Cathedral of the Assumption/ Dormition Cathedral--page 1 (of 2 pages)

Originally erected in 1158 to 1160; expanded 1189

This important medieval cathedral served as the model for the church of the same name in Moscow's Kremlin. It was rebuilt in 1185 after a great fire. The earlier church had a single dome and a smaller plan whereas the new one added four corner domes and was considerably enlarged. This earlier church, an architectural legacy of Andrei Bogolyubsky, the powerful ruler of Vladimir, was in the tradition of Byzantine churches, but had features of western medieval architecture, namely the portals and decorative stonework. Much of the latter was lost with the reconstruction later in the century, initiated by Vsevolod, the half-brother of the assassinated Andrei, who like him understood that supporting religious architecture not only signalled religious devotion but power and wealth as well. His builders kept the exterior walls of the old church, and added an aisle on each side. New apses were added increasing the depth of the plan.

A glamorous view from the west (but an inaccurate one in terms of the medieval church)


The west facade and main entrance

This view shows the arcade frieze added in 1185. Sculptural decoration is relatively modest, especially compared to Vsevolod's later church, St. Dmitri in Vladimir. (See my site here.)

The lantern wing attached to the church


The portal with decorative repeated arched ribs

Blind arcades with terminal sculpture, engaged columns marking the divisions of the bays, and decorative metalwork outlining the "zakomary," or repeated arched gables--all these embellishments add interest to the essentially flat facade walls.

The cupolas

One central cupola, in the original plan, and four additional ones added over the bays to the north and south of the corners of the original building.

The wall enclosing the church precinct


The apse, the wall defining the sacred precinct, and the five grand cupolas

Continue to page 2.

Works Consulted or Quoted:
William Craft Brumfield. A History of Russian Architecture. Seattle: University of Washington P, 2004.
George Heard Hamilton. The Art and Architecture of Russia. New Haven: Yale UP, 1983.

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© 2017 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site) and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.