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The Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral: Russia’s Sacred Crown

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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.  

<figcaption>Photographs by William Brumfield</figcaption>
Photographs by William Brumfield

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 some of his other articles on RI here.


Russia has many sacred sites, but none is more important to the country’s identity than the golden-domed Dormition (Uspensky) Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. For centuries, this cathedral was Russia’s most elevated monument — at the center of its history, its politics, its culture and its Orthodox faith. Even after the founding of St. Petersburg, the coronation ceremony of each ruler of Russia occurred in this cathedral, including the coronation of the last emperor, Nicholas II on May 26, 1896. As of 1991, it is once again the Patriarchal Cathedral of Russia.

The Dormition Cathedral is dedicated to one of the most venerated and complex mysteries in Orthodox theology, the Dormition of the Mother of God, which refers to the transposition of Mary from this world to the heavenly sphere. Orthodox iconography portrays the recumbent Mother of God, surrounded by apostles, as falling asleep — hence the term “dormition” (in Russian “uspenie”) from the Latin verb dormire, “to sleep.” At this moment — in effect, Mary’s death — Christ accepts Mary’s soul into heaven three days before her “assumption,” in which her resurrected body is miraculously taken to heaven.

The origins of the Kremlin Dormition Cathedral are closely connected with the rise of Moscow’s power. In 1326, the leading Russian church prelate, Metropolitan Peter of Vladimir, made the Moscow Kremlin his de facto residence. The prelate’s health was in decline, and it was felt that the Moscow court could provide better care. This move, carefully cultivated by Grand Prince Ivan I (Kalita), was fraught with significance not only for the political and religious status of Moscow, but also for its architectural development.

In 1326 Ivan, with the participation of Peter, laid the foundation stone for the Dormition Cathedral. Later in 1326, Peter was buried within the cathedral walls in a tomb that he had himself prepared, thus endowing the site with added religious significance when Peter was canonized in 1339. The cathedral’s dedication to the Feast of the Dormition symbolized the continuity with the great Dormition Cathedral in the town of Vladimir, political center of early Russia.

In 1448, the Russian church elected its own metropolitan, becoming official independent of the Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Moscow saw itself as the sole defender of the Orthodox faith. To enhance Moscow’s new authority, Ivan III (1463-1505) launched a major rebuilding of the Kremlin, including its walls and towers. A central part of the project was the reconstruction of the antiquated Dormition Cathedral with the support of the leader of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Philip.

Moscow lacked the technical expertise for such ambitious projects, and Ivan therefore hired a number of Italian architects, of whom the most notable was Aristotele Fioravanti. The accomplished architect arrived in Moscow in 1475 and promptly undertook the rebuilding of the cathedral.

Fioravanti was instructed to model his structure on the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir, which he visited. Although his design incorporates features of the Russo-Byzantine style (particularly the large central cupola, with lesser cupolas at the corners), the architect also introduced a number of innovations: stout oak piles for the foundation, solid masonry bonding for the walls, iron tie rods for the vaulting, and strong bricks (instead of stone) for the vaults and cupola drums. The limestone exterior reflects the perfect proportions of the square segments of the plan, and the interior — with round columns instead of massive piers — is lighter and more spacious than any previous Muscovite church.

The unity of the sculpted form is especially evident in the design of the south wall, the main facade opening onto Cathedral Square. The richly painted arches of the south portal are framed by iconic wall paintings, including the portrayal of saints within the blind arcade — a technique similar to that applied on the surface of the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir.

The Dormition Cathedral displays in grand form the Russian Orthodox practice of painting the walls and ceiling vaults with scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints.

Work on the painting of the interior began soon after the completion of construction work in 1479, and by 1515 the entire space was covered with frescoes. In addition an iconostasis of three rows was painted in 1481 by the renowned artist Dionisy and his assistants, who may also have been involved in the painting of the original frescoes.

The interior of the main dome traditionally has an image of Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All), while above the altar, the apse is devoted to an image of Mary Mother of God standing in a pose that indicates a blessing extended to the worshippers. This array of images integrated the structure with the sacred teachings of Orthodoxy.

Over the south portal is a monumental fresco of the Vladimir Mother of God, Russia’s most revered iconic image. The icon is currently displayed in the cathedral part of the year. The sacred image (and the portal) are guarded by representations of the primary archangels, Michael and Gabriel.

Below the Vladimir image is a majestic blind arcade with paintings of four Muscovite prelates as well as bishops Nikita and John of Novgorod. On either side of the portal are two angels with quills recording the names of those entering the cathedral. Immediately above the portal arches is the Miraculous Image of the Savior. The door is crowned with a representation of Christ, Mary and John the Baptist.

The north wall faced the residence of the head of the church — now known as the Patriarch’s Chambers — and therefore displays an ecclesiastical emphasis. The arched frieze above the north portal contains paintings of six venerated prelates: St. Pafnuty of Borovsk, bishops Isaiah, Leonty and Ignaty (all from Rostov), and Saints Dmitry Prilutsky and Sergius of Radonezh. These figures represent the far reaches of Muscovite territory, with special emphasis on Rostov, whose Archbishop Vassian was the confessor of Ivan the Great. Above the frieze is a painting of the Assembly of the Apostles — Christ, the Blessed Virgin, John the Baptist and the 12 Disciples.

The intricate east façade consists of a five-part apse containing the cathedral altars. Extending slightly from the central block of the temple, the five curved structures are screened by massive pylons at either corner. The complex structure is unified by large attached columns and plinth molding to create a monumental form facing the main passage to the Cathedral Square.

As befitting the space containing the altar, the images on the east wall are the most august from a theological perspective. Over the central apse is a fresco of the “New Testament Trinity” (God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove). The space to the left is devoted to the Orthodox holiday “The Praise of the Mother of God.” And on the right is a depiction of the Divine Sophia, or Heavenly Wisdom. The main cathedral of Novgorod was dedicated to Sophia, and thus the fresco can be interpreted as another symbol of the joining of Novgorod to Muscovy.

The west façade — which in the Russian tradition was the “front” of the church with the main entrance — was constricted by nearby Kremlin buildings and is less imposing. The façade originally contained a depiction of the Dormition and scenes from the Apocalypse. The large porch was damaged by the Moscow fire of 1547 and modified in the 19th century.

The culmination of the cathedral’s exterior is the ensemble of five gilded cupolas over the central and east bays. It is thought that the original domes were made of plates of “German” iron, prepared in Novgorod and polished to a high gloss. After a fire in 1547, the domes were reconstructed and covered with gilded copper sheets, which give a particularly rich hue to the gold surface.

On the interior, the sense of spaciousness created by Fioravanti’s design and technical innovations was enhanced by the decision to eliminate a significant and traditional element in the design of Russian masonry churches: the choir gallery. Thus the entire interior, from the iconostasis to the west facade, was washed in a natural light that illuminated the vibrant colors of the frescoes and icons.

Conceived as a grand and solemn space for the crowning of Russian rulers and the investiture of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, Fioravanti’s Cathedral of the Dormition represents the felicitous meeting of two cultures: Russian — including its Byzantine heritage — and western European, as expressed in the architectural genius of the Italian Renaissance.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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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

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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

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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 myhome.ie and daft.ie, 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.

Price

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.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“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.

Homes

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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