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Monday, 24-09-2018
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The Assumption Cathedral of the town-island of Sviyazhsk for inscription on the World Heritage List

The Assumption Cathedral is located at the confluence of the Volga, the Sviyaga and Schuka rivers, in the town-island of Sviyazhsk is 30 kilometers away from Kazan - the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. It is a part of the Assumption Monastery which consists of seven stone constructions built in different time during the XVI-XIX centuries. It is surrounded by a wall which gives it the appearance of a real white-stone Kremlin and has some loopholes and merlons. It was established by metropolitan Makarius in 1555 by the decree of Ivan the Terrible and headed by archimandrite German who had Tatar origin.

Construction of the cathedral was carried out by Pskov builders under the supervision of the architect Postnik Yakovlev. Novelties characteristic of the state architecture of the Moscow tsardom and local traditions formed in the boundaries of the Volga Bolgaria, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate were introduced into the Pskov monumental architectural tradition. In XVIII century the cathedral appearance was supplemented by decorations in Baroque style, which harmonized with its Old Russian style.

The complete cycle of the frescos from the second half of the XVI - early XVII century with the total area of 1,080 sq. m. has survived in the cathedral interior as well as the iconostasis with the icons of the XVI-XVII centuries and the only portrait of Ivan the Terrible. The frescos and architectural ensemble is the reflection of new trend in Russian art and a remarkable reflection of ambitious cultural and civilizational ideology initiated by the Russian state in the XVI-XVII centuries. The ideological program, hierarchy, monumentality, superb artistic skills of performance and style of wall paintings are characteristic traits of uniqueness and an example of a special trend of development of Christian art of Russian and Europe.

The frescos are unique as they are the graphic reflection of the Stoglav Council of 1551, 1553-1555, which is historically important not only for Russia but for the whole of the Eastern Orthodox Church and history of icon painting. The unique choice of saint warriors and preference of certain iconographic versions are related with the broad enlightening character of the cathedral painting program and testifies about the contacts with the Orthodox East, where these saints were especially worshipped.

The Assumption Cathedral is an exceptional evidence of historical succession and cultural persity. The property not only possesses brightly expressed esthetic peculiarities, but also illustrates the new stage of development of Russian culture, the trend of Russian art which embodied achievements of the Byzantine classical heritage, the Greek Orthodox art, Novgorod and Moscow schools of monumental painting and architecture, the influence of West European Christian tradition and methods and principles of European art.

At the same time one should take into consideration the location and geo-political conditions of the Assumption Cathedral emergence in an alien Turkic-Tatar and Finnish-Ugric environment. So the idea of the cathedral is the unique evidence of interaction of the Christian-Orthodox and Muslim cultures. On the one hand, the idea of the cathedral is developed in architectural, picturesque and spiritual images of the topic of the Assumption of the Virgin, especially worshipped in Russia, and the cycle of scenes in paintings of the Assumption Cathedral for the first time appears in historical context as a link between the Old and New Testaments narration. Placing illustrations of “The Genesis” on the vaults of the cathedral interior as the main topic of paintings was an absolutely new phenomenon, which did not have visual traditions in Russia. On the other hand, the Assumption cathedral, which has the image of the Virgin as the main idea of its construction, is an outstanding evidence of connection with the Muslim tradition of worshipping Mariam ana (Mary). The location of the cathedral is simultaneously the north-west point of Islam spreading and the south-east spreading point of the architectural and artistic style of Pskov, Novgorod and Moscow.

The Assumption Cathedral is an outstanding evidence of the strategic development of Sviyazhsk as an outpost for successful conquering of the Kazan Khanate by Ivan the Terrible and for the following ambitious program of expanding lands, which was initiated by Moscow ruling circles in the middle of the XVI century for strengthening relations between the Christian Orthodoxy and the imperial expansion. The Assumption Cathedral had an officially approved mission of spreading Christianity in the region. Fulfilling it, both the cathedral and the monastery together with Kazan became the important centres of Christian culture in the Islamic and pagan enclave in the middle of the XVI century.

The Assumption Cathedral is real evidence of cardinal historical and geo-political changes in Eurasia which played a key role in the formation of the multinational Russian state and radically influenced the historical destiny of peoples in the Volga-Ural region, in Siberia and Central Asia, as well as in spreading Russian Orthodoxy to the east and the disappearance of the post-Golden Horde Islamic states - Kazan, Astrakhan, Siberian, Nogay, and Crimean khanates.

A unique synthesis of the cultures of the West and East, different architectural and artistic styles as well as mutual influence of values and enrichment of cultures have been brightly manifested in the Assumption Cathedral. Its architectural history, wall and icon painting are unique attributes characterizing historical, cultural, spiritual and religious life, demonstration of feelings of believers in different epochs, the succession of religious life as well as of development of architectural and artistic thought and its material embodiment. The evolution of the cathedral and the town island of Sviyazhsk from the object of confrontation and war into the island of peace, cultural persity, poly-ethnicity and poly-cultures and revival of spirituality has become their most important symbolic characteristic.

The Assumption Cathedral is a remarkable example of spiritual and cultural space, with the ultimate concentration of persity of original cultures and civilizations. It is a unique evidence of common historical, ethnic, cultural, spiritual and confessional evolution of peoples of Eurasia over a long period of time. Active synthesis of cultural Christian and Muslim traditions, substantial mutual influence of human values and mutual enrichment of cultures were taking place during the process of erection and evolution (development) of the Assumption Cathedral.

The Assumption Cathedral in the town island of Sviyazhsk is a unique sample of historical, cultural and artistic complex. It appeared as a result of architectural traditions synthesis of North and Central Russia with local traditions of the Volga and Urals region, the latter going back to the culture of the Volga Bolgaria. The frescos of the cathedral vividly demonstrate the phenomenon of cultural evolution of Moscow stardom, showing the direct connection between the events of the second half of the XVI - beginning of the XVII centuries and cultural life of the epoch and occupy one of the most important places in the history of Christian art of that time. Architectural and frescoes ensembles of the cathedral are the new trend in Russian art, reflect ambitious cultural and civilizational ideology of the Russian state in the XVI - XVII centuries and illustrate an important period of the world history of humankind.

The integrity of the property is provided with the approved boundaries, including all its attributes and the buffer zone, which make more than 11,000 hectares. It represents an integral architectural and artistic complex with history which finds its evidence in documents, archeological study and scientific research as well as with historical, cultural and architectural structure, natural landscape and century-long succession of functional use for cultural and spiritual purposes. The unique integrity of the Assumption Cathedral is also confirmed by the fact that within its boundaries there is a set of elements, which make it possible to picture and course the results of its evolution. The fact that the cathedral is located on the territory of the state museum-reserve promotes preservation of its integrity.

The authenticity of the cathedral is confirmed by a number of historical documents, seizures, archeological materials, maps, plans, and archives. Interiors and the artistic complex of wall paintings of the second half of the XVI - beginning of the XVII centuries and all attributes of Pskov and Baroque architecture have survived as well as the monuments creating its historical and cultural environment and being part of the monastery complex. The authentic cultural layer, which keeps artifacts of the XVI-XIX centuries, has been preserved on the territory of the property and around it. The constituent attributes of the Assumption Cathedral have been preserved since the end of the XIX century by using methods of conservation and restoration. All kinds of work have always been preceded by scientific research which gave exhausting material for restoration of the monument by using substances identical to the original ones. All this is the grounds for developing projects and choice of conservations methods as well as for monitoring by specialized organizations that guarantee preservation of authenticity for the Assumption Cathedral. Taking into consideration the scientifically calculated level of anthropogenic load, the public liturgy is planned to be resumed in the cathedral.



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