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Wooden Churches in the Russian North

February 17, 2010

Kosmozero, Karelia region, Church of St Alexander Svirsky (1769)

British architectural photographer Richard Davies is exhibiting a series of stunningly beautiful images of endangered, centuries-old Wooden Churches in the Russian North at the Museum of Finnish Architecture from March to May. Here’s a selection of the photographs that will be on display. If you can’t make it to Helsinki, be sure to stop by his website for more.

From the exhibition catalogue:

“Old postcards made the English photographer Richard Davies travel to northern Russia in 2002 to find out what was left of the wooden churches depicted in the cards. The churches had been photographed by the Russian artist Ivan Bilibin in 1902–04, and already then the photographer was worried about their condition. Davies followed Bilibin’s footsteps on several travels in successive years. Many churches had been lost and many were threatened by destruction. Still, much was left to celebrate. The integrity between the landscape and the architecture was as striking as before, the simple log cabin construction with extravagant decorations was just as startling, and even in decay these churches had a spiritual presence commanding respect. With his pictures Davies wishes to help preserve this extraordinary cultural heritage.”

Polya, Karelia region, Church of the Prophet Elijah (18th C)

Ratonavolok, Arkhangel region Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (1722)
collapsed Church of St. Nicholas (1727)

Rakuly, Arkhangel region, Church of the Resurrection (1766)

Turchasovo, Arkhangel region, Church of the Transfiguration (1781)

Varzuga, Murmansk region, Church of the Assumption (1674)

Tulgas, Arkhangel region, Church of St Blaise (18th C)
Predtecha, Vologda region, Church of St John the Baptist (1776)
Podporozhye, Arkhangel region, Church of St Vladimir (1757)
Podporozhye, Arkhangel region, Church of St Vladimir (1757)
Imzha, Arkhangel region, Church of the Virgin Hodigitria (1763)
Izma, Arkhangel region, Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (1679)
Saunino, Arkhangel region, Church of St John Chrysostom (1655)
“Many churches have been saved by dedicated specialists and enthusiasts, whose untiring work goes on. We hope that the photographs in this exhibition will help raise public awareness of the plight of these wonderful buildings and that more restoration projects will attract the funding they deserve.

During our travels, the story of the hardships of the last century has been unavoidably felt – a story of Revolution, War, Communism and severe Northern winters. The photographs also tell of the lives of resilient people who have lived through extreme times in extreme places – a story of the Russian North.”

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