European Countries

Kizhi Pogost Churches (World Heritage)

The island of Kischi, located in Lake Onega, is a unique testimony to Nordic wood construction. Outstanding building among the approximately 60 wooden churches is the 35 m high Transfiguration Church from the 18th century. The spectacular wooden structure is crowned by 22 domes.

Churches of Kizhi Pogost: Facts

Official title: Churches of Kizhi Pogost
Cultural monument: »Museum Island« Kizhi, among others. with the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ (Preobrazhensky Church), built from 700 cubic meters of wood, with 22 decorative domes and a screen consisting of 102 icons, as well as the Church of the Protection of the Virgin Mary, also known as the Intercession Church (Podrovskirche), with a height of 27 meters Central dome and 8 secondary domes
Continent: Europe
Country: Russia, South Karelia
Location: Kizhi Island in Lake Onega, northeast of Petrozavodsk
Appointment: 1990
Meaning: Example of traditional north Russian church building in block construction

Churches of Kizhi Pogost: History

1693 older wooden churches destroyed by fire
1714 Consecration of the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ
1759 Completion of the iconostasis (picture wall) in the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ
1764 Completion of the Church of the Protection of the Virgin Mary
1874 Reconstruction of an octagonal bell tower destroyed several times by fire
1959/60 Restoration of the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ

Russia’s most beautiful fairy tale churches

The hydrofoil rushes from Petrozavodsk over the lead-gray Onega Lake for almost an hour until the small island of Kizhi appears on the horizon, apparently floating above the haze of the water, with the multi-headed silhouette of its world-famous churches. The place of pagan rituals, as the name »Kizhi« suggests, has been reached. But in the course of history it changed into a Christian cult center. Especially under the rule of the Novgorod Boyar Republic, Kizhi – now Christian – was the religious center for the residents of the countless islands of the lake and the shoreline regions. Today Kizhi is a unique open-air museum with wonderful old wooden buildings, with farmhouses, granaries, mills and with wonderful sacral wooden buildings, which embody the highest level of development of carpentry in wooden church building.

The church ensemble of the »Pogost«, the churchyard of Kizhi, which replaced older buildings in the 18th century, consists – as was sensible and therefore common in ancient Russia – of a large unheated summer church, a small heated winter church and a bell tower. According to areacodesexplorer, each church had a trapesa, a dining room in which the congregation used to celebrate their church and family celebrations with food and drink.

In terms of construction, the simple farmhouse, the “Isba”, was the model for the construction of the wooden church. In the course of time, Russian carpenters developed increasingly sophisticated and artistically impressive methods of building functional and beautiful places of worship without nails and iron straps.

The Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, the great summer church, is said to have been built by a carpenter named Nestor. When the church was consecrated on June 6, 1714, the legend goes that he rowed out onto the lake to inspect his work from afar. He was satisfied, threw his ax into the water with a strong swing and vowed never to build a church again, because he would never succeed in a more beautiful one than this.

This church, which will reopen after its restoration in 2014, is designed as a central building in the shape of an octagon with four extensions, of which the eastern extension consists of the altar apse. In the west, the octagon is enclosed by the trapesa, to which a double-barreled, covered external staircase leads up. The roof, decorated with numerous pointed arches and graceful domes, rises in steps above the center of the church, giving the church a monumental and at the same time magical, dreamy appearance. From the low, dark trapesa, the believer enters the high, light-flooded church interior, which is dominated by a high wall of icons. The carving of the picture frames is extremely rich. Leaves, flowers and vines adorn the friezes, cornices and pillars. Colorful,

Half a century after the Transfiguration Church, the Mariä-Schutz-Kirche was built as a winter church. It also followed a much older predecessor. The cubic middle section of the long building merges into an eight-sided superstructure, crowned by nine small domes. The trapesa connects to the side. Unfortunately, the original pictures on the icon wall fell victim to a redesign in the 19th century. Today, beautiful icons from destroyed northern Russian village churches take their place. The naive sculptures of untrained peasants and monks fill the four rows of the iconostasis in lively colors and shapes: the prophet row at the top, the festive row below, followed by the intercession row and the worship row at the bottom.

Meter by meter, the unadorned bell tower rises into the sky between the two churches – a tall square on which an octagon half as high sits. A conical roof with a tiny dome is the crowning glory.

Kizhi Pogost Churches