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Ensemble of Ferapontov Monastery

The ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery founded by Ferapont in 1398 consists of 6 brick buildings of XV-XVII centuries surrounded by a brick wall of XIX-XX centuries:

  1. the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, 1490,

  2. the Church of the Annunciation with a refectory chamber, 1531,

  3. the Treasury Chamber, XVI century,

  4. St.Martinian Church, 1641,

  5. the Gate Churches, the Churches of Epiphany and St.Ferapont, 1650,

  6. the bell tower, 1680s.

The ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery is located in Ferapontovo of the Kirillov district, the Vologda Oblast. It is unique in its beauty, authenticity and the harmony of architectural details of different centuries. The idea of the ensemble is the depiction of the images of God through architecture and painting. The idea was consequently reflected in devoting the cathedral summer and winter churches in the XV and XVI centuries to the Nativity of the Virgin and the Annunciation, and the gate church in XVII century to the Epiphany. In 1530s the workers from Rostov, while forming the front yard, oriented architectural proportions of the Refectory Church of the Annunciation and the Treasury Chamber with the consideration of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin as the first building of the monastery. Also, in 1640s a Moscow architect, while constructing the gate churches, levelled their heights with the help of the cathedral churches using the same details of the decor (kokoshniki) on the same level. At the same time, the alter of the Church of St.Ferapont is strictly oriented to St.Martinian Church adjoining the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, they are located on the same axis west-east.

The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin is of special significance to the Russian and world culture. According to the text of the chronicle seen on the Northern Door, Dionisy and his sons painted the inside of it from August 6 to September 8,1502. This mural of Dionisy, an outstanding representative of Moscow icon painting school and the leading Russian artist of the late XV - early XVI centuries, is the only one mural of his preserved until now.

After the well-known murals of the XII-XV centuries in Novgorod (Nereditsa, Volotovo, Kovalyevo, Skovorodka) were destroyed by German troops during World War II, the frescoes of Dionisy constitute the only ensemble of frescoes of Ancient Russia now available in this country.

The wall painting of the church covers the area of 600 sq m. This painting of Dionisy is the only one which authenticity was confirmed by documents. The individuality of the wall paintings of Dionisiy lies in the unique tone richness of soft colours, the rhythmic harmony of numerous topics strengthened by the architectural divisions of the church. Particularities of the interconnection between the topic cycles (Akafist to the Virgin, Universal Cathedrals, the Last Judgement and others) and separate compositions both inside and outside the church, as well as colour variety and the philosophical depth, determine the significance of the wall painting of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin for world culture as an outstanding monument of Russian art and culture. Due to never renovated and still fully preserved wall painting, the murals of the church stand out among the orthodox monuments.

The complex of the Ferapontov Monastery with Dionisy's wall painting is a rare instance of preservation and stylistic unity of a Russian north monastery ensemble of XV-XVII centuries in which the typical peculiarities of architecture of the times when the unified Russian state was formed are manifested. The ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery is a bright example of harmonic unity with the practically unaltered surrounding natural landscape which emphasizes the special spiritual essence of northern monks and at the same time reveals the peculiarities of life of the northern peasants.

The buildings of the monastery are the only ones in the Russian North that preserved the characteristic features of decor and interiors. The ensemble of the monastery is the only instance in Russia that has been fully preserving since XVI century the details of interaction between architecture and wall painting created by the most outstanding master of the epoch.

The historical significance of the Ferapontov Monastery founded in the period of strengthening the political influence of Moscow Great Principality is determined by its participation in the crucial events of the epoch when the Russian centralized state was formed. This significance is closely connected with the major historical events which took place in Moscow in XV-XVII centuries: taking the Great Prince Vassily II the Dark prisoner and blinding him, strengthening of power of the first "tsar of all Russia" Ivan III, the birth and the rule of the first Russian tsar Ivan IV, the formation of the dynasty of the Romanovs, the exile of patriarch Nikon.

In the second half of the XV - at the beginning of XVI centuries the Ferapontov Monastery became a major cultural and ideological centre of the Lake Beloe region and one of the famous monasteries whose monks influenced deeply the policy of Moscow.