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An Excursion into Moscow’s Medieval Past

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This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

Brumfield is the world’s leading historian of Russian architecture.  He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.  

His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon).  This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can’t recommend it highly enough.  Here is our 2015 review of it.

Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield’s work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography.  We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.

Don’t believe in miracles?  Well, we can assure you, Brumfield’s work is undoubtedly just that.


Nestled in a corner to the south of the Kremlin and not far from the Moscow River is an enchantingly beautiful ensemble that reflects centuries of turbulent history. Even native Muscovites are not always aware of Krutitsky Court, located by a lane of 19th-century wooden houses, yet its remarkable display of 17th-century church architecture and ceramic tiles is a unique part of Moscow’s cultural heritage.

The origins of the Krutitsky Court (Krutitskoe Podvorye) reach back to the 13th century and the aftermath of the Mongol/Tatar invasion of medieval Rus (1237-1241). Following the Mongol conquest, thousands of Russians were held in captivity as slaves near the center of the Horde at Sarai on the lower Volga.

The Mongols respected the Russian Orthodox Church, and at the request of Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky of Vladimir, they allowed the formation in 1261 of a diocese to minister to this large group. The diocese was called Sarsky and Podonsky, reflecting the fact that its boundaries stretched from Sarai to the Don River.

A decade later, in 1272, the distant diocese established a legation, or court (podvorye), on the outskirts of Moscow with the support of Prince Alexander’s son Daniil, founder of the Moscow Riurikovich dynastic branch. The Krutitsky Court was located downriver from the Kremlin on the high left bank of the Moskva River at a site known as Krutitsy (from the Russian word for “steep”). Its first church was dedicated in 1272 to Sts. Peter and Paul.

The Sarsky and Podonsky eparchy was not alone in establishing legations near Moscow. The Orthodox Church sensed Moscow’s increasing power — already rivaling that of Vladimir and Tver — and legation gave bishoprics far from the capital a foothold near the center of political power and provided a suitable residence during the bishop’s visits. Krutitsy was also located in the vicinity of two marge monasteries — New Savior and Simonov — and near a major route to Kolomna and the southeast, which was the route taken by Moscow princes during their obligatory journeys to the Horde.

Descendants of Prince Daniil — notably Ivan II and Dmitry Donskoi —made important gifts to the Krutitsky Court. Funds for a new church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin were provided by Grand Prince Ivan II, who ruled from 1355 to 1359.

Increased influence

With the waning of Tatar authority in the 15th century, few Russians remained in an area whose rulers had adopted Islam. In 1454, Bishop Vassian transferred the seat of the bishopric from Sarai to Krutitsy, and the word Krutitsy was added to the name of the eparchy.

Decades after this transition, Krutitsky Court gained a new masonry Cathedral of the Dormition in 1516. With little practical connection to their original territory, the Krutitsky bishops began to play a more important role in managing church affairs within the Kremlin. By the middle of the 16th century, the Krutitsky Diocese had its own court within the Kremlin. In 1589, the year when the first patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was installed, the Krutitsky bishop was elevated to the level of metropolitan.

In the early 17th century, Krutitsy played a momentous role in sustaining the Orthodox presence during the Time of Troubles, a national catastrophe that lasted from 1605 to the end of the next decade and combined a dynastic interregnum with civil war and foreign invasion. There were moments in the Polish occupation of the Kremlin when the “Little” Dormition Cathedral at Krutitsy performed as a surrogate for the inaccessible Kremlin Dormition Cathedral — Russia’s main church.

In 1612, the Krutitsy Dormition Cathedral was ransacked by the Poles, and became a rallying ground for the forces led by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, which expelled the Poles from the Kremlin in November 1612. In 2012 a large votive cross was placed at Krutitsy to commemorate these events.

As the situation in the country slowly stabilized after the establishment of the Romanov dynasty in 1613, Krutitsky Court also underwent a revival. Major expansion occurred during the tenure (1664-1676) of Metropolitan Pavel II, who in 1667 initiated the construction of the present Dormition Church (at that time a cathedral), with a ground floor chapel dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul.

The design of the Dormition Church, completed in 1689, was typical for the late 17th century, with a closed domical ceiling vault supporting a roof with five decorative cupolas. Although the interior was ransacked during the early Soviet period, some of the 19th-century wall paintings have remained, and the icon screen has been recreated. The construction of the church included an elevated, arcaded passage known as the Dormition Gallery that led from the cathedral to the Metropolitan’s residence and refectory.

The rebuilding of Krutitsky Court continued under Evfimii, who was metropolitan between 1688 and 1695. He was one of the 17th-century prelates who made no apologies for a display of the wealth and beauty of the Orthodox Church, which at this time witnessed a revival of ceramic decorative art. The effusive use of ceramic decoration was often interpreted as a preview of the beauty of paradise itself. Perhaps nowhere in Russia was this revival more lavishly displayed than in the “Teremok,” built above a gateway leading to the courtyard of the Metropolitan’s Chambers (palaty). Begun in 1693, the Krutitsky gateway was completed shortly before Metropolitan Evfimii’s departure in 1695 to become Metropolitan of Novgorod and Velikye Luki.

The north façade of the Teremok, which included two pairs of windows, was covered in almost 2,000 polychrome tiles, including ceramic columns. The bays of the façade were divided by carved limestone columns with a grape vine motif, symbol of the Eucharist. The pitched wooden roof above the Teremok was clad in dark ceramic roofing tiles. The architects of this display were Osip Startsev and Larion Kovalyov, and the design of the ceramic tiles has been attributed to Stepan Ivanov. It should be noted that the main, north façade receives direct sunlight only in the summer, yet the variety of the ceramic tiles is perhaps best perceived in indirect light.

The late 17th-century expansion begun by Pavel II at Krutitsky Court also included the rebuilding on the foundations of the earlier Dormition Cathedral of a refectory known as the Cross Chamber (Krestovaya palata; 1665-1689) because of the cross vaults that supported the ceiling of its dining hall. Attached to the north of the refectory was the small Church of the Resurrection, a remnant from the earlier cathedral. These various components were united by the building of the Metropolitan’s Chambers, a two-story residence with a pitched roof begun by Paul II. In 1727, the residence gained a more imposing, elevated entrance with a stairway and porch in an early Baroque style. The residence overlooked a courtyard with an ornamental garden, one of the first of this type in Moscow.

Court in decline

Although a half-century of work had created a unique architectural setting, the travails of Krutitsky Court were far from over. In 1721, Peter the Great abolished the Russian Orthodox patriarchate, a move that led to the demotion of Krutitsy from a metropolitanate back to a diocese. Then, in 1737, a catastrophic fire (the Trinity Fire) caused serious damage to the ensemble, including the Teremok, whose ceramic roofing was replaced with sheet metal.  

During the church administrative reforms of Catherine the Great, the dioceses of Sarsky , Podonsky and then Krutitsy were abolished, and the Krutitsy ensemble was transferred to the War Ministry. Only the Dormition Church continued to function, and it too suffered major damage from the 1812 fire during the French occupation of Moscow.

After the 1812 fire, the military administration recommended converting the Dormition Church to barracks, but the discovery of bishops’ graves led to the preservation of the remaining Krutitsy ensemble. Its restoration became a personal project of Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich (subsequently Tsar Alexander II), which lasted from 1833 to 1865. At the same time, the military expanded its presence with the construction of the Krutitsky Barracks and prison at the perimeter of the ensemble along the Moscow River

The establishment of Soviet power brought new threats to Krutitsy, whose military barracks compound continued to function. Paradoxically, the restoration of the Moscow Patriarchate (part of the separation of the Church administration from the Soviet state) led to the creation of the Metropolitanate of Krutitsy and Kolomna as an administrative arm of the Patriarchate.A new era in the history of Krutitsy began in 1947 when the restoration of the ensemble was declared a national priority and entrusted to the leading specialist Peter Baranovsky. In 1982, the ensemble was placed under the administration of the State Historical Museum, and in 1991, Krutitsy was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Restoration of the main space of the Dormition Church was completed in 2007 As in the 19th century, the Krutitsky Barracks military post coexists with Krutitsky Court.

Today, preservation work gradually continues at Krutitsky Court, closely related to the Moscow Patriarchate. Despite the many threats to its existence over the centuries, fate has spared this peaceful enclave, which bears witness to so many dramatic events in Russian history.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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