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Amazing Medieval Architecture of Pereslavl-Zalessky

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William Brumfield (Wikipedia) is a genuine treasure in the field of Russian studies.

He is the world’s leading expert on northern Russian architecture, and has produced an invaluable body of work on the subject.

<figcaption>The Trinity-Danilov Monastery continues to attract crowds from all over the world</figcaption>
The Trinity-Danilov Monastery continues to attract crowds from all over the world

He has singlehandedly saved for posterity a huge amount of material, which, if not for him, would have been lost, not only to the west, but to Russians to.  

Anything he writes is of the highest caliber.


The Golden Ring town of Pereslavl-Zalessky boasts a number of notable frescoes in its monastic complexes.

Although less well known today than Vladimir, Suzdal or Novgorod, the town of Pereslavl-Zalessky was one of the most significant centers of medieval Russian culture. Indeed, its Trinity-Danilov Monastery contains one of most impressive examples of medieval Russian fresco art–all the more remarkable for depicting apocalyptic scenes of destruction and damnation.

Founded in 1152 by Prince Yury Dolgoruky (“the long-armed”), Pereslavl-Zalessky was strategically located on major routes from the interior of medieval Rus to the Volga River and the White Sea. Its center was marked by the ancient limestone Cathedral of the Transfiguration and a fortified area with a high earthen rampart – both of which still stand today.

The numerous monasteries of Pereslavl-Zalessky, located in the town and overlooking nearby Lake Pleshcheevo, were particularly important in the political and spiritual life of the Muscovite state. Among the oldest are the Monastery of St. Nicetas (Nikita), located on high ground to the north of Lake Pleshcheevo; and the Goritsky Monastery, overlooking the lake to the south.

The founder of the Trinity Monastery was a young monk named Daniil, born in Pereslavl-Zalessky in the late 15th century. Tonsured as a boy at the Borovsk-St. Pafnuty Monastery, Daniil returned to his hometown where he lived first at the Nicetas Monastery and then at Goritsky Monastery, where he became the hegumen, or abbot.

Known for his charity to the poor and homeless, Daniil received permission to establish a new monastery on lower ground near the fortress. 1508 is the accepted year of the founding of the monastery, originally dedicated to All Saints.

In recognition of his spiritual authority, Daniil was appointed advisor and confessor to the ruler of Muscovy, Grand Prince Basil III (1479-1533). By 1525 ,Basil faced a possible dynastic crisis due to the lack of a male heir. With the support of the church Basil annulled his marriage to Solomoniia Saburova, who entered Suzdal’s Intercession Convent.

Basil’s second marriage, to Elena Glinskaya, did not initially produce the desired issue. In supplication for the birth of a son, the royal couple undertook pilgrimages to monasteries. The Trinity Monastery, under the spiritual guidance of Daniil, was particularly revered by Basil. With the birth in August 1530 of his son Ivan IV (subsequently known as Ivan the Terrible), Basil gratefully supported the construction of the monastery’s main church, the Cathedral of the Trinity.

Built of brick between 1530 and 1532, the Trinity Cathedral is an excellent example of early 16th-century church design, with a square plan and a symmetrical division into three bays. Despite the modification of its roofline, which originally followed the curves of the semicircular gables (zakomary), the basic structure of the Trinity Cathedral remains intact.

The cathedral is crowned by a single cupola on a high cylinder, or drum. As the monastery’s primary masonry structure during the 16th century, the white-walled cathedral served as a landmark among the surrounding dark log structures.

Despite its status at the Muscovite court, the monastery shared in the chaos that afflicted central Russia during the latter part of Ivan the Terrible’s reign. The situation worsened after the death of Tsar Boris Godunov in 1605. Without a clear successor to the throne, Russia was wracked by competing armies and massive social disorder during what came to be known as the Time of Troubles.

Pereslavl-Zalessky supported successive competing factions, none of them successful. Much of the population was killed or died of disease and hunger. In 1608 the town was occupied by Polish-Lithuanian forces who sacked the monasteries – Holy Trinity among them.

As it gradually recovered after this devastation, Pereslavl-Zalessky and its monasteries benefited from the location on a major route to the north. During the long reign of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (r. 1645-76), the Trinity Monastery returned to court favor.

Equally important was the support of the energetic prelate Jonah Sysoevich (ca. 1607-90). As metropolitan of the wealthy diocese based in the neighboring town of Rostov, Jonah took an active interest in establishing the cult of Daniil at the Trinity Monastery. In 1653 he supervised the discovery of Daniil’s relics on the monastery grounds.

This proved to be the first step toward a rapid canonization in 1653-54 with the approval of Patriarch Nikon in Moscow. In 1660, Jonah built a chapel dedicated to Daniil at the north wall of the Trinity Cathedral.

The canonization of Daniil led to a vibrant period in the monastery’s history. Large donations from wealthy patrons as well as the Muscovite court enabled the monastery manager to embark on the long-delayed painting of the interior cathedral walls.

Fortuitously, the project occurred at a time of extraordinary creativity among groups of painters in Yaroslavl and Kostroma. These painters were active not only in their own flourishing towns, but also in Rostov and Moscow under the patronage of Jonah.

With his high regard for the Trinity Monastery, Jonah agreed to send one of the most accomplished groups of Kostroma painters, including the masters Gurii Nikitin and Sila Savin. Although occupied with complex projects in Moscow (notably, the repainting of the frescoes at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in the Kremlin), the Kostroma painters arrived at Trinity Monastery in 1662.

Remarkably, the painters completed the major subjects by the fall of that year. But due to the demand for their work, they were pulled from the cathedral and did not return until 1682, despite many entreaties from the abbot.

To this day, the frescoes retain their power. In part this can be explained by the deep piety of their traditional, archaic style of expression. Yet the unusual content – the Apocalypse – is equally compelling.

Why the Apocalypse? Russian churches often depict the Last Judgment on the west wall, yet a detail representation of the Apocalypse (from the vision of St. John on Patmos) is rare. Perhaps memories of the Time of Troubles played a role in the choice of subject. But the Russian Orthodox Church had also entered a time of great turbulence in the 1650s, when Patriarch Nikon promulgated liturgical reforms that shocked traditional believers.

Although Nikon was deposed, the state insisted that his reforms be implemented. The result was a profound schism in the Church and the rise of dissenting groups generally known as Old Believers. Impassioned disputes and persecution swept the church.

Whatever the connection with external events, the Kostroma painters conveyed cataclysmic images taken both from the Book of Genesis and the Book of Revelation, the alpha and omega. On the west wall, for example, Lot and his family are depicted fleeing danger before the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah. The south wall is especially vivid in its portrayals of phantasmagoric beasts with direct references to passages from the Revelation.

In the dome, high above it all, is a majestic image of Christ Ruler of All (Pantokrator). Considered one of the great accomplishments of medieval Russian art, this fresco is a sublime culmination to the agitated display on the cathedral walls.

The Trinity Monastery continued to flourish during the latter part of the 17th century. Its cathedral was enhanced by the construction of a large “tent” bell tower in 1689. Other structures of that period include the Church of All Saints, built in the 1680s in a modest, appealing design. Of special note is the Church of the Praise of the Virgin (1695) with an unusually large refectory (dining commons) attached.

Most of this construction was supported by Prince Ivan Baryatinsky, who retired to the monastery and took the name Efrem. He also built the west gate church, dedicated to the Tikhvin Icon of the Virgin (1700).

The Trinity-Danilov Monastery was closed in 1923, at the beginning of Soviet rule, and severely vandalized. The cathedral icons were lost or destroyed. A limited attempt to clean the frescoes in 1982 faltered for lack of funding. In 1995 the monastery was finally returned to the church, and the painstaking work of restoration continued. Surviving through decades of neglect, the magnificent frescoes in the Trinity Cathedral have now been revived in all their astonishing brilliance.

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Bank of Ireland linked to fund involved in massive European tax fraud

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Bank of Ireland’s services were used by a company involved in a network of hedge funds at the centre of financial transactions, dubbed fraud by a German court, that have cost European tax authorities billions of euro.

The Irish bank’s fund administration unit, Bank of Ireland Securities Services (BOISS), was the custodian bank of an investment fund involved in the scheme.

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Reader question: When must I change to winter tyres in Switzerland?

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While winters have been a little milder in recent years, the snow, ice and sleet can still play havoc with your car.

Landslides and other road damage caused by inclement winter weather can also mean you lose control a little easier. 

Even in city areas, the colder weather can increase the risk of losing control. 

READ MORE: Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

In Switzerland, the law is relatively complex. While there is no hard and fast rule for winter tyres at certain times, you have a responsibility to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy – which means being ready for the conditions. 

When do I need to put winter tyres on – and what happens if I don’t? 

Unlike many of its neighbours – and many cold countries from across the world – winter tyres are not mandatory in Switzerland. 

Therefore, you will not face any penalty if you continue to drive on summer tyres all year ‘round, either on a federal or cantonal basis.  

This is somewhat surprising for people from Austria, Sweden, Finland and some parts of the United States where winter tyres are mandatory during colder months. 

In Austria, for instance, winter tyres are required from November to April, regardless of the conditions. 

In Germany, Italy and Norway, winter tyres are not mandatory on the basis of the year’s calendar, but they are required in certain road conditions. 

However, certain roads can require you to have chains or winter tyres in order to drive on them at certain times.

This will be designated by a sign on a particular road or pass that winter tyres are required. 

Generally speaking, this will be on mountain roads or other passes, rather than in city streets. 

OK, so I don’t have to, but when should I change? 

The Swiss Road Traffic Act (Art. 29) says that all drivers on Swiss roads have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. 

In slippery, winter conditions, the best way to ensure that your car does not lose control is to have it fitted with winter tyres. 

There are also insurance obligations to consider. 

The Swiss government notes that drivers without winter tyres may be deemed to be negligent. 

Driving in Europe: What are the Covid rules and checks at road borders?

“In the case of an accident, the driver may be found liable if the car is not properly equipped for the winter. The insurance company may not cover the full cost of the damage or may even take action against the insured person for negligence.”

Touring Club Switzerland (TCS) says that you should consider putting winter tyres on your car if the temperature drops below 7 degrees. 

Auto Suisse says that a default rule to follow is consider replacing summer tyres with winter ones from October until Easter, although this is of course dependent on the conditions. 



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Social media: Why vaccines, paella and ‘tortilla’ trend on Spanish Twitter | Opinion

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The content that gets shared the most on social media is not always an indignant message or an ingenious insult. Sometimes, it can even be pleasant to be on Twitter. This past weekend, the German television network Deutsche Welle published an English-language video special about Spain’s successful Covid-19 vaccination campaign. This video has been shared by Twitter users more than a thousand times in messages that expressed pride and included the hashtag #marcaEspaña (or, Brand Spain).

The Deutsche Welle video compared the 78% rate of fully vaccinated people in Spain at the time the report was made (the figure is now closer to 80%) to the 69% in Italy, 68% in France and 65% in Germany. Some of the reasons put forward to explain this success, despite a slow start, include widespread faith in the country’s public health system, the media’s scant coverage of vaccine conspiracy theories, and also “the devastating first wave of the pandemic.”

Positive messages about Spain from a foreign source are usually popular on social media. But at the same time it seems that if a Spaniard mentions that the country is doing something reasonably well, such as the vaccination campaign for instance, their fellow countrymen have trouble believing it. The impression (not always off base) is that the speaker has an axe to grind or may be trying to sell us a story (or even worse, a flag). But if a foreign media outlet says the same thing – well, we may not be fully convinced, but at least we enjoy hearing it.

And it’s not just with crucial subject matter such as vaccines. It also happens with other less critically important issues, such as Spain’s famous potato omelet, or tortilla de patatas. When a reporter from The New York Times extolled celebrity chef Ferrán Adriá’s version, made with potato chips from a bag rather than freshly sliced potatoes, it prompted nothing but satisfied tweets. But messages about the same recipe shared before the article came out showed a marked difference of opinions, to put it mildly.

It also works the other way around: when our dear old Spain comes under attack, we view it as an affront requiring revenge. There are still Twitter users out there who have not forgiven British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for making a paella with chorizo in 2016 (at the time, some people compared his creation with the notorious botched restoration of a Christ figure in 2012).

And let’s not forget what happened to an Italian citizen who tweeted this summer that Spain was like Italy, but a bit worse. I will refrain from mentioning his name because he has already put up with enough grief. “Hey guys,” he amusingly tweeted afterwards. “Just checking, does ‘me cago en tu puta madre’ mean ‘I respectfully disagree’?”

I don’t think that Twitter turns us into patriots, fortunately enough for everyone. There’s no doubt that a lot of different elements are at play here: it’s easier to praise the Deutsche Welle video if you are a supporter of public healthcare (or even of the government). As for the food disputes, there is a lot of joking and pretending going on there. There is also an element of surprise: while we find it normal for there to be talk in Spain about the US, the UK or Germany, we are surprised every time Spain is mentioned abroad, and that’s because we tend to view ourselves as rather insignificant (which is understandable). And I’m also not ruling out the view held by some that focusing so much on what the foreign media says is, in itself, quite provincial.

But it’s also true that we should all find some joy in the fact that, once in a while, we can work together to do something well. And perhaps even celebrate with a good tortilla de patatas. I won’t go into whether it should have onion in it or not, because I don’t want to ruin the moment with another argument.



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