Russian Culture Galore!
Suzdal Travel Blog› entry 128 of 136 › view all entries
June 7th, 2009 – by: Kramerdude
We started off in the morning walking up the main road north through Suzdal. The first main sight we passed was the Ryzopolozhensky Convent (or more easily named the Convent of the Deposition of the Robe). However this was closed due to ongoing renovations so we would not be stopping here today. We walked a few blocks further north and as we did saw the first church (a small one) where someone was in the church tower playing the bells. Thought it was quaint to see someone actually ringing the bell, as I think at most churches back home any bells are just played from CD over loudspeakers at the church.
The next major destination on the path was the Monastery of Our Saviour and St Euthymius. The walls of this large monastery complex date from the late 14th century, but the churches, bell tower, and other buildings have been built over the intervening years. As we wandered the complex grounds, passing the grave site of Dmitry Pozharsky, a Russian prince from the late 16th-early 17th century who drove out a Polish invasion of Russia, the sounds of bells from the bell tower began pealing through the morning air. Most of the groups meandered towards the bell tower to watch the performance of the bellmaster(?, I don't know what do you call someone who plays the bells). One person, through a fairly complex system of rigging controls all 16 bells in the bell tower and performs a pretty remarkable composition (see the accompanying video).
After the performance we entered the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral (Transfiguration Cathedral). This church from 1594 presented an even more ornate view of the Russian Orthodox churches than what I saw in Listvyanka several days earlier. The whole of the interior of the church was painted frescoes depicting stories of Jesus and the saints. When the choir came out to perform it was difficult not to feel the ancient sanctity of the place.
Other sites on the monastery grounds include a few smaller churches, a hospital, and the monks quarters (which in a darker turn once housed political prisoners in the 19th and early 20th century). Many of the smaller rooms in these quarters had been transitioned into museum exhibits with various objects from the times that the monastery was active in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries).
Leaving the Monastery we walked along and above the banks of the Kamenka river back down toward the central town square. Across the river we could see the Intercession Convent, which was known as a common location for women whose husbands had found disfavor in the power struggles of Russian history to find themselves. Among them a wife of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great found refuge (or exile) here during the course of history.
Back in the central area of Suzdal we made our way over to the Kremlin. Over the years the area had been surrounded by a fortifed wall, but today only portions of the raised mounds remain to note the presence where the fortifications once stood. The highlight of the Kremlin area is the Rozhdestvensky Cathedral (Nativity Cathedral or Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary).
Entering the cathedral, one passes through a set of double doors that have images from the bible emblazoned on the doors. Referred to as the "golden gates", these doors were crafted through a fire-gilding process, though the exact method to craft these particular doors has been lost to history. Inside was a treasure trove of religious iconography of all styles. Different then the Transfiguration cathedral where all the frescoes were in the same style from the same period the Nativity cathedral had frescoes from throughout the centuries.
After visiting the church and another smaller museum in the Kremlin that showcased some of the history with a serious of names and dates that I can't recall we headed out across the Kamenka River to the open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life. Many old wooden buildings and homes reconstructed as they were from older times. It was interesting to see but more enjoyable for me was the festival/fair taking place on the grounds. Lots of small stalls selling food and snacks. Music and dancing on a stage set up on the museum grounds. A fun time just to hang around and watch everything going on around me.
Later in the afternoon we wandered back to the center of town where we hit up the Suzdal wax museum for an interesting look at some of Russia's well-known and less well-known historical figures through the ages. Pretty small, but cheap enough not to cause an consternation to the pocketbook. Coming out of the museum noted that some clouds were rolling in and shortly afterwards some sprinkles began falling. We had a dinner set up for us at a local household which was a tasty way to experience some different Russian food.
In the evening a steadier rain began to fall, and one thing Suzdal does not have is a lot of evening activity. So we grabbed a few drinks and brought the cards out again for a low key evening before heading for the big city in the morning.
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