Assumption Cathedral with parvises | 1497, late 16th century, 1791

The Assumption cathedral is the outstanding monument of the artistic culture of the old Russia, to put it more precisely it is the complex of monuments formed during several centuries. The Assumption cathedral occupies a prominent place in the history of architecture being one of the first stone constructions of the Belozersk district together with the cathedrals of the Spassso-Kamenny and Ferapontov monasteries which started the monumental building in the Russian North. This church was erected by Rostov masters, and we had every reason to believe that his two predecessors had also been created by stonemasons from Rostov. Taking into account that only one architectural monument of the 15th century has come down to us in the Rostov region itself (but it was reconstructed in the 19th century), the Assumption cathedral becomes an important link helping to reconstruct the Rostov architectural school which reflected to a certain extent the features of the Moscow principality. The last is very essential because new processes began in the Moscow architecture after a long interval in the building since 1470. They were caused to a considerable degree by the influence of Italian masters which actually didn’t affect the Rostov stonemasons being involved in the construction in the Belozersk district in the late 15th century. In comparison with the main churches of the Spassso-Kamenny and Ferapontov monasteries the Assumption cathedral had some peculiar features revealing in its size, proportions, spatial compositions and details. Most of them remained inherent only to it; the others had some influence on the subsequent Kirillov monuments. From the very beginning the Assumption cathedral was a symbol of the spiritual life of the monastery and the constant centre of its changing architectural ensemble. It plays the last role to this very day. The Assumption cathedral turned into a true treasury of the Old Russian art: monuments of easel and monumental painting of the 15th-17th centuries and works of applied art. First of all we should mention a unique complex of icons from the iconostasis of the cathedral and a cycle of monumental murals which decorate the church interior and the northern parvis. The remarkable iconostasis is one of the most well-preserved icon-walls in Russia.

The northern and western porches of the Assumption cathedral are not only peculiar works of art of those periods, but also precious “beddings” bearing witness to the variety of architectural solutions from the historical and artistic point of view. After the restoration of the Assumption cathedral and its parvis this unique interior will appear renovated and at the same time preserving all significant elements of the complex monument-museum.

The basis work of Nikolay Konstantinovich Nikolskiy “Kirillo-Belozersky monastery and its arrangement in the second quarter of the 17th century” stood out among all pre-revolutionary investigations relating to the restoration of the ancient look of the Assumption cathedral. He even offered a restoration project of the cathedral plan with all side-chapels and porches worked out obviously to the very beginning of the 17th century. Real restoration work was started after 1917. The All-Russian commission working in the monastery in 1919 discovered and conserved 75 most precious icons. The patronal icon “Dormition of the Virgin” was cleaned (restorers P.Yukin and V. Gorohov). In 1924 a museum of local studies was organized there, though the decision about its creation had been made in 1919. The architect V.V. Danilov investigated and restored monuments of the Kirillov monastery in the 1920-1930-s. In 1958 he led the works in the course of which the wall of the 18th century dividing the northern parvis into 2 compartments was dismantled. As a result they discovered fragments of the wall-painting of the 17th century which had been closed by later masonry. Since 1953 and up to now all the works are carried out by architects and restores of the Central scientific and restoration design workshops. The most important investigations of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery were made by S.S. Podiapolskiy whose works were equal to discoveries. In 1963 he worked out “Draft of the restoration” which included suggestions about the northern and western porches of the Assumption cathedral and graphical reconstruction of its original look. In future it needed only small corrections. The restorer’s views on the general direction of the restoration work made essential evolution in comparison with the “Draft of the restoration and adjustment of the architectural complex of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery” (1975) made together with N.V. Kamenev. If in the first draft the author offered to restore a helmet-shaped dome, ogee-arches, original covering of the apses and so on, in the last one these suggestions were not mentioned. The authors considered it to be rational to carry out “limited” fragmental restoration, to eliminate the largest reconstructions which had been made later and to reveal artistic peculiarities of the interior preserving all attached buildings, the dome of the 18th century and straight roofing. Since 1957 the Vologda specialized scientific and restoration design workshop which formed a part of the association “Rosrestavratsiya” (Russian restoration) in 1971 carried out all the restoration and repair work in the monastery.

Since the 1960-s the iconostasis and monuments of the old painting coming from the Assumption cathedral were restored by a group of specialists from the All-Russian research institute for restoration of museum values led by O.V. Lelekova. Since the 1970-s the murals of the cathedral were restored by artists from the association “Rosrestavratsiya” headed by I.P. Yaroslavtsev. By 1981 they had completed the restoration of the murals in the dome and drum.

Restoration work of the monument is being continued now. Because of it numerous objects which decorated the interior (icon-cases, lamps, and other) have been moved from the cathedral to the store-rooms of the museum.

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