Sights of Russia: Church of the Intercession on Nerli

Unity with nature The Church of 

 the Intercession on Nerli was erected in 1165. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the history of Russia. It is considered a masterpiece not only of Vladimir-Suzdal and Russian, but also of world architecture. What makes this church so famous? Obviously, this is both her unusual story and a surprisingly harmonious look.

Indeed, having seen this extraordinarily beautiful church, it’s hard to resist poetic comparisons. Most often the building is compared to the bride. Snow white, light, graceful, with perfect proportions, reflecting in the quiet waters of a small rivulet, it is really associated with a feminine way and something mysterious and unsolved.

The church on the rounded hill seems such a natural extension of the landscape that the audience unwittingly admire: how successfully the site for the temple was chosen. But it’s only at first glance it seems like it’s that simple. In fact, the church holds many secrets — both building and historical.

Man-made naturalness

Holm, which today looks very organic with the landscape, is artificial. When the church was put, the place of Nerli’s discharge into Klyazma was not as idylically secluded as it is now, but rather very lively.

It was the crossroads of the most important waterways of trade. But during the spills, the water level was rising by 5m and flooding the surrounding area. Therefore, an unusual foundation hill was made for the church: 3.7 m high walls were added to the traditional cobblestone base on lime mortar. They are littered with clay soil on the outside and inside. This artificial hill was covered by white slabs with ladders coming down directly to the river.

Material and masters

Church of the Intercession on Nerli is a traditional four-pillar cross-dome church for pre-Mongolian Russia. It is built of white limestone. From this same stone, all reliefs are dislodged. Although the limestone was well treatable, the execution of the fine white-stone carvings required considerable time and great technical skill.

Even the simple machining of the stone block involved more than 1,000 strokes of the master on the instrument. And to create relief surfaces and threads — much more.

Secrets of harmony

The Church initially looked different than it does now. It was surrounded by five-metre galleries with gulbishes. It looked more monumental and solemn. However, in the late 17th century the galleries disassembled, disappeared and the white-stone covering of the hill. The church “lost weight” and gained even more striving upward. Time as if itself made adjustments to the work of builders, subdued its architecture, bringing it to perfection.

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