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History Within a Stunning Landscape

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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.  You can find a complete list of his articles on RI here.

The original title of this article was: The Goritsky Monastery: History within a stunning landscape


The ancient path northeast of Moscow toward the Volga River is dotted with historic cities that form the heart of the Golden Ring. Prominent among them is the town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, located some 90 miles from Moscow with a current population of 40,000. By official account, the town was founded in 1152 by Prince Yury Dolgoruky, who is also said to have founded Moscow in 1147.

Settlers from Kiev, the capital of early Rus, had been moving to the area since the turn of the 12th century, and the town’s name is thought to derive from Pereyaslavl, a town near Kiev. The addition of “Zalessky” (“beyond the forests”) indicates that the new settlement lay within a fertile zone of fields and forest in central Russia.

Among the several monasteries that remain in this ancient town, perhaps the most picturesque is the Goritsky Dormition Monastery, situated on a bluff overlooking the azure waters of Lake Pleshcheev. (“Goritsky” is related to a word for little hill.) Although relatively small, the lake played an outsized role in Russian history, including as a training ground for the young Peter the Great, who practiced sailing there.

Because of the area’s turbulent history, there is virtually no information about the monastery’s origins, but it is known to have existed by the mid-14th century. One of Russia’s most revered monastics, St. Dmitry Prilutsky, was tonsured at the monastery, rose rapidly in the hierarchy and became acquainted with Sergius of Radonezh, avatar of Muscovite monasticism, during the latter’s visit to Pereslavl in 1354.

St. Sergius became the deeply influential spiritual adviser to Grand Prince Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow (1350-89), and the monk Dmitry assumed a similar role with the prince’s children. On the advice of Sergius, Dmitry left Pereslavl for the Vologda region, where in 1371 he founded the Savior Monastery, subsequently known as Savior-Prilutsky in his honor.

Undoubtedly the most dramatic moment in the history of the Goritsky Monastery occurred in 1382, when the town was sacked by Khan Tokhtamysh as part of a devastating Tatar attack on Moscow. By grim irony, the Tokhtamysh invasion was a response to the first major Russian victory over the Tatars at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Led by Prince Dmitry, the combined Russian army triumphed over the forces of Khan Mamai, who had just defeated Tokhtamysh during a prolonged struggle for power among the Tatars along the Volga River. The Russian triumph thus worked in Tokhtamysh’s favor.

Needing to replenish his army after the titanic struggle, Dmitry—called “Donskoi” in honor of his victory near the Don River — temporarily left Moscow in 1382. Totkhtamysh took advantage of his absence to make a rapid attack with his mounted forces. After days of siege, they took the Kremlin garrison and inflicted such destruction on Muscovite territory that Dmitry was again compelled to submit to Tatar authority.

Although one of Dmitry’s sons was taken hostage, his wife, Eudoxia (Evdokia; 1353-1407), escaped by virtue of a pilgrimage to the Goritsky Monastery in Pereslavl.

At the time of Tokhtamysh’s attack in 1382, the Goritsky Monastery, like most of Pereslavl, consisted of log structures and could not offer serious resistance to the raiders. Nonetheless, Princess Eudoxia was able to descend to the lake shore with some of her retinue. As they floated on a raft toward the middle of the lake, a dense fog settled and hid them from view until the Tatar raiders left the ruined monastery.

In memory of her rescue, Eudoxia provided support to rebuild the monastery around 1392. By that time, she had become the de facto ruler of Muscovy after the death of Dmitry in 1389 at the age of 38. Eudoxia is revered to this day for her wisdom and firm guidance during the early years of the reign of her son Vasily (1371-1425). Moscow’s ability to gather forces against Tamerlane in 1395 was in no small measure due to her authority.

In the 15th century, the monastery became an important spiritual center. Its most notable hegumen toward the end of the century was Daniil, known for his charity to the poor and homeless. In the early 16th century, he founded the nearby Trinity Monastery, patronized by Vasily III and Ivan IV (the Terrible). <hyperlink to my article>

Although Moscow’s rulers continued to visit the Goritsky Monastery during the 16th century, it was overshadowed by building campaigns at the neighboring Trinity and Nikitsky Monasteries. In the early 17th century, Pereslavl, like much of central Russia, was ravaged during a dynastic interregnum known as the Time of Troubles. In 1608, a Polish-Lithuanian force devastated the citadel and much of the rest of the town.

Over the course of the 17th century, the Goritsky and other Pereslavl monasteries were restored. The earliest surviving brick structures at the Goritsky Monastery include the Church of All Saints, rebuilt in the late 17th century on the site of a smaller 16th-century church. Dating from the same period are the monastery walls, with fancifully decorated gate structures at the southeast corner. The main Holy Gate supports the small church of St. Nicholas, completed at the end of the 17th century.

A fire in 1722 swept through the monastery and destroyed its archive, but fate unexpectedly brought improved fortunes. A major ecclesiastical reorganization during the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna led in 1744 to the creation of a wealthy Pereslavl eparchy, or diocese. Consequently, the Goritsky Monastery was transformed into the residence of the archbishop, an elevated status that brought resources for a rebuilding of churches on a grand scale.

A leading initiator of the building campaign was Ambrose Zertis-Kamensky, who served as archbishop from 1753 to 1761. A well-educated and cultured cleric, he intended to create an ensemble that would reflect prevailing architectural values in such magnificent sites as the New Jerusalem Resurrection Monastery to the west of Moscow.

The most imposing structure is the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, begun in the early 1750s and completed in 1761 to replace a church built in the 1520s. On the exterior, its design shows a mixture of Baroque and neoclassical elements in the manner of the prominent Moscow architect Karl Blank.

On the interior, however, the cathedral displays a lavish decorative style in the late Baroque manner of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, author of the Winter Palace and other masterpieces in St. Petersburg. Another source is the work of Dmitry Ukhtomsky, a Baroque master active in the Moscow area. Of special note is the magnificent icon screen.

The Dormition Cathedral is complemented to the east by a monumental four-tiered Baroque bell tower set in the east wall of the monastic compound. Its ground level contains the Church of the Epiphany. Construction was also begun on a large Gethsemane shrine extending to the west of the cathedral.

During the reign of Catherine the Great, however, capricious fate brought a halt to plans for the ensemble. In 1788, the Pereslavl eparchy was subsumed in another ecclesiastical reorganization, and the extensive building projects were abandoned. The major bells in the tower were transported to the cathedral in St. Petersburg’s Peter-Paul Fortress, and local authorities scrambled to find a use for what had already been completed.

Government offices occupied some of the buildings, and in 1788 the Dormition Cathedral was designated the primary cathedral of Pereslavl. Unfortunately, complaints increased about the site’s distance from the town center, as well as the steep climb on primitive roads. In 1838, the Dormition Cathedral ceased to serve as the Pereslavl cathedral.

The various town offices were eventually vacated, and the uncompleted Gethsemane shrine was razed. In 1881 a grim red brick building was erected to the west of the Church of All Saints to house a religious school. What remained of the Baroque ensemble was increasingly despoiled, neglected and overgrown with weeds.

In a final irony, the imposition of Soviet power stemmed the decline of the former Goritsky Monastery at a time when most monasteries were being ransacked. In 1919, the site was made available for use as a local history museum, a function that it fulfills to this day. And in the 1960s the distinguished preservationist Ivan Purishchev launched a preservation campaign that achieved extraordinary success with limited means.

Although much remains to be done, the valiant museum not only offers an excellent display of traditional arts and crafts, but also preserves a significant architectural ensemble. Yet there is more for visitors: the north wall of the monastery has an observation point with a sweeping view of Lake Pleshcheev and one of Russia’s richest historic landscapes, dotted with cupolas, bell towers and monasteries.

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Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub

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Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.

After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.

The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.

Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.

French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.

READ ALSO OPINION: France’s Australian submarine row shows that Macron was right about NATO

Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.

“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”

Showdown

The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.

After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.

As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.

British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.

“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”

Conditions

Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.

As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”

This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.

The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.

“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”

Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.



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Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul

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Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.

Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.

Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.

A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.

Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.

“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.

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‘Covid light’: How to get Switzerland’s data-safe Covid certificate

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One of the major concerns surrounding Switzerland’s Covid certificate, as with other Covid passports, has been privacy. 

In order to respond to these concerns, Switzerland in summer launched the ‘Covid light’ certificate. 

Unlike the Covid certificate itself, which displays which vaccine they had, the date on which they were vaccinated, whether they have recovered from the virus or whether they tested negative, the Covid light certificate simply shows whether or not a person’s credentials are valid. 

As noted directly by the government “the certificate light does not contain any health data; it merely shows that the holder has a valid COVID certificate.”

More information about the certificate itself can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: What is Switzerland’s data-safe ‘light’ Covid certificate?

Importantly, the Covid light certificate only works in Switzerland, i.e. it cannot be used for travel purposes or in other countries. 

What exactly is the certificate light and is it in digital form? 

The ‘certificate light’ might sound like a separate document from the main Covid certificate, but in reality is effectively a data-safe function of the app itself. 

This function can be switched on, from which point the certificate only provides minimal data, including your name, date of birth, electronic signature and whether the certificate is valid or not. 

While this is done in the app, it can also be printed out. 

How do I get the certificate light?

If you go into your Covid certificate app, you can see there is an option to get a ‘certificate light’ if you tap on the certificate itself. 

Once the certificate is activated, it will be valid for 48 hours. After that 48 hour period, it must be activated again. 

UPDATED: A step-by-step guide to getting the Swiss Covid certificate

If you need to show your actual Covid certificate after you have activated certificate light (for instance for travel), you will need to deactivate it. 

The certificate light can be activated and deactivated again and again at no cost. 

The following diagram, produced by the Swiss government, shows how the certificate can be activated and deactivated (albeit in relatively shabby resolution). 

Switzerland’s Covid light certificate. Image: FOPH.



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