06/10/2021, 12.43
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Kizhi Pogost ‘nailess’ church reopens after 40 years

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord, it is a Unesco world heritage site. More important than the Kremlin. It houses the masterpiece of the golden iconostasis. After almost 100 years of silence, the celebration of the divine liturgies is planned inside.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The famous 22-domed church on the island of Kiži in Karelia has reopened its doors after 40 years of closure. Visitors were able to admire the exclusive golden iconostasis, also carved in wood like the whole building, a very rare example of the popular architecture of ancient Russia.

The church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord is part of the UNESCO list of "World Heritage Sites", in second place among Russian sites, only behind the historic centre of St. Petersburg and in front of the Moscow Kremlin. Its restoration required lengthy care, considering the particular nature of the church built only with an ax, but without nails, through the joinery of the wooden planks as was traditional in medieval Russia.

In the 1950s the famous Russian restorer Aleksandr Opolovnikov took care of the church, who detached the upper boards with the metal roofs, restoring the place of worship to its original appearance. Inside, he arranged the scaffolding for the subsequent works, closing the building to visitors.

Opolovnikov dismantled the internal parts, including the iconostasis, replacing those that were too damaged. The overall weight of the religious complex is 600 tons, and over 3 thousand logs were used to restore it.

The most delicate works were those of the iconostasis: a unique masterpiece, one of the largest wooden walls of sacred images in the world. The central height exceeds seven meters; the length exceeds 24. The iconostasis consists of four rows of icons, according to the traditions of the processions of the saints around Christ and the Virgin Mary in the Deisis.

The iconostasis fits into the entire wooden architecture of the church of the Transfiguration, filling the entire space with a very special "mystical" lightness. The gilding that surrounds each image “spreads a sense of warmth and pacification”, as the chief curator of the museums of the great north of Russia, Anastasia Dibrova, comments.

For the reopening, which took place on June 6, a party was organized for the youngest, also inviting an ecclesiastical children's choir curated by the Valaam monastery, the great Russian sanctuary in the north. The children sang liturgical hymns and traditional songs, reviving the church with the enthusiasm of popular union. The triumph of the Orthodox faith will also soon be renewed, with the celebration of the divine liturgies after almost 100 years of silence.

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