Kizhi Island, Russia

Kizhi Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia housing The Kizhi Pogost, a unique historical, cultural, and natural open-air museum of wooden architecture and cultural history listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. The island is near the geometrical center of the Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia. It is elongated from north to south and is about 6 km long, 1 km wide and is about 68 km away from the capital of Karelia, Petrozavodsk.



Settlements and churches on the island were known from at least the 15th century. In the 18th century, The Kizhi Pogost, which is a wooden ensemble of The Church of the Transfiguration, The Church of the Intercession, and bell tower, was built on the island. In the 1950s, dozens of historical wooden buildings were moved to the island from various parts of Karelia for preservation purposes.

The ensemble bears evidence of the highly developed carpentry skills of the Russian people. The Church of the Transfiguration is a monument with exceptional architectural and structural features. It has no parallel in either Russian or global wooden architecture. Considered by locals as the true wonder of the World, it gave birth to the legend about Master Nestor, who built the 37m high nail-less church using nothing but an axe.

The Church of the Transfiguration was used during the summer, when the faithful journeyed from the outermost regions of the parish to attend services. A dendrochronogical study of the materials sets its construction date after 1713-1714. The octagon, which defines the composition of the cruciform church, is extended by oblong bays facing the 4 cardinal points. The nave, flanked with side aisles, is preceded on the west by a projecting narthex reached via 2 staircases.



The height of the Church of the Transfiguration, whose central cupola culminates at 37m, is a masterpiece of a multi-storey, multi-cupola, and single-block structure. Here, over a central volume covered with 3 octagonal frames, the architect placed bochkas (roofs whose peak is shaped like a horizontal cylinder with the upper surface extended into a pointed ridge) topped with 22 bulbous cupolas. Inside, under the so-called "heaven" - a superb vault shaped like a truncated pyramid - there is a gilded wood iconostasis holding 102 icons from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Church of the Intercession, the winter church, refers to "ship type" churches and is a simpler structure. Built in 1764, it is of the "octagonal prism on a cube" type. Its elegant crown of 8 cupolas is a unique element in Russian wooden architecture as this type of church was traditionally crowned with a tent roof. The 8 cupolas encircle the 27m high central onion dome, and which covers the central parallelepiped space, gives it a more static appearance. To the east a 5-sided small apse contains the altar. To the west is a long nave accessible by a single stairway.

The 30 meters-high bell tower is of the traditional "octagon on cube" type with a high cube. The belfry crowns the structure. It has 9 posts supporting the tent roof with an onion dome covered with shingles.