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In memory of martyred princes

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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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Remains found in Dublin adds intrigue to search for Robert Emmet’s grave

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Skeletal remains have been found at one of the locations identified as a possible last resting place of Robert Emmet who was executed on this day in 1803.

The remains were found during an excavation at the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter in Dublin.

The disappearance of the body of Robert Emmet is one of the great mysteries of Irish history.

Emmet was tried and then hanged for instigating the ill-fated 1803 rebellion. He became a symbol of Irish martyrdom for his speech from the dock in which he concluded: “Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”

After he was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803, his head was displayed to the crowd by the hangman Thomas Galvin. The remains of Emmet’s body was taken to Bully’s Acre in the grounds of what is now the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and buried there.

When some of his friends went to reintern his remains from Bully’s Acre to St Michan’s Church in Church Street, a church associated with the United Irishmen, they found there was no body there, and so began a search which endures to this day.

Robert Emmet was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803.
Robert Emmet was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803.

His great-nephew Dr Thomas Addis Emmet requested an archaeological dig at the family vault in St Peter’s Church in Aungier Street to mark the centenary of Emmet’s death in 1903, but that proved to be unsuccessful.

Speculation

St Paul’s Church is another contender in the saga of Emmet’s remains. It was the parish church of Kilmainham Gaol’s doctor and effective governor Dr Edward Trevor.

In his book In the Footsteps of Robert Emmet, JJ Reynolds speculated that Trevor removed Emmet’s body and put it in an unmarked grave in the grounds of St Paul’s Church. This was to ensure that his grave would not become a shrine for Irish nationalism.

The church, which was the venue for the consecration of the philosopher George Berkeley as Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, has been converted into the Spade Enterprise Centre, a not-for-profit social enterprise unit.

The land where the skeletal remains were found is being turned into a shared kitchen for small business enterprises in the area.

The yard at the the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter, Dublin where skeletal remains were found.
The yard at the the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter, Dublin where skeletal remains were found.

Archaeologist Franc Miles said burials in the grounds were from 1702 to the 1860s. A extant set of burial records remain, but Emmet, if he really is buried there, would have no record.

Previous exhumations were carried out when the graveyard was closed in 1860s to make way for a school on the site.

“With all the evacuations, we were left with bits and pieces of body. There weren’t many full skeletons,” he said.

Mr Miles said it all the gravemarkers and stones were removed in the 1860s “so all you are left with really are bones.”

Mr Miles said it would be difficult if not impossible to identify Emmet’s remains even if they are buried in the grounds of St Paul’s Church.

His own “educated guess” is that Emmet’s body is still buried somewhere in Bully’s Acre.

As many of his supporters have said over the last two centuries: “Do not look for him. His grave is Ireland.”

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How the cost of renting an apartment in Copenhagen compares to other cities in Denmark

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With the arguable exception of second city Aarhus, Copenhagen is significantly more expensive to rent housing than anywhere else in Denmark.

But the extra cost in the capital depends on where else in Denmark you compare with, as well as the type of housing you rent.

Private or general housing?

First, it is important to note the difference between the two main types of rental housing in Denmark: private rentals and almene boliger (literally, ‘general housing’), a form of subsidised housing.

For almene boliger, local municipalities put up 10 percent of building costs and in return have the right to decide who is allocated one in four available apartments, enabling them to provide housing to municipal residents who need it. The housing therefore plays a role in the social housing provision.

This type of housing is normally managed by a boligforening or housing association. Rent goes towards costs of running the housing and to pay off the housing association’s loans, which means property owners aren’t profiting from rents and prices are controlled.

Aside from housing assigned by the municipality, almene boliger are open for anyone. However, to get one, you must get to the top of a waiting list, which you join by signing up with associations which operate housing in the city where you live (or want to live).

In Copenhagen or Aarhus, it can take years to get to the top of these lists, while in smaller cities you might get an offer in weeks or even days.

As such, many newcomers to Denmark must turn to the private rental market if they are living in one of the main cities.

READ ALSO: Deposits, complaints and registration: Five key things to know about renting in Denmark

Private housing: Copenhagen clearly pricier 

A study conducted by housing research centre Bolius in November 2020 found the cost of a 56 square-metre apartment in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district to be 8,536 kroner per month.

The study, which was based on data from 2019 and 2020 from rental platforms boliga.dk and boligportal.dk, shows the average monthly cost of non-limited private apartments on Nørrebro, compared with 16 other locations in Denmark.

The cost takes into account the cost of a deposit (normally three months’ rent) and adds it to the average cost of renting the housing for five years (thereby assuming none of the deposit is returned to the tenant).

In comparison to the price in Nørrebro, the study found rent in Hillerød north of Copenhagen to be slightly less (8,218 kroner) for a slightly larger apartment (65 square metres).

Moving further out from Copenhagen, costs begin to drop even more.

In Kalundborg on the west coast of Zealand, you can rent a 71-square-metre flat for 5,167 kroner per month. Næstved, a commuter town between Copenhagen and the Great Belt Bridge, comes in at 6,039 kroner for an apartment at 72 square metres.

The cheaper rents are consistent further to the west, exemplified in Jutland cities Aalborg (5,544 kroner for 62 square metres), Vejle (6.696 kroner for 84 square metres) and Esbjerg (4,399 kroner for 54 square metres).

Although Aarhus is not included in the study, third-largest city Odense is. Here, there is still a significant saving on Copenhagen, with 8,488 kroner, a similar rent to that in Nørrebro, getting you an apartment over 50 percent bigger at 82 square metres.

General (almene) housing: closer, but still higher in Greater Copenhagen

Rent prices for almene or subsidised housing were most recently analysed in a 2020 report by Landsbyggefonden (National Building Foundation), a support institution for the social housing sector.

According to that report, the rent for family housing (meaning housing not reserved for students or seniors) is “on average, approximately 100-200 kroner per square metre higher [per year, ed.] east of the Great Belt Bridge than west of it”.

Of the five administrative regions, average rent for family subsidised housing is highest in Greater Copenhagen at 906 kroner per square metre for a year’s rent.

The lowest rents can be found in South Denmark, where the yearly cost is 722 kroner per square metre.

Zealand is the region that comes closest to Copenhagen on the costs for this type of regular housing. Here, tenants can expect to pay 859 kroner per square metre in a year. The equivalent costs in Central Jutland and North Jutland and 778 kroner and 747 kroner respectively.

The study also places Greater Copenhagen as the most expensive region when rents are presented as the median monthly rent for family housing.

Here, the median values are split into five categories based on apartment size, with Copenhagen coming out as the most expensive region for each category.

For example, the median monthly rents for apartments between 50-60 square metres are as follows: 5,039 kroner (Greater Copenhagen); 4,913 kroner (Zealand); 4,541 kroner (Central Jutland); 4,388 kroner (North Jutland); 4,236 kroner (South Denmark). The national average is 4,667 kroner.

Sources: Domea, Bolius, Landsbyggefonden



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Officials pushed for State to buy direct provision centres from private firms

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The Government should buy a number of privately-owned direct provision centres as a “priority” as it would be more “cost effective” for the State to run the facilities for asylum seekers, international protection officials have said.

The savings arising from owning the accommodation centres rather than paying private contractors to do so “could be considerable”, departmental briefing documents provided to Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman last year state.

The vast majority of direct provision centres are currently owned and run by private companies, with accommodation providers having received some €1.6 billion since 1999, including €183 million last year.

The latest figures show some 7,150 people are in the system of seven State-owned sites and 39 private centres. A further 24 commercially-owned premises are being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.

The briefing document, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, says that housing people seeking asylum in State-owned centres would provide the “best protection from the vulnerability of present market reliance”.

“They are also much more cost efficient to run, and the State owns the asset,” it notes.

The document suggested that State centres should aim to accommodate 5,000 people, and “allowing the private sector to supply the rest is regarded as an achievable and reasonable target”.

The purchase of existing centres from private providers “to immediately boost the State’s footprint in this area should be considered as a priority,” the internal document said.

“Some service providers may be open to this and the market appears to be favourable at present,” it said.

The internal briefing suggested the department could then seek private companies or NGOs to run the centres, which would be a “competitive cost option”.

‘Badly needed’

Ongoing maintenance for centres owned by the State was also “badly needed,” as current pressures on the Office of Public Works (OPW) meant it was not possible “for immediate repairs to be done if required”.

“In exploring the model of more State centres, we need to agree and acquire a capital budget,” the briefing stated.

“State land does not require planning permission for new centres as the Minister has a power under the Acts, whereby the OPW can grant the planning permission and this is usually a three-month process. It is not subject to appeal.”

The document says that State centres “can also have a bigger footprint as it will be a permanent fixture in the locality”. In recent years a number of plans for private providers to open direct provision centres in regional towns have been met with protests from locals and anti-immigration activists.

Mr O’Gorman’s department has sought to reform the direct provision system and is seeking to replace the network of centres with a new system of accommodation and supports by the end of 2024.

New centres

A department spokesman confirmed the State has not bought any new centres since the briefing note was written. The spokesman said under the planned overhaul of direct provision, asylum-seekers who arrived into the country would initially be housed in a number of reception and integration centres.

Asylum-seekers will spend a maximum of four months in the reception centres before moving into housing secured through Approved Housing Bodies.

“These centres will be State-owned and purpose built to provide suitable accommodation for approximately 2,000 people at any one time, to cater for the flow-through of the 3,500 applicants over a 12-month period,” he said.


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