Lecture 6. The Rise of Moscow and its Quest for Expertise (14th – Early 16th Cent.)

After the Mongol conquest, most of the old urban centers of Rus’ (with an exception of Novgorod and Pskov) declined; in northeastern areas Vladimir and Suzdal’ were gradually overtaken by Moscow, which eventually established control over most of the East European Plain. With the progressive increase of wealth under their control, the grand princes of Moscow were able to fund construction that reflected their imperial aspirations. Yet already in the 15th century they discovered that the masonry expertise available in the east Slavic lands is insufficient for their ambitions. In the late 15th century the Grand Prince Ivan III was the first to invite an Italian architect and engineer Aristotele Fioravanti to complete the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow Kremlin at a scale comparable to pre-Mongol Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir that Moscow and Pskovian masters failed to replicate. The lecture focuses on the work of Italian masters in the city of Moscow and its growing principality during the late 15th and the 16th century. It narrates the story of the integration between the Byzantine tradition inherited by Moscow from pre-Mongol Rus’ and the Renaissance Italian architecture. The special attention is given to the fortifications constructed by Italian engineers in the Grand Principality of Moscow that closely follow the north Italian prototypes.

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