north, founded perhaps in the 12th, or even the 11th, century. Its location near Lake Lacha and the origins of the Onega River (which flows into the White Sea) enabled Kargopol' to benefit from trade in salt, fish, and products of the northern forests. The resulting wealth led to the construction of impressive churches, a number of which have survived. Located in the center of town on Cathedral (or New Market) Square, the large bell tower was begun in 1767 by Iakov Sivers, governor general of Novgorod Province, as part of a plan to revive the town after the fire of 1765. Completed only in 1778 because of difficulties in obtaining building materials, the tower has become an enduring point of orientation, both from the lake and within the town. The northwest part of Cathedral Square is occupied by the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin (on the right), built in 1802-08.

Church of the Resurrection (1686-94), Southwest View, Matigory, Russia

This southwest view of the Church of the Resurrection in the village of Verkhnie Matigory (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1999 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Made of stuccoed brick with white ornamental details, the Church of the Resurrection was erected in 1686-94 on a bluff above the Matigorka River (a tributary of the Northern Dvina River) by the master builder Fëdor Spiridonov Stafurov. The picturesque arrangement of its volumes begins with the main structure, whose walls culminate in an ornamental arcade. Five onion domes arise from a platform projecting above the main cube. To the west are two chapels and a heated vestibule (trapeznaia) built in the early 18th century and dedicated to Saint Paraskeva and Saint Nicholas. Each of the chapel altars is marked on the exterior by a cupola. The bell tower, an octagonal structure at the western end of the church, has openings for ten bells and concludes in a "tent" tower. The bell structure balances the pyramidal shape of the church in a rich display of volume and proportion. By the time the church was completed, the Matigory-Kholmogory area already had begun to yield to Arkhangel’sk, founded in 1584 some 60 kilometers to the northwest, near the mouth of the Dvina.

Church of the Resurrection, Interior, with Icon Screen, Matigory, Russia

This view of the icon screen of the Church of the Resurrection in the village of Verkhnie Matigory (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1999 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. The Church of the Resurrection was built in 1686-94. Its five-tiered 18th-century icon screen (iconostasis) is one of the best preserved in the Russian north and contains a number of ancient icons. Although part of the second tier (Holy Festivals) is visible in this view, together with the upper arch of the Royal Gate, the emphasis here is on the upper three tiers, beginning with the Deesis (from the Greek word for “prayer”). This tier centers on an image of Christ enthroned as Pantokrator (Ruler of All), flanked by Mary (on the left), and John the Baptist (on the right), together with archangels Michael and Gabriel, the apostles Peter and Paul, as well as other church fathers. All figures assume a prayerful posture toward Christ. The next (fourth) tier, known as the Prophets' Row, includes Old Testament prophets, as well as kings David and Solomon. In the center is a regal image of the Mother of God of the Sign (Znamenie). The uppermost (fifth) tier, known as the Forefathers' Row (Praottsy), contains figures from the first books of the Bible (Adam, Eve, Abraham, Abel, Isaac, and others). At its center is the Old Testament Trinity, which portrays the visit of three angels to Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 18).

Church of St. Nicholas (1584?), Southwest View, Liavlia, Russia

This southwest view of the ancient Church of Saint Nicholas (Dormition), in the village of Liavlia, on the right bank of the Dvina River (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Liavlia was one of the first Russian settlements in the area of the lower Dvina, established by the medieval trading city of Novgorod as early as the 14th century. This log church originally was built in the 1580s for the small Dormition Monastery, founded in the late 14th century. In 1641 the monastery was subordinated to the Saint Antonii-Siiskii Monastery (further up the Dvina). After 1765, the Church of the Dormition served the local parish. With the construction of a brick Church of the Dormition in 1804, the log Church of the Dormition stood empty for 40 years. In 1844, Alexander de Travers, governor of Arkhangelsk, visited the church and decided to save it. Subsequent repairs eliminated the decayed lower log courses (thus reducing its height by some two meters) and destroyed a gallery attached to the exterior. But the basic octagonal structure of this remarkable monument survived, together with an apse and small vestibule. Its "tent" tower and cupola were restored in the 1960s.