For photos of Vladimir. The city has its web
The "golden age" of Vladimir-Suzdal (also known as
Rostov-Suzdal-Vladimir) was the 12th to 13th centuries. There was nothing left
but the name by the time Moscow began its climb to fame, but the name was of
such importance that it is well to provide a brief summary of the history. The
principality was located between the Oka and Volga Rivers and extended as far
north as Beloozero and Ustiug. Slavic settlers entered the region in the 10th
century and soon made it the center of the Great Russian nation. The area is
indeed the center, lying as it does across the river route from the Baltic Sea
to the Caspian Sea via the Oka and Volga Rivers and adjacent to the route from
the Baltic to the Black Sea via the Dnieper River. Vladimir town was not
founded as a frontier fortress until 1108 by Grand- Prince Vladimir Monomakh of
Kiev. See the section on
for descriptions of all these leaders. The original fortress had an earthen
wall with wooden palisade. This brought the area under the overlordship of
Kiev. Kievan princes were established in most of the Vladimir-Suzdal towns. By
the middle 12th century the Prince of Suzdal, Yurii Dolgorukii (long arm)
(Vladimir's son and heir) reversed the relationship by making the region his
center and building many towns and forts, including his kremlin at Moscow in
1147. From this base he conquered Kiev and took the Kievan throne. His son,
Andrei Bogoliubskii, moved back to Vladimir and made it his capital. He began a
major construction program employing emigrant architects and craftsmen. When
Yurii Dolgorukii died in 1157, Andrei became Grand-Prince of Kiev, but he
preferred to keep his capital at Vladimir. In 1169 he marched against his
enemies in Kiev and sacked the town before appointing a governor to rule in his
name. Andrei was killed by rebellious nobles in 1174 and the throne passed to
his brother, Vsevolod III. During his reign (1176-1212) Vladimir-Suzdal reached
its highest point in political power.
The princes of Vladimir-Suzdal constantly fought each other and fought Kiev and
Novgorod to increase their control. Meanwhile they campaigned against the
Bolgars on the Volga and the Polovtsi on the southern steppes. Ryazan was
defeated in 1177 (Battle of Prusovaia Gora) but Novgorod regained its
independence in 1207. After Vsevolod's death in 1212, civil war resumed in
earnest to such an extent that the Russian princes were in no condition to
oppose the Mongols. The city was besieged and destroyed by the Mongols under
Batu Khan on February 8, 1238.
After the Mongol attack Vladimir itself never regained its importance, although
the senior title remained that of Grand-Prince of Vladimir. This title was
conferred by the Mongol khans on whichever Russian prince they thought most
politically loyal and gradually came to the house of Daniel of Moscow. The
coronation of grand-princes continued to be held in the city's Uspenski
Cathedral until the reign of Ivan III in 1440. Both Alexander Nevski and Dmitri
Donskoi were crowned here. The early Russian chronicles were written at the
Uspenski as well.
Vladimir (population 350,000) stands on the left bank of the Klyasma river. It
is a center for trade and transport and now has numerous industries.
The Zolotye Vorota, Golden Gates, (1158-64), once the ceremonial
entryway to the ancient city, is now in the center of town. The name comes from
the fact that the giant doors were covered with sheets of gilded copper. The
gate formed part of the western defenses. Its arch is a unique example of
ancient Russian fortification architecture. Andrei Bogoliubsky consciously
copied the design of the Golden Gate at Kiev. The gate was badly damaged during
the Mongol siege and not completely restored until the 15th century. During the
18th century the church that typically stands atop a city gate was restored.
Reinforcements were added to the sides, when the rest of the old town walls
were demolished. Nothing remains of the other four city gates. The gate now
contains a military history museum.
The Uspenski (Assumption) Cathedral from 1160 remains open for services. It was
the most important of Andrei's constructions. He brought master artisans from
throughout Europe to make this the supreme architectural monument of 12th
century Russia. Originally the outer walls were covered with magnificent
frescos and gilded half-columns. The cathedral was damaged in the city fire of
1183. In 1185-89 Prince Vsevolod III added a two story gallery around three
sides of the old walls and enlarged the fourth side. The original walls were
opened by arches, leaving their remainder as pillars and the entire building
was enclosed by the new structure, for which additional cupolas were also
added. The new cathedral was burned by the Mongols seeking to kill the princely
family which was hiding in its upper part. In 1408 Andrei Rublyev and Daniel
Chornei painted new frescos and iconostasis, but the Tatars again severely
damaged the building during their attack in 1411. Until the mid 14th century it
was the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop of All Russia. At that time he moved to
Moscow. In the 1480's the Italian architect, Aristotle Fioravanti, chose this
Uspenski Cathedral as his model for designing the Uspenski in the Moscow
Kremlin for Ivan III. A major restoration was initiated in the 18th century and
completed in the 19th. The iconostasis was redone in baroque style. Within the
20th century both the original 12th-13th century fresco and those of Rublev
from 1360-1430 have been largely restored.
The Dmitrievski Cathedral dates from 1194-97. It originally stood within the
courtyard of Prince Vsevolod III's palace. He built it in honor of his patron
saint and new son, Dmitri. It was richly decorated and much of the original art
remains. Tsar Nicholas I ordered the cathedral to be restored exactly in 1834,
making it an exceptional example of the Russian white-stone construction with
carved decorations. What makes it so important architecturally is the high
relief stone carving all over the outside depicting human forms, historical and
mythical, connected with Vsevolod's ancestory.
To the east of Dmitrievski Cathedral is the white wall of the Rozhdestvenski
Monastery (1191-96). This was the most important monastery in Russia until the
16th century. Alexander Nevski's body was buried here until moved to St.
Petersburg on order of Peter I in 1724. Northwest of Vladimir is the remaining
part of the Uspenskaya Convent Church, built by Maria Shvarnovo, wife of
Vsevolod III in 1200-02. It was the burial place for the princesses of
Vladimir. There are also a number of fine baroque churches in Vladimir.
About 10 km east of Vladimir are the remaining ruins and structures from the
palace of Bogolubsky built by Prince Andrei in 1158 as a personal stronghold.
Nearby is the Pokrovskaya, Intercession, Church, built in 1165. This is
one of the finest examples of 12th century Russian architecture.
Just beyond Bogolubivo, a short walk across fields and through woods is one of
the most famous and often photographed churches in Russia. This is the Church
of the Intercession on the Nerl built by Andrei in 1164 to celebrate a victory
over the Bulgars (the reputedly brought some of the stone by ship.)
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