Conservation & Preservation

Russia pledges 120 million rubles to restore warping wooden church

Built without a single nail, the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour will have to be taken apart in order to save it

The Russian government will spend 120 million rubles ($4.3 million) over the next 10 years to restore the 18th-century wooden Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. Built in 1714, the church is the main attraction at the Kizhi open-air museum of Russian wooden architecture, located on an island in the middle of Lake Onega not far from Petrozavodsk, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Karelia, which borders Finland. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2014, in time for the church’s 300th anniversary. The 37-metre-high structure is said to have been built without a single nail and is spectacularly crowned by 22 multi-storeyed cupolas. In the early 1980s, metal scaffolding was installed inside the building in an effort to halt the warping of its wooden walls and roof. In 1989, the church was included in Unesco’s World Heritage site list. Throughout the 1990s Kizhi grew in popularity as an international tourist destination and the government realised something had to be done to prevent possible ruin to one of its greatest attractions. Conservators said they will take apart the church piece by piece, but will try to restore the original wooden blocks and avoid substituting new ones. Kizhi museum totals over 80 wooden structures, including the Church of Lazar Murom, a 14th-century church believed to be the oldest example of wooden architecture in Russia. Kizhi, whose original settlements date to the 14th century, was opened to the public as an open-air museum in 1966. Besides architecture, Kizhi has a collection of over 100 rare icons of the northern Russian School dating to the 16th to 18th centuries.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 154 January 2005