Lecture 3. The Romanesque in the Northeast of Russia (Second Half of the 12th – Early 13th Cent. CE)

This lecture discusses the original synthesis between the Middle Byzantine architectural tradition and the Romanesque construction and decoration techniques that defined the ecclesiastical and palatial architecture of Vladimir-Suzdal’ region in the northeastern lands of Rus’ during the second half of the 12th and the first quarter of the 13th century. The princes of Vladimir attracted masons from the Holy Roman Empire in modern Germany and northern Italy. These Romanesque masters were commissioned to build cross-in-square churches, yet they used typical Romanesque ashlar stonework, ornamental patterns which find parallels in Lombardy and Alsace, and figural stone reliefs in the decoration of façades. The lecture covers the evolution of medieval Russian Romanesque from its development in 1160s to its abrupt interruption by the Mongol invasion in the 1230s. It introduces students to still largely Byzantine iconography of stylistically Romanesque carved reliefs on the white-stone churches. Finally it highlights the profound influence exercised by Vladimir-Suzdal’ monuments upon the post-Mongol architecture of the Great Principality of Moscow.

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