District of Ustyuzhna
Two stately stone structures - the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Church of the Kazan Virgin - were restored to their original 17th century appearance. They provide characteristic examples of the local architectural style.
The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin was erected at the confluence of two rivers - the Vorozh and the Mologa. On the eastern wall of the cathedral is a stone plaque with the date "May 30, 1685" - the date of its foundation. Its consecration took place on September 6, 1690. Initially the cathedral was a timbered structure. But the building was ruined by fire in 1677. Now the stone building of the cathedral makes a profound impression. The building gives a feeling of energy, of powerful striving of the architectural masses towards the sky.
Inside the cathedral is decorated with carved gilt iconostasis. Most icons were painted by the masters of the Moscow Kremlin Armoury Museum - Kirill Ulanov, Tikhon Philatyev, Ivan Bezmin (late 17th century). The icon of the Virgin Hodegetria (late 15th century) was one of the most worshipped Russian Orthodox icons along with the icons of the Virgins of Vladimir, Smolensk and Kazan. It is one of very few icons believers consider capable of performing miracles. Its reputed miracles are numerous and include healing the sick, and helping to get rid of troubles. The icon of the Virgin Hodegetria features an original element - it is studded with precious stones.
Now the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin houses the Ustyuzhna Museum of Local Lore. Early works of Russian art can be found in the museum. Though this collection is not very large, it merits special attention. It reveals the background of Russian painting. On display are distaffs, carved and blacksmith's works, embroidery. Quite valuable is the collection of oil painting (18th-19th centuries). Some pictures belong to the brush of I.Aivazovsky, B.Kustodiev, Y.Klever and others.
In the late 19th century the town housed a faience factory. It belonged to I.Nebaronov. Its production - mostly kitchen utensils - was known throughout Russia. After the demise of the owner in 1889, the factory fell into decay. Some earthenware, executed with great skill, is presented in the museum of local lore.
The Kazan Church together with the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin form the nucleus of the town's historical centre. The Kazan Church located on the right bank of the river Mologa was raised in 1694. Like the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin it had been a wooden building before 1660.
The building of the Kazan Church is embellished with intricate decorative patterns from white, finely worked stone. Unfortunately the name of the architect is not known and the specialists do not agree about the craftsman who made it. Some believe the church to be the work of Stepan Narykov (late 17th century). He spent years learning abroad. The influence of East European baroque design which is characterized by vertically elongated forms can be noticed in it.
The interior decorated with frescoes is splendid. It was designed to testify to the wealth and might of the state. The frescoes are unique work of art reflecting the talent of the masters who created them. They have the likeness to Yaroslavl art of the beginning of the 18th century. At the same time they express the influence of new ideas in the Russian art of the 18th century. The main original element is the colour range (brown, dark-green and black) which comes to be associated with a new stage in spiritual life of the Russian people - epoch of values of earthly blessings. As far as the colour range of the Yaroslavl frescoes is concerned it employs ochre deluted with light blue. The conclusion can be drawn that all the changes in the Russian painting testify to the decline of the old Russian art that made people feel lofty.
Not far from the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin is the Church of the Annunciation. It dates back to the 16th century. In the 17th-18th centuries it accommodated a convent. In 1722 the town of Ustyuzhna was hit by fire again. It ruined 170 dwelling houses and many temples, the Church of the Annunciation among them. In 1762 a stone structure of the church was raised for the money collected by ordinary people. In the course of restoration in 1978 the original colour range was revealed. It employed black, yellow and red ochre.
Next to the temple, forming with it an imposing ensemble, stand the Side-Chapel of St.Demetrius of Rostov and the Side-Chapel of Archangel Mikhail.
The Danilovskoye estate is located 15 km off Ustyuzhna. In the 18th century it belonged to N.Batyushkov, the father of the remarkable Russian poet Konstantin Batyushkov. His father was a gubernia prosecutor. After he retired he settled at the Danilovskoye estate. Konstantin spent his childhood in Danilovskoye. Later, in 1906-1911 A.Kuprin, the famous Russian writer, lived there. Now it is the Batyushkov and Kuprin Memorial Flat. The interior of the rooms was restored thanks to the contemporaries.