Solovky (essay)

The Solovetsky archipelago or how the Russians call it - Solovky - is one of the most remarkable places of the Russian North. It is situated at the mouth of the Onega Bay of the White Sea. Under the gloomy northern sky among the backwoods lakes on one of countless rocky islands stands the Solovetsky monastery, a most interesting monument of ancient Russian architecture.

Founded in the middle of the 15-th century the monastery fortress was an important post in the defensive system of northern boundaries of Russia. It played almost the same part in the life of the country as the famous Trinity-Sergius monastery (Troytse-Sergievskaya Lavra) near Moscow. Many events of Russian history of the 16-th - 20-th took place there.

Powerful walls with stocky ponderous towers made of enormous erratic blocks surround the Solovetsky monastery. They were erected in the 16-th century.

For a long time the Solovetsky monastery was the place of imprisonment of the people who were considered state or church criminals. Also in the early 20-th there was SLON - the Solovetsky Camp of the Special Purposes, the most famous political prison of the Red Terror times.

Powerful walls with stocky ponderous towers made of enormous erratic blocks surround the Solovetsky monastery. They were erected in 16-th century.

The central cathedral of the monastery, the cathedral or the Transfiguration, built in the middle of the 16-th century is both simple and majestic. Close to it stands another ancient cathedral - the cathedral of the Assumption laid up almost simultaneously with the cathedral of the Transfiguration. It was designed for daily services. The vast Refectory is adjacent to it on the west side. Its vaults are similar to those of the Moscow Faceted Hall.

Besides that on the territory of the monastery are the Trinity cathedral and the Saint Nicholas church, both build in the 19-th century and a big tower of the 18-th century remarkable for its expressive outline.

The cathedrals of the Solovetsky monastery are linked by numerous passages forming a kind of the second circle of the buildings. It served for certain defensive purposes in the past.
The ensemble of the Solovetsky monastery includes a great number of dwelling houses and outhouses, the "house of 1615" and the "house of 1642" being the most important among them. Of exceptional interest is the Water mill of the 17-th century - the unique industrial construction in Russian architecture of that time. All these buildings are distinguished by austerity, its embellishments are reduced to some flat pilasters and cornices with ornamental motifs made of figured bricks.

Around the monastery and on the islands some other monasteries, churches, chapels, cells and inns were built at different times. They are in keeping with the surrounding landscape.

The Solovetsky monastery is a unique and striking phenomenon in Russian architecture. It is the greatest architectural ensemble of ancient Russia in the north of the country. The fortress aspect of many buildings and cathedrals, austerity and monumentality of its forms, the use of stone as building material - these are the characteristic features of this outstanding monument of Russian culture.


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