Saturday, September 11, 2010

Russia, Day 6: Yaroslavl Redux

On Tuesday, August 24th, the group stopped again in Yaroslavl, this time on the way back to Moscow. Yaroslavl is full of so many treasures that we really needed a full day there. On our first stop, we had also gone to Rostov, leaving too little time to fully appreciate Yaroslavl, which was one of the most important Russian cities during medieval times.

So, getting off the boat, we got into a coach bus and headed to the Church of St John the Baptist at Tolchkovo, which was built in the late 17th century. (The photo above is of Fr. Romilo and me during the ride.)

As you can somewhat see in the photo above, this church boasts 15 onion domes. Traditionally, there is a main dome, representing Christ, surrounded by four smaller domes, representing the evangelists. Here, this is repeated three times, since the church features two small side chapels -- one dedicated to the Kazan icon of the Mother of God and the other to a local saint from Yaroslavl.

Here you can clearly see the three churches and their respective clusters of domes.

The entrance to the church.

The interior was completed about one century after the church itself -- i.e., the late 18th century. In the photo above, Fr. Andrew Louth is admiring the northern wall of the narthex. The northern and southern walls were lined, on the bottom row, with a synaxarion. Each side featured six large squares, in which there were many smaller squares marking off the days of the month. In each of these small squares was the date and a depiction of the saint(s) or feast commemorated that day.

Partly because of this, it has been calculated that this church contains the most individual compositions of any church in Russia, and possibly in all of Orthodoxy.

But the same also applies in both side chapels (see photo above), as well as the exo-narthex, which are all covered in beautiful iconography. The chapel dedicated to the Kazan icon was particularly impressive, as it contained scores of scenes depicting the history of the icon and the miracles it has wrought.

Our next stop was the (need I say it?) gigantic Transfiguration Monastery (founded in the 13th century), inside of which we saw the Transfiguration Cathedral, which dates to the 16th century.

We had quite a bit of time to explore this sprawling monastery and even to sit and have a coffee at the small coffee shop. Fr. Romilo and I, accompanied by the Conomos girls, Anna and Thalia, then decided to make the hike up the narrow staircase to the top of the towering belfry. But first we stopped to look at the small chapel in the bottom of the bell tower, which again we adorned with beautiful iconography. It was here also that I managed to capture on film the halo surrounding Fr. Romilo. :)

A view out of a small window in the bell tower about half way up.

A view of the city of Yaroslavl from the top of the bell tower.

And here are Fr. Romilo and I at the top of the bell tower. The golden-domed church in the background between us is the Dormition Cathedral, which was originally built in 1657. It was destroyed in a fire and replaced, only to have the second one destroyed in 1937. The third cathedral is now nearing completion. We stopped there briefly at the end of our day before heading back to the boat.

After the monastery, we headed over toward the city center to visit the Church of the Prophet Elijah, which was built in 1650. The photo above is of the entrance to the church.

Originally, the church was surrounded by wooden homes, but because Yaroslavl was afflicted by so many fires, at some point the area around the church was cleared to make a broad square that would protect the church from fire. The church then became a focal point of the city, with streets radiating out from the church.

Inside the church, in a side chapel, we were treated again to a mini-concert by a four-person choir. They performed three pieces of church music and then offered their CDs for sale. I found this custom to be quite nice.

Inside the main narthex, I noted that there were twin thrones facing the iconostasis. The one on the right-hand pillar as one looked at the altar from the back belonged to the Patriarch, while the other belonged to the Tsar.

We then stopped briefly at the Dormition Cathedral, which I mentioned above, before getting back on the boat and making the long journey back to Moscow.

In the evening, in preparation for our upcoming visit to St. Sergius Lavra, Metropolitan Kallistos gave us a wonderful 50-minute talk on the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh, probably the most beloved of all Russian saints.

For more photos from the day, click here.

No comments: