Church and space

Церковь Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы. Изображение: Nickolas Titkov, CC BY-SA 2.0

Церковь Николая Чудотворца в Ламанихе. Фотография с сайта wikimapia Church of St. Nicholas in Lamanikha.
Photo from wikimapia site.


“A temple is not only an architec­tural and aesthetic dominant, but it is also a powerful city-forming factor. Orthodox churches have al­ways been organizing centers of settlements. Why most of the old Russian cities have ring structure of building?
Because citizens wanted to build houses on the perimeter of churches and monasteries: they not only spiritually sustained the parishioners, but they also were shelteres against attacks of ene­mies. Temple has the ability to lift up people’s minds to the heights of the spirit…
Only the church spiritually unites the people.”
— father Dmitry Smirnov.


Церковь Николая Чудотворца в Ламанихе.  © Валерия Лебедева
Church of St. Nicholas in Lamanikha.
Photo by Valeriya Lebedeva.


What forms the native Russian space?

“Oh, brightly lit and beautifully adorned, the Russian land! So wonderful with its many beau­ties…”
— “The Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land”.

“The concept of the Russian land includes forests, fields, and the man surrounded by this landscape. The first time it appears in Nestor’s writings, the first historical work in Russia in the early 12th century. It is usu­ally called “The Primary Chroni­cle” (‘Povest Vremyannykh Let’). It was written in Kiev Monas­tery of the Caves (Kyevo-Pecher­sky Monastery). Russia has never had that kind of writings after that. “These are the narratives of bygone years regarding the ori­gin of the land of Rus”, the first princes of Kiev, and from what source the land of Rus’ had its beginning.” It is not a history of a state, but a history of the Russian land… Different ethnic groups were living in the space of the Russian land… There were different cities, different politicians, but Nestor put the Russian land in the heart of his story. Thus he united them all; it is the vector of the development of Russian civi­lization…

The theme of the Russian land as a specifically formed space, is essential for the Rus­sian civilization. Not only in the artistic sense, but ideologi­cally formalized. Our ancestors found some certain sense in this space…

The desire for peace and quiet, extremely difficult to achieve. Church on Levitan’s painting creates that very image that he inexplicably managed to express. Yevgeny Troubetzkoy in his book ‘Speculation in colors’, writes about the space of icon. This icon space somehow reso­nates with the space of the Rus­sian landscape.

© Nickolas Titkov from Moscow, Russian FederationThe Church of the Intercession on the river Nerl, © Nickolas Titkov, CC BY-SA 2.0

In the second half of the 12th century Russian architects have created Church of the Intercession on the river Nerl in 1162. The church was placed in a vacuum, there has never been any property near there: that time, the construction itself took incredible amount of work — for it stands on the flood meadow… There are some reliefs on the facade of the church — the main of which is the image of King David the Psalmist. The Book of Psalms was used as a textbook in Ancient Russia. That’s why these images had a great meaning for people of that time.” — Felix Razoumovsky, from the lecture “Russia: the space as a prophecy” at MArchI.

“The whole point of the existence of ‘Holy Russia’ is in this fiery flash. In the burning of church heads it finds a vivid picture of its own spiritual image; it is like an anticipation of the image of God, which should be represented in Russia.”
— Eugeny Troubetzkoy, “Three Essays on the Russian icon.”

The Russian space — with its scarlet sunsets, with wide fields, is like a temple, it is con­nected with Russian icons. In the run-up to the revolution, Prince Troubetzkoy writes:
“We feel that not only churches were built in that on­ion-dome style of old Rus­sia, but everything, what lived the spiritual life — the whole church and secular world, from tsar to plowman… Everything in this universal aspiration to the cross is searching for the flame, everything echoes its form, and everything is sharpened in the gradual ascent. But only by get­ting the real point of contact of the two worlds at the foot of the cross, this fiery search flares up with bright flame and joins the gold of heaven. This has the whole mystery of that icon gold, which we were talking about: for one and the same spirit has been expressed in the ancient church architecture and painting.

The whole point of the ex­istence of ‘Holy Russia’ is in this fiery flash. In the burning of church heads it finds a vivid pic­ture of its own spiritual image; it is like an anticipation of the im­age of God, which should be rep­resented in Russia.”

This burning sensation of ascention to heaven first came to me in Pskov, where we went on a tour with our school class. Nu­merous heads of churches, blue with gold stars on them, against a bright blue sky. This was the beginning of the feeling that has strengthened in me in Vo­logda in Lamaniha village, where the Church of St. Nicholas on the river Vologda, directing the whole space around it upwards, and then in Ferapontovo, and af­ter in Goritsky Monastery, which stands above the lake, with the evening sun falling into it.
But most of all this feel­ing has strengthened in Solovki, when the whole nature seemed to be catching fire after the monks, praying in a procession of the cross.

Text by Ivan Matveev.

From Archmag #1/2015, “Faith”.

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