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One of the Jewels in Russia’s Golden Ring

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This article originally appeared at Russia & India Report


In the period preceding the Tatar-Mongol invasion a unique Russian architectural style emerged in Vladimir (176 kilometers from Moscow), due to the efforts of several major historical figures such as the outstanding princes Andrei Bogolyubsky (the Pious), Vsevolod the Big Nest and Yuri Dolgoruky. The works of Andrei Rublev, Russia’s most renowned icon-painter still adorn the Uspensky Cathedral

Vladimir’s Golden Gates

The Golden Gates were built in 1164 under the reign of Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky. The gates were not merely a defense rampart, but an impressive triumphal arch, with the gates of Constantinople as its model. In its first four centuries Vladimir’s great princes would ascend the throne by entering the town through the Golden Gates.  

According to legend, on the eve of their unveiling, the Golden Gates crashed down burying 12 people alive. While the trapped people were being searched for, Prince Andrei prayed before a miraculous icon of the Mother of God to save the workers. To everyone’s surprise, the workers were removed from the collapsed ruins not only alive, but even almost without injury. Prince Andrei then ordered the tiny white stone Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe to be built right at the gates. Thanks to this gated church Vladimir’s Golden Gates had no equal in medieval Europe.

According to another legend, Catherine II’s coach was too wide and got stuck when passing through the Golden Gates. So, the empress ordered the demolition of the vaults on either side. During the Soviet period the Golden Gates hosted the KGB archive and some people even lived here. In 1983, during the city’s birthday celebrations, a capsule with a message to Vladimir’s 21st century inhabitants was embedded in one of the corner towers.

Today this monument of ancient Russian architecture is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. On the upper floor of the Golden Gates there is an exhibition with a small collection of weapons from different epochs and a small, but spectacular artistic attraction: a diorama depicting the storming of Vladimir by Mongol troops in 1238.

The Uspensky (Dormition) Cathedral

Nowadays this outstanding monument of ancient Rus’ white stone architecture is at the same time both a museum and the functioning cathedral of the Vladimir eparchy. Since 1992 it has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Uspensky Cathedral was built in 1158 by Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky (the Pious) and was the main church of the country at the time. The inauguration ceremonies of the great princes of northeastern Rus’ were held here until the mid-15th century and the country’s best craftsmen were invited to Vladimir to participate in its construction.

The Uspensky Cathedral’s second most important function was to house one of Russia’s most important icons: the Theotokos of Vladimir (the Vladimir Mother of God).

An icon was brought to Constantinople from Jerusalem in the fifth century under Emperor Theodosius. It was given to Rus’ from Byzantium at the beginning of the 12th century (around 1131) as a present to the saint Prince Mstislav from the Patriarch of Constantinople. Yuri Dolgoruky’s son, Andrei Bogolyubsky, brought the icon to Vladimir in 1155. It was then that it was given its current name and was stored in the Uspensky Cathedral.

The icon is said to have miraculous powers and has been credited with saving Rus’ from various disasters. During Tamerlane’s raid in 1395 the icon was moved to Moscow to protect the city from the invader. The fact that Tamerlane’s troops for no apparent reason withdrew and left the city of Yelets without reaching Moscow was considered the result of an intercession by the Mother of God.

There were three other cases of miraculous liberation from invaders: in 1451 (the raid of the Nogai Tsarevich Mazovsha), in 1480 (the Great Standoff on the Ugra River) and in 1521 (from the Crimean Khan Mekhmet-Girey). Today one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most venerated icons is kept in the museum and church of St. Nicholas in Tolmachy, next to the Tretyakov Gallery in central Moscow.

The church building has preserved the designs of the pre-Mongol period of Russian architecture almost intact. Particularly worthy of attention are the 12th-century frescoes: the figures of St. Artemy and St. Abraham, the images of lilies and peacocks and the only remaining frescoes that can be safely attributed to the hand of Russia’s most famous icon painter, Andrei Rublev. The baroque iconostasis was implemented by order of Catherine II.

Many representatives of Vladimir’s royal dynasty and clergy are buried in the cathedral’s walls. The cathedral’s builders – Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky and his brother Vsevolod the Big Nest – rest in the northern gallery.

The Cathedral of Saint Demetrius

Vladimir’s main symbol, the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius (Dmitrievsky sobor), dates back to the 12th century and is famous for its unique white stone inlay work. The walls are covered with the images of heavenly plants, birds, lions, leopards, griffons with lambs, saints, knights and dragon-people.

Several features are easily recognizable: King David, the ascension of Alexander the Great, Saint George and even several basic Biblical themes. However, to this day not all the mysteries of the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius have been fully solved.

Few items from the original furnishings have survived. The ones that do remain include several frescoes from the 12th century, in particular the fragments of a composition called “Judgment Day,” which can be compared to the homonymous work by Andrei Rublev in the nearby Uspensky Cathedral. Today the cathedral functions only as a museum and is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Convent of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God

The Convent of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God is as old as the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius and was built in 1195 using white stone. This male convent is considered one of the most ancient and venerated Russian monasteries. It is located a three-minute walk to the left of the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius if you turn your back to the Klyazma River.

For travelers the most interesting aspect here is not so much the interiors, but more likely the exteriors of the church: we recommend that you walk along all of its grandiose white walls. From there an impressive view onto the Klyazma River and on old Vladimir will open up before your eyes. The Nativity Convent is one of the best places to get a good view of the town.

Just 100 years ago Vladimir’s third white stone church could be found here on the grounds, but in the 19th century it was demolished because of its decrepit state and a new bigger cathedral was built in its place. Being the first center of monastic life in ancient Rus’, the Nativity Convent was also famous as being the burial place of Alexander Nevsky (however, later by order of Peter I, some of his relics were moved to St. Petersburg).

Today this functioning convent represents a complex of outstanding historical importance, despite the losses it has suffered.

The Church of St. George the Victorious

Ever since ancient times Russian princes used to build churches in honor of their own guardian angels. Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, Moscow’s founder, built a wooden church in honor of his own celestial protector – the martyr St. George in 1129. This explains the origins of one of Russia’s most ancient churches.

In 1778 the Church burned down, therefore it was rebuilt from scratch in a provincial baroque style that is a great rarity in this part of Russia. During the Soviet period the church’s small onion-shaped dome was heavily damaged by machine-gun fire. A salami plant, which handled oils and fats, was located here. As a result the ancient frescoes were ruined and covered by a black, one-centimeter thick layer of soot.

Today the Church of St. George presents a unique possibility to observe the spiritual life of ordinary people from the Russian provinces. The inside offers the characteristic coziness of a provincial church: on the floor is a well-worn carpet and slippers are handed out at the entrance just as you would find in of the vast majority of post-Soviet apartments. Old women wrapped in shawls listen to the priest singing, cross themselves before the wonderful frescoes and admire the 19th-century icons.

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HSE working to amend booster system as people receive multiple appointments

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to amend the coronavirus vaccine system, as multiple channels offering third jabs has caused challenges for the booster campaign, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor explained that the booster vaccine was available through vaccination centres, general practitioners and pharmacies.

Some people had gone to their local pharmacy to get their booster vaccine and then had received an appointment at a vaccination centre, she said. She called on people to cancel their vaccination centre appointment if they had received their booster through their GP or pharmacy.

Ms O’Connor’s comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that there were 87,000 no-shows for boosters last week, and the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, described the non-attendances as “very disrespectful”.

Ms O’Connor said the priority for the HSE was to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.

When asked about the lower levels of people in the 60-69 age cohort who have received their booster vaccine, Ms O’Connor said that not everyone in that age group would have had their second vaccine more than five months ago. That was “a natural limiter”.

Ms O’Connor said people possibly were apprehensive or busier, now that many were back at work or were preparing for Christmas, but the vaccine was important as was the booster.

To date more than a million people have received their booster vaccine, she added, and appointments will be offered to people aged between 50 and 59 from Thursday.

“We will also have walk-in centres open to people to get their vaccine and as ever we encourage everybody to avail of the vaccine. It’s really important, especially with a new variant, that we try to protect as many people as possible,” Ms O’Connor said.

‘Be respectful’

Meanwhile, Dr McAuley told Newstalk Breakfast that there were very few no-shows to booster appointments at GP surgeries, because people know their GP personally.

Now was not the time for “messing”, he said in relation to people failing to attend their appointments at vaccine centres.

“If you get a vaccine appointment, make sure that you go there rather than getting your hair done or going shopping – or if it is a work thing, stay on the helpline to get a new appointment.

“Be respectful of the mass vaccination centres. These are people who are working very hard and it is very disrespectful to have over 80,000 people not turn up in one week. It is not appropriate. You wouldn’t do it to your GP so why are you doing it to these healthcare workers.”

There was also a concern that some people were waiting to see what happens with the Omicron variant before getting their booster. Dr McCauley said that the booster would greatly reduce the chances of picking up the virus or having to go into hospital

Dr McCauley said there needed to be “a call to arms” for people to get vaccinated and he warned that when more information about Omicron emerged, booster appointments could be harder to come by.

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All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster

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People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.

The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.

Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.

The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.

What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?

It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.

Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?





Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland


10,093,390


8,193,802

In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.

This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.

Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.

The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.

What about the Omicron threat?

While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.

Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.

What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?

Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.

The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.

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Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare

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A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.

The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.

The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.

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