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The Extraordinary 12th Century Cathedral in Vladimir, Russia

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This article appeared on a new site about the Christian renaissance in Russia, called Russian Faith. Their introductory video is at end of this article.


Vladimir. Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Northwest view. May 16, 1995.

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Vladimir. Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Northwest view. May 16, 1995.

William Brumfield


Editors Note: 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.


At the beginning of the 20th century the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky invented a complex process for vivid, detailed color photography (see box text below).

His vision of photography as a form of education and enlightenment was demonstrated with special clarity through his photographs of medieval architecture in historic settlements northeast of Moscow, including Suzdal and Vladimir, which he visited in the summer of 1911. 

Among his several views of the town are two photographs of the monumental Dormition Cathedral: a distant view from the east and a view from the northwest. My photographic work in Vladimir, including the Dormition Cathedral, spans a period from 1972 to 2009. 

Dormition Cathedral. West view across Erofeev Descent. May 25, 1998.

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Dormition Cathedral. West view across Erofeev Descent. May 25, 1998.

William Brumfield


The fortress of Vladimir was established in 1108 on the Klyazma River by Vladimir Monomakh, who ruled as Grand Prince in Kiev from 1113 to 1125. Under his guidance, Vladimir and the surrounding settlements became a center of political and economic power in the lands of the eastern Slavs. Under Monomakh’s descendants in the second half of the 12th century, the Vladimir area witnessed a surge in church construction with a form of limestone known as white stone.   

Medieval Masterpiece

The most important of these temples was the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God (Assumption), begun in 1158 by Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky. The plan of the Dormition Cathedral conformed to the elongated plan with a dome in the center typical of large churches in Kiev and Novgorod during the same period. The stone facades displayed a few high-relief carvings.

The source of such skilled technical work remains unclear. The Laurentian chronicle mentions the bringing of masters from “all lands,” and there are later references to Nemtsi, or “Germans”— a term broadly used for foreigners. It has been proposed that the artisans were sent to Bogoliubsky by Frederick Barbarossa. If certain features of the Vladimir churches — such as the portals and decorative stonework — suggest a Western Romanesque presence, the basic plan remained in the tradition of Byzantine church architecture as adapted in early medieval Rus. 

Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). 1911.

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Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). 1911.

Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky


The Dormition Cathedral was soon rebuilt in a larger and more complex form during the reign of Andrei Bogoliubsky’s half-brother, Vsevolod III (Yurevich). The impetus for the expansion came from a fire in 1185 that destroyed much of Vladimir and severely damaged the Dormition Cathedral.

In rebuilding the cathedral (1185-90), Vsevolod’s builders dismantled the attached galleries,but retained the walls of the original structure, weakened by fire, as the core of the new cathedral. The space was expanded by adding aisles to the north, west and south sides. The walls of the addition were raised two stories, but not to the full height of the original structure. Thus the relation between the old and the new was ingeniously defined in the rebuilt structure. 

Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). March 6, 1972.

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Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). March 6, 1972.

William Brumfield


The cathedral was crowned by four secondary domes placed diagonally to the main dome. On the east, the three-part apse, visible in Prokudin-Gorsky’s color photograph, was rebuilt with an increase in depth.

The new facades were marked at mid-level by an arcade frieze with accents of carved ornamentation. Some of the decorative stonework on the north and south walls was transferred from the original cathedral. The new Dormition Cathedral provided a model for the revival of architecture in Muscovy at the end of the 15th century, exemplified by the Dormition Cathedral (1470s) at the center of the Moscow Kremlin. 

Mongol conquest

Less than a half century after the completion of the Dormition Cathedral, the Vladimir principality was overwhelmed by the Mongol invasion of Rus. In late February 1238, the city was captured and sacked with great loss of life. The grand prince at that time, Vsevolod’s son Yury, was killed a few days later in a final battle with the Mongol armies. When Yury’s wife, Agafya, along with other members of the family, took refuge in the cathedral, the Mongols placed burning timber against the thick walls, and those inside were asphyxiated.

Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). March 6, 1972.

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Dormition Cathedral. East view with Regional Administration (right). March 6, 1972.

William Brumfield


Despite these cataclysmic events, the Dormition Cathedral survived. Vladimir was sacked again by a large Mongol raid in 1408, during which the cathedral was ransacked and damaged. Two renowned painters, Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chorny, were brought to redo the interior. Rublev’s surviving frescoes are located in the western part of the cathedral and depict the Last Judgement. The two also painted icons for a new icon screen. Although the icon screen was redone in the Baroque style in the late 18th century, some of the Rublev icons were preserved and are now in the collection of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. 

Dormition Cathedral. Northeast view. June 19, 1994.

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Dormition Cathedral. Northeast view. June 19, 1994.

William Brumfield


In 1785-90 the area along a bluff to the east of the Dormition was given to the construction of the Regional Administration Offices, visible in Prokudin-Gorsky’s photograph (on the right) and in mine taken six decades later. Designed in the neoclassical style favored during the reign of Catherine the Great, the long 3-story building has been criticized as a dissonant element situated between the medieval Cathedral of the Dormition and Vsevolod’s palace church, dedicated to St. Demetrius. Nonetheless, the solidly-built structure has endured and continues to serve the town.

Neoclassical revival

During a visit to Vladimir in 1767, Catherine was taken by the Dormition Cathedral and personally supported its renovation, including the creation of the lavish icon screen mentioned above. Although well-intentioned, changes effected in this and subsequent decades had an impact on the cathedral’s appearance. 

Dormition Cathedral. Northwest view with bell tower & Church of St. George. 1911.

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Dormition Cathedral. Northwest view with bell tower & Church of St. George. 1911.

Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky


In 1810, a large bell tower was erected just to the north, and in 1862 a church dedicated to St. George was designed by Nicholas Artleben in a Gothic Revival style to fill the space between the bell tower and cathedral’s north façade. These additions created a new perspective on the ensemble from the north, facing the town’s main street (Moscow Street). This north perspective is clearly rendered in Prokudin-Gorsky’s contact print. The original negative is lost. 

Dormition Cathedral. Northwest view with bell tower & Church of St. George. Left: Regional Administration. March 6, 1972.

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Dormition Cathedral. Northwest view with bell tower & Church of St. George. Left: Regional Administration. March 6, 1972.

William Brumfield


Comprehensive, informed restoration work in the 1880s eliminated most of the distortions made during the preceding century and uncovered a major section of Andrei Rublev’s frescoes. Another prolonged restoration phase concluded in the early 1980s.

Dormition Cathedral. Southwest view. May 26, 1997.

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Dormition Cathedral. Southwest view. May 26, 1997.

William Brumfield


In 1992, the Dormition Cathedral was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Responsibility for this grand cultural and historical monument is now shared between the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum Preserve and the Diocese of Vladimir, for which it serves as the main cathedral. 

Dormition Cathedral. West facade, arcade frieze. July 18, 2009.

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Dormition Cathedral. West facade, arcade frieze. July 18, 2009.

William Brumfield


In the early 20th century the Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky invented a complex process for color photography. Between 1903 and 1916 he traveled through the Russian Empire and took over 2,000 photographs with the new process, which involved three exposures on a glass plate.

In August 1918 he left Russia with a large part of his collection of glass negatives and ultimately resettled in France. After his death in Paris in 1944, his heirs sold his collection to the Library of Congress.

In the early 21st century the Library digitized the Prokudin-Gorsky Collection and made it freely available to the global public. Numerous Russian websites now have versions of the collection.

In 1986 the architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield organized the first exhibit of Prokudin-Gorsky photographs at the Library of Congress. Over a period of work in Russia beginning in 1970, Brumfield has photographed most of the sites visited by Prokudin-Gorsky. 

This series of articles will juxtapose Prokudin-Gorsky’s views of architectural monuments with photographs taken by Brumfield decades later. 


A video introducing Russian Faith:

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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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