Suzdal. Golden ring.
THE GOLDEN RING OF RUSSIA
Suzdal was awarded the Golden Apple prize by the international Journalists Organization for the preservation of its unique architectural ensemble and tourist development in the area.
The city was first mentioned in chroniclers at the beginning of the 11th century. Prince Yuri
Dolgoruky made it the capital of Rostov - Suzdal principality.
The town of Suzdal started with the Kremlin, its white-stone walls can be
seen on the hill. The Kremlin architectural ensemble includes Virgin Mary
Cathedral and Archbishop Palace.
The Virgin Mary Cathedral, built in 1225, dominates the Kremlin; the most striking eature of the Cathedral is the Golden Gate, a unique example of Russian
The Archbishop Palace was designed for pompous ceremonies, receptions of
dignitaries and announcements of tzar's verdicts.
Nowadays it houses an outstanding museum of icons; the oldest of them is the
icon of Maximovskaya Holy Virgin, which dates back to 1299.
Among other architectural monuments is the Convent of the Deposition of the Sacred
Robe (the 16th century), stone walls and towers (the 18 - 19th centuries), the
17th century "Holy Gates", the 14th century Savior-Evfimiev Monastery
and so on.
Every year in early spring a folk festival, A Farewell to Russian Winter, is
held in Suzdal. Clowns in old Russian costumes, fairytale characters, games,
running contexts, tug-of-War, songs, folk round dances and troyka rides are part
of the festival. The winners get traditional Russian souvenirs.
First mentioned in 1024, Suzdal was made the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality
by Yury Dolgoruky in the first half of the 12th century. When Andrey Bogolyubsky
returned from Kiev in 1157 or 1158, he made Vladimir the capital, and from then
on the principality was known as Vladimir-Suzdal.
But, set in a fertile
wheat-growing area, Suzdal remained a trade center even after the Tatar
invasions. It was an independent princedom from the early 13th to the mid-14th
century, when it united with Nizhny Novgorod until both were annexed by Moscow
Under Muscovite rule, Suzdal became a wealthy monastic center, with
particularly big building projects funded by Vasily III and Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. In the late 17th and 18th centuries,
wealthy merchants paid for 30 gorgeous little churches, which still adorn the town.
SIGHTS OF INTEREST
- KREMLIN. The 1.4km-long earth rampart of Suzdal's Kremlin (fort),
founded in the 11th century, today encloses a few streets of houses and a
handful of churches as well as the main cathedral group on Kremlyovskaya
The Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral (Rozhdestvensky sobor), its blue
domes spangled with gold, was founded in the 1220s but only its richly
carved lower section is original white stone, the rest being 16th century
brick. The inside is sumptuous with 13th and 17th century frescoes (the best
of the earlier ones are the figures of two elders in the upper part of the
south apse) and 13th century damascene (gold on copper) west and south doors
- gospel scenes on the west, angels' deeds on the south. The cathedral is
under restoration and won't be open to the public until 2001 at the
The 15th to 18th century Archbishop's Chambers (Arkhiyereyskie palati)
line the south side of the cathedral yard, with an entrance to the 18th
century Cross Hall (Krestovaya palata) which was used for receptions.
The Suzdal History Exhibition (Istoricheskaya Expozitsia) is reached
from the tent-roofed 1635 bell tower on the east side of the yard. The old
Russian painting (Drevnerusskoy zhivopisi) display, also entered from the
bell tower, is well worth a visit although it concentrates on 15th to 17th
century icons of the Vladimir-Suzdal school - well after its 12th to 13th
century zenith, the few surviving works of which are mostly in Moscow and St
Just south of this group stands the 1766 Wooden St Nicholas' Church (Nikolskaya
tserkov), brought from Glatovo village near Yuriev-Polsky. Another St
Nicholas', one of Suzdal's own fine small churches, built in 1720-39, is
on ulitsa Lebedevajust east of the cathedral group, with its pointed tower
fronting the road.
- Torgovaya Ploshchad. Suzdal's Torgovaya ploshchad (Trade Square) is
dominated by the pillared Trading Arcades (1806-11) along its western
side, with one pair of small churches in front of them and another pair
behind, above the river. Though all these four are closed, the pretty,
five-domed 1707 Emperor Constantine Church (Tsarevokonstantinovskaya
tserkov) over in the square's north-eastern corner is a working church; the
inside is ornate. The 1787 Virgin of All Sorrows Church (Skorbyashchenskaya
tserkov) next to it is smaller but has a big bell tower.
- Monastery of the Deposition. The Monastery of the Deposition of the
Holy Robe (Rizopolozhensky monastyr) is said to date from 1207 but the
existing buildings are 16th to 19th century. It's now a dilapidated mess but
has two pretty, pyramidal entrance turrets (1688) on the south gate.
Suzdal's tallest structure, a 72m bell tower (1813-19), rises from
the east wall. The central Deposition Cathedral (Rizopolozhensky
Sobor), with three helmet domes, dates from the first half of the 16th
century; it is reminiscent of the Moscow Kremlin's Archangel Cathedral.
- Alexandrovsky Convent. This little, white convent (Alexandrovsky
monastyr) at the top of the river embankment stands out for its simple,
quiet beauty. Reputedly founded in 1240 by Alexander Nevsky for noble women
whose men folk had been killed by the Tatars, its present Ascension
Church (Voznesenskaya tserkov) and bell tower date from 1695.
- Saviour Monastery of St Euthymius. Founded in the 14th century to
protect the town's northern entrance, Suzdal's biggest monastery (Spaso-Yevfimievsky
monastyr) grew mighty in the 16th and 17th centuries after Vasily III,
Ivan the Terrible and the noble Pozharsky family funded impressive new stone
buildings and big land and property acquisitions. It was girded with its
great brick walls and towers in the 17th century.
Inside, a tall 16th to 17th century bell tower stands before the seven-domed
Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Spaso-Preobrazhensky
sobor). Every hour on the hour during opening times, a 10 minute concert of
chimes is given on the bell tower's bells - well worth hearing. The
cathedral was built in the 1590s in 12th to 13th century Vladimir-Suzdal
style. Inside, some bright 1689 frescoes recounting the monastery's history,
by the school of the famous Gury Nikitin from Kostroma, have been uncovered.
The tomb of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky (1578-1642), leader of the
Russian army that drove the Polish invaders from Moscow in 1612, is by the
cathedral's east wall.
The 1525 Assumption Church (Uspenskaya tserkov) facing the bell tower
adjoins the old Father Superior's chambers, which houses a display of
Russian books from the 15th century on. The monks' quarters across
the compound contain a museum of modern Russian folk art.
At the north end of the complex is the old monastery prison, set up
in 1764 for religious dissidents, now closed to visitors, and the combined
hospital and St Nicholas' Church (Bolnichnye kelyi i Nikolskaya
tserkov, 1669), which contain a rich museum of 12th to 20th century Russian
applied art, much of it from Suzdal itself. The entrance and ticket
office are in the high gate-tower in the south wall. Foreigner entry is $ 1,
plus $1 for each of four museums or exhibitions inside. The monastery is
open from 10 am to 6 pm, except Monday and the last Thursday of the month.
Across ulitsa Lenina from the south-east corner of the monastery are the
1696-1707 Our Lady of Smolensk Church (Smolenskaya tserkov) and
Suzdal's only surviving early 18th century town house; the latter is
furnished in original style and open from 10 am to 4 pm daily except Monday.
- Intercession Convent. The Intercession Convent (Pokrovsky monastyr),
founded in 1364, has been handed back to the Church since Soviet times and a
small community of black-robed nuns is in residence. The three-domed Intercession
Cathedral (Pokrovsky sobor) in the center, built in 1510-18, is in
religious use again.
The convent was originally a place of exile for the unwanted wives of tsars
— among them Solomonia Saburova, first wife of Vasily III, who was sent
here in the 1520s because of her supposed infertility. The story goes that
she finally became pregnant too late to avoid being divorced. A baby boy was
born in Suzdal but, fearing he would be seen as a dangerous rival to any
sons produced by Vasily's new wife, Yelena Glinska, Solomonia secretly had
him adopted, pretended he had died and staged a mock burial. This was
probably just as well for the boy since Yelena did indeed produce a son -
Ivan the Terrible.
The legend received dramatic corroboration in 1934 when researchers opened a
small 16th century tomb beside Solomonia's, in the crypt beneath the
Intercession Cathedral. They found a silk and pearl shirt stuffed with rags
- and no bones.
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