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In memory of martyred princes

Voice Of EU



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

At the beginning of the 20th century the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky devised 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 architectural monuments in the historic sites throughout the Russian heartland.

As part of his journeys in the upper Volga area in the summer of 1910, Prokudin-Gorsky made numerous photographs in the town of Torzhok, known for its ensembles of neoclassical architecture, A favorable location on the Tvertsa River just above its confluence with the Volga made Torzhok one of Russia’s oldest trading centers. The town’s name derives from the word torg, or “trade.”

Monastery of Sts. Boris & Gleb. Northeast view from east bank of Tvertsa River. Summer, 1910 / Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

The first reference to the town occurred under the year 1138, but the settlement may have existed as early as the 10th century. As an outpost of the medieval commercial center of Veliky Novgorod, the town was frequently contested. The rise of Muscovite power in the 15th century brought an end to Novgorod’s independence in the 1480s, and in 1478 Torzhok entered the domains of Moscow’s ruler Ivan III (the Great).

A monastery named for two tragic figures          

The dominant feature in the landscape of historic Torzhok is the Monastery of Sts. Boris and Gleb, situated on the high right (west) bank of the Tvertsa River. It was the subject of several photographs by Prokudin-Gorsky. According to church sources originating in the 17th century, the monastery was founded in 1038 by the boyar Yefrem, who had served as equerry to Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev. In 988, Vladimir accepted Orthodox Christianity as the religion of his domains. His death in 1015 unleashed a power struggle among his many sons, one of whom, Sviatopolk, is said to have ordered the murder of three of his brothers, including Boris and Gleb. Church accounts state that rather than take up arms against Sviatopolk, Boris and Gleb accepted death with Christ-like submission. Sviatopolk, known as the”Damned,” briefly ruled in Kiev but after a prolonged struggle was ousted by his brother Yaroslav (the “Wise) in 1019. Boris and Gleb were canonized in 1071 as the earliest martyrs of the Orthodox Church in Rus.

Monastery of Sts. Boris & Gleb. From left: Church of the Presentation, Cathedral of Sts. Boris & Gleb, “Candle” Tower. May 14, 2010. / William Brumfield

Inspired by Boris and Gleb, Yefrem made his way to the area of Torzhok and occupied himself with charitable work, eventually founding the monastic community where he lived until his death in 1053. In this endeavor he was assisted by his disciple Arkady Novotorzhsky.

Originally built of logs, the Monastery of Sts. Boris and Gleb was ransacked by Polish forces in 1617 during the Time of Troubles. By the late 17th century, the revived monastery had a few brick buildings, including the Church of the Presentation (recently restored). In the early 18th century, work began on the Church the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, completed in 1717.

Cathedral of Sts. Boris & Gleb, southeast view. May 14, 2010. / William Brumfield

Increased support for the monastery occurred during the second half of the 18th century during the reign of Catherine the Great. To a certain degree, this increase was related to greater visibility from prominent visitors traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Support from the imperial court also played a significant role.

Neoclassical restoration      

In 1785, work began on rebuilding the monastery’s main church, the Cathedral of Sts. Boris and Gleb, with substantial support from Catherine. The design was entrusted to one of Catherine’s most prominent architects, Nikolai Lvov. Consecrated in 1796, the cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Russian neoclassicism. Lvov’s great neoclassical churches closely follow the manner of the 16th-century Italian master Palladio, whom he idolized and whose work he saw in Italy.

Monastery of Sts. Boris & Gleb. Bell tower & Church of the Miraculous Image of the Savior over Holy Gate, northwest view. Left: “Candle” Tower. Summer, 1910. / Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

As seen in my photographs from 2010, the cathedral possesses a remarkable harmony of proportions. The hexastyle Tuscan portico on the north and south cathedral facades is balanced by Tuscan loggia at the east and west ends. The columns are of local limestone. The pediments above each façade provide a visual transition to the central dome, which rests on a square base with beveled corners and a large tripartite (thermal or “Palladian”) window.

Bell tower & Church of the Miraculous Image of the Savior over Holy Gate, southeast view. May 14, 2010. / William Brumfield

The cathedral interior was no less imposing, with neoclassical columns and piers rising to the central dome, all decorated in Renaissance forms. This interior — not photographed by Prokudin-Gorsky — was damaged by decades of neglect during the Soviet period, when the monastic territory was used for decades as a prison. Restoration began when the monastery was given to the local history museum. The monastery now belongs to the Orthodox Church, but the large sums needed for a restoration of the cathedral interior are difficult to obtain.  

Bell tower & Church of the Miraculous Image of the Savior over Holy Gate, east view from Tvertsa River. May 14, 2010. / William Brumfield

In the 19th century, the monastery’s wealth was reflected in the construction of the Church of the Miraculous Icon of the Savior over Holy Gate (the main monastery entrance). Built in 1804-11, the neoclassical church is a model of classical symmetry and is considered partly the design of Nikolai Lvov, although its construction was supervised by Yakov Ananin. Carefully photographed by Prokudin-Gorsky, the church was crowned with a high bell tower that is one of Torzhok’s most visible landmarks. Prokudin-Gorsky took an additional photograph of the church’s lower tier, with its unusual marbling pattern on the exterior stucco (since lost, as my photographs demonstrate). 

Bell tower & Church of the Miraculous Image of the Savior over Holy Gate, lower tier, northwest view. Left: “Candle” Tower. Summer, 1910. / Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

A final decorative accent is provided by the colorful “Candle,” or Library Tower, located at the northeast corner of the monastery walls. The tower was erected in an eclectic medieval style during the 1880s, when the monastery walls were rebuilt by local architect Stepan Grebenshchikov. The upper part of the tower was brightly restored in the 1980s. Despite the unenviable fate of this ancient monastery during the 20th century, a comparison of Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographs from 1910 with mine from 1996 and 2010 shows that at least the exterior of this grand ensemble has survived.

Monastery of Sts. Boris & Gleb. North wall & “Candle” Tower. View east from bell tower across Tvertsa River. Aug. 13, 1995 / William Brumfield

In the early 20th century the Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky devised a complex process for color photography. Between 1903 and 1916 he traveled through the Russian Empire and took over 2,000 photographs with the 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. A number of 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. 

Read more:

The Medieval Fortress of Belozersk: From Prokudin-Gorsky to the present

Solovetsky Transfiguration Monastery: From Prokudin-Gorsky to the present

St. Nilus Stolobensky Monastery: Resurrecting a great spiritual landmark

Krutitsky Court: Excursion into Moscow’s past

The Terem at Astashovo: Grand dacha in the Chukhloma forests

A video introducing Russian Faith

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

Voice Of EU



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

Voice Of EU



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

Voice Of EU



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 and, 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.


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.


“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.


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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