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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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Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.

It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.

The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.

“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”

Tests for travellers

Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


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117

The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.

No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.

Hospitality sector meeting

Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.

“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.

‘Random and arbitrary’

Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.

“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.

“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”

Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.

“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.

“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”


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Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says

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Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.

She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.

“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”

Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.

However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”

Tariffs

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.

“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”

“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.

“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”

“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”

Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.

She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.

She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.

Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.

She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.

Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.

She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.

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Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows

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The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.

A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.

The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.

A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.

The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.

Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.

‘Very worried’

Averil Power, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, said the organisation was “very worried” over the significant drop in cancers diagnosed last year.

The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.

Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.

Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.

For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.

Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.

The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.

The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.

Mortality rates

The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.

The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.

There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.

Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.

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