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One of the Jewels in Russia’s Golden Ring

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This article originally appeared at Russia & India Report


In the period preceding the Tatar-Mongol invasion a unique Russian architectural style emerged in Vladimir (176 kilometers from Moscow), due to the efforts of several major historical figures such as the outstanding princes Andrei Bogolyubsky (the Pious), Vsevolod the Big Nest and Yuri Dolgoruky. The works of Andrei Rublev, Russia’s most renowned icon-painter still adorn the Uspensky Cathedral

Vladimir’s Golden Gates

The Golden Gates were built in 1164 under the reign of Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky. The gates were not merely a defense rampart, but an impressive triumphal arch, with the gates of Constantinople as its model. In its first four centuries Vladimir’s great princes would ascend the throne by entering the town through the Golden Gates.  

According to legend, on the eve of their unveiling, the Golden Gates crashed down burying 12 people alive. While the trapped people were being searched for, Prince Andrei prayed before a miraculous icon of the Mother of God to save the workers. To everyone’s surprise, the workers were removed from the collapsed ruins not only alive, but even almost without injury. Prince Andrei then ordered the tiny white stone Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe to be built right at the gates. Thanks to this gated church Vladimir’s Golden Gates had no equal in medieval Europe.

According to another legend, Catherine II’s coach was too wide and got stuck when passing through the Golden Gates. So, the empress ordered the demolition of the vaults on either side. During the Soviet period the Golden Gates hosted the KGB archive and some people even lived here. In 1983, during the city’s birthday celebrations, a capsule with a message to Vladimir’s 21st century inhabitants was embedded in one of the corner towers.

Today this monument of ancient Russian architecture is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. On the upper floor of the Golden Gates there is an exhibition with a small collection of weapons from different epochs and a small, but spectacular artistic attraction: a diorama depicting the storming of Vladimir by Mongol troops in 1238.

The Uspensky (Dormition) Cathedral

Nowadays this outstanding monument of ancient Rus’ white stone architecture is at the same time both a museum and the functioning cathedral of the Vladimir eparchy. Since 1992 it has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Uspensky Cathedral was built in 1158 by Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky (the Pious) and was the main church of the country at the time. The inauguration ceremonies of the great princes of northeastern Rus’ were held here until the mid-15th century and the country’s best craftsmen were invited to Vladimir to participate in its construction.

The Uspensky Cathedral’s second most important function was to house one of Russia’s most important icons: the Theotokos of Vladimir (the Vladimir Mother of God).

An icon was brought to Constantinople from Jerusalem in the fifth century under Emperor Theodosius. It was given to Rus’ from Byzantium at the beginning of the 12th century (around 1131) as a present to the saint Prince Mstislav from the Patriarch of Constantinople. Yuri Dolgoruky’s son, Andrei Bogolyubsky, brought the icon to Vladimir in 1155. It was then that it was given its current name and was stored in the Uspensky Cathedral.

The icon is said to have miraculous powers and has been credited with saving Rus’ from various disasters. During Tamerlane’s raid in 1395 the icon was moved to Moscow to protect the city from the invader. The fact that Tamerlane’s troops for no apparent reason withdrew and left the city of Yelets without reaching Moscow was considered the result of an intercession by the Mother of God.

There were three other cases of miraculous liberation from invaders: in 1451 (the raid of the Nogai Tsarevich Mazovsha), in 1480 (the Great Standoff on the Ugra River) and in 1521 (from the Crimean Khan Mekhmet-Girey). Today one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most venerated icons is kept in the museum and church of St. Nicholas in Tolmachy, next to the Tretyakov Gallery in central Moscow.

The church building has preserved the designs of the pre-Mongol period of Russian architecture almost intact. Particularly worthy of attention are the 12th-century frescoes: the figures of St. Artemy and St. Abraham, the images of lilies and peacocks and the only remaining frescoes that can be safely attributed to the hand of Russia’s most famous icon painter, Andrei Rublev. The baroque iconostasis was implemented by order of Catherine II.

Many representatives of Vladimir’s royal dynasty and clergy are buried in the cathedral’s walls. The cathedral’s builders – Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky and his brother Vsevolod the Big Nest – rest in the northern gallery.

The Cathedral of Saint Demetrius

Vladimir’s main symbol, the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius (Dmitrievsky sobor), dates back to the 12th century and is famous for its unique white stone inlay work. The walls are covered with the images of heavenly plants, birds, lions, leopards, griffons with lambs, saints, knights and dragon-people.

Several features are easily recognizable: King David, the ascension of Alexander the Great, Saint George and even several basic Biblical themes. However, to this day not all the mysteries of the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius have been fully solved.

Few items from the original furnishings have survived. The ones that do remain include several frescoes from the 12th century, in particular the fragments of a composition called “Judgment Day,” which can be compared to the homonymous work by Andrei Rublev in the nearby Uspensky Cathedral. Today the cathedral functions only as a museum and is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Convent of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God

The Convent of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God is as old as the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius and was built in 1195 using white stone. This male convent is considered one of the most ancient and venerated Russian monasteries. It is located a three-minute walk to the left of the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius if you turn your back to the Klyazma River.

For travelers the most interesting aspect here is not so much the interiors, but more likely the exteriors of the church: we recommend that you walk along all of its grandiose white walls. From there an impressive view onto the Klyazma River and on old Vladimir will open up before your eyes. The Nativity Convent is one of the best places to get a good view of the town.

Just 100 years ago Vladimir’s third white stone church could be found here on the grounds, but in the 19th century it was demolished because of its decrepit state and a new bigger cathedral was built in its place. Being the first center of monastic life in ancient Rus’, the Nativity Convent was also famous as being the burial place of Alexander Nevsky (however, later by order of Peter I, some of his relics were moved to St. Petersburg).

Today this functioning convent represents a complex of outstanding historical importance, despite the losses it has suffered.

The Church of St. George the Victorious

Ever since ancient times Russian princes used to build churches in honor of their own guardian angels. Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, Moscow’s founder, built a wooden church in honor of his own celestial protector – the martyr St. George in 1129. This explains the origins of one of Russia’s most ancient churches.

In 1778 the Church burned down, therefore it was rebuilt from scratch in a provincial baroque style that is a great rarity in this part of Russia. During the Soviet period the church’s small onion-shaped dome was heavily damaged by machine-gun fire. A salami plant, which handled oils and fats, was located here. As a result the ancient frescoes were ruined and covered by a black, one-centimeter thick layer of soot.

Today the Church of St. George presents a unique possibility to observe the spiritual life of ordinary people from the Russian provinces. The inside offers the characteristic coziness of a provincial church: on the floor is a well-worn carpet and slippers are handed out at the entrance just as you would find in of the vast majority of post-Soviet apartments. Old women wrapped in shawls listen to the priest singing, cross themselves before the wonderful frescoes and admire the 19th-century icons.

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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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