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Excursion 2017
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Architectural monuments of the 12th century

Three stone churches are still standing in Smolensk. The most ancient of them- Church of Peter and Paul (1146)- stands not far from the grouse gardens of the czar and the favorite hunting grounds of the prince. The second church of St. John the Evangelist (1173) was built on the other side of the Dnieper River. It used to be the educational center of the nobility and of the princes personal retinue. At the end of the 12th century was built the church of Archangel Michael (1194-1197), which was the family church of the prince, as well where the members of the royal court went to pray.

Three stone churches are still standing in Smolensk. The most ancient of them- Church of Peter and Paul (1146)- stands not far from the grouse gardens of the czar and the favorite hunting grounds of the prince. The second church of St. John the Evangelist (1173) was built on the other side of the Dnieper River. It used to be the educational center of the nobility and of the princes personal retinue. At the end of the 12th century was built the church of Archangel Michael (1194-1197), which was the family church of the prince, as well where the members of the royal court went to pray.

Church of Peter and Paul

The most famous period of the Peter and Paul Church was during the Polish occupation of Smolensk in 1611-1654. During this period the Catholic Archbishop Lev Krevza-Rjevusky made it his residence, for which in the 1630’s to the West of the church was built 2-floor palace, while the Orthodox church was turned into Catholic one. In the 1654, after the expulsion of the Poles, right next to the palace was built a beautiful bell tower with two sprawling staircases. In the XVIII century a third floor was built over the palace for the additional church of holy martyr Barbara.
Inside the church was the ancient icon of apostles Peter and Paul.
In 1894-1895, during the renovation of the church walls because of the new paint and plaster the church lost its external view of ancient Russian architecture. During the Soviet era in Russia, religious services were banned in the church, and the building was closed and used as archives.
In 1943, the church was heavily damaged in the fight to liberate Smolensk.
In 1962-1963, to commemorate the 1100 years since the founding of Smolensk, under the guidance of the architect Peter Dmitrievich Baranovsky, Smolensk restoration workshops completed the restoration of the Church of Peter and Paul to its original look.
In its original view, the Church of Peter and Paul had a very strong resemblance with the Byzantium church designs. Sometime ago the walls of the apertures were decorated, which today we can tell only from small fragments of paintings. Currently, the Church of Peter and Paul is an active Church- services have resumed here since 1991.

Church of St. John the Evangelist

The church was built in 1173-1176 by the order of the Smolensk Prince Roman Rostislavich, who was a highly educated man. He spent all his wealth on education, without leaving anything for himself. When he died, he had to be buried using public charity. The prince created a school as part of the St. John’ the Evangelist Church. This church helped spread Russian literacy and there was written the first chronicles of the Smolensk region.
 
The church in its original design was very similar to the Church of Peter and Paul. According to the surviving chronicles, the church was richly decorated in gold and enamel. It made it closer to the ancient Kievan highly extravagant interior churches. The original church was also decorated in murals, of which only fragments have survived.
 In the original form the church existed until 1611. During the Polish occupation 1611-1654 it was turned into a Catholic church and later turned back into an Orthodox one.
 
In the Soviet era, the church was active until 1933, after which it was closed and turned into a museum and library. During the Great Patriotic War, it was heavily damaged, with the bell tower and the church canteen destroyed.
In the 70s of the XX century the restoration of the church was conducted as a project by the architects S.S. Podyapolsky and T.E. Kamenevoi. Currently the church holds regular services as part of the active Smolensk Eparchy.

Church of Archangel Michael  

This church was built by the order of Smolensk prince David Rostislavich, during the years of his rule in 1180-1197 and it was part of the architectural complex of his country palace. Until its closure in the first half of the XX century the church had the tomb of Prince David made of white stone within it.
During the construction of the palace church, Prince David was hoping that this church’s grandeur would surpass the churches in all other principalities. Soon, the fame about the grandeur and the wealth of its interior spread across the world.
The church of Archangel Michael is part of the tower-like churches type, found in the Pre-Dnieper region at the end of the XII- beginning of XIII century. It is the last remaining Smolensk architectural monuments from the last quarter of the XII century.
The church is composed of a single cross-dome with of four pillars with three apsis and three fore churches. It composition is very dynamic. The interior space is special in its massiveness and height. The windows are high, and the slopes were decorated both inside and out. In some places the fragments of these XII century decorations still survived.
Plate brick- plinthiform brick was used as the a material to build the church, which is a very durable and strong material. As a result, the Church of Archangel Michael managed to withstand many hardships. Services have resumed here since 1991.
During the siege in 1609-1611, it was used by the Poles as a fortress against Smolensk. After the city was taken, the Orthodox parish was turned Catholic and it was returned to the Orthodox worship in the first decade of XVIII. In 1978-1989, as a project by the architects S.S. Podyapolsky and T.E. Kamenevoi, the facades were restored to some of the architectural forms of the XII and XIII century.

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