To learn more about Russia’s rich cultural history, all you need to do is look around. Russian architecture, from its signature onion dome rooftops to red-brick kremlins, tells a thousand tales about the nation’s past.
Old Russian architecture is still relatively unknown in the West, with most travellers flocking to the Kremlin in Moscow or the St. Isaacs Cathedral in St. Petersburg when in Russia. However, the landmarks of Russia’s major cities, while not worth missing, do not even begin to scratch the surface of the country’s rich history.
From onion domes to baroque masterpieces, Russian architecture is distinctive and instantly recognisable. The many historical influences and forms of craftsmanship, much like Russia’s landmass, are incredibly vast and diverse and reflect the centuries-old story of a nation.
These buildings, landmarks and small towns or cities not only reflect Russia’s origins but also bring to the life the culture and personality of the nation and its imperial roots.
Some of the country’s many architectural highlights include the following:
Originally intended to be the central church of a monastery, Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of Russia’s architectural masterpieces. It was designed by Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also created the Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks.
The Smolny Convent consists of the cathedral, or ‘sobor,’ and a beautiful complex which surrounds it, with onion-dome towers topped with gold plated crosses towering over the grounds.
Founded in 1177, this ancient grey provincial town’s architecture is full of vibrant colours. Its kremlin is built with red brick, and flower arrangements bring life to the main square of the town.
The historical small town of Vereya dates back to 1371. It contains a Nativity Cathedral in the local kremlin that was extensively rebuilt at the turn of the 18th century with a lofty neoclassical bell tower.
Church of the Sign of Our Lady, located in the small town of Dubrovitsy, is almost unknown to foreigners despite being just a short distance from Moscow. Located in the Golden Ring northeast of Moscow, this stunning church dates back to 1690.
The administrative centre of the Pskov province, just 20km from the Estonian border. The Trinity Cathedral mostly dates back to the 17th century when it was restored following a fire.
Pechersky Ascension Monastery founded in the 14th century, this monastery became the spiritual and religious centre of the Principality of Suzdal and Nizhny Novgorod. Surrounded by a red brick wall, the monastery resembles a traditional Russian Kremlin.
The monastery was founded in the 14th century by St. Iakov of Rostov. Most of the monastery structure was built in the late 18th and 19th century in the fine neo-classical style.
A small town 25 km north of the city of Vladimir, with many examples of early Russian architecture including the Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery which houses an impressive number of museums and churches.
Often spoken of in fairy tales and folklore, Murom is one of the oldest cities in Russia with a history tracing its origins back to the 9th century. The city is filled with signs of Russia’s antiquity. The Holy Trinity Convent features architecture dating back to the 17th century, including a cathedral, Kazan church, bell tower, wooden church of St. Sergius and stone walls.
The Church of Ascension features miniature gold domes while the Transfiguration and Saint Basil churches have royal blue rooftops, while Murom’s Church of Nikolai Tchudotvorets is finished in a bright yellow, giving the ancient city a splash of colour.
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