Suzdal (a.m.) / Moscow (p.m.), Russia

  • Date
  • 26 August 1999
  • Lodging
  • Hotel Baltschug Kempinski
  • Distance
  • 329 KM
  • Total
  • 37804 KM

The Golden Ring is a modern name for a loop of ancient towns that were the political and cultural center of Russia long before Moscow was even founded. As Kiev declined, these outposts of main towns grew and took the prominence that Kiev once held.

Historians say the most important surviving structures in the Golden Ring are three 12th-century buildings in and near Vladimir: the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Cathedral of St. Dmitry and the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl (see 25 August 1999 observations for notes on this cathedral). These structures show the link between 11th century Kiev architecture and that of 15th century Moscow.

The Church of St. Dmitry (1193-97) is a white stone structure, which was under renovation when we visited so we viewed little inside. The exterior, almost completely restored, glowed with glory. The detailed stone carvings of images – animals, mythical creatures and some Christian – were detailed and positioned around doorways and domes. Sergiev Posad
From Vladimir, we drove to Sergiev Posad to visit Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, which was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1988 when the Patriarch moved to Moscow. Outside the walled-off, secured monastery, scores of beggars, young and old, touched us and followed us yearning for money.

Inside the grounds we first visited the Trinity Cathedral, built in the 1420s, which is the heart of the monastery. Inside it is dark and chilly. A replica of an icon by Andrey Rublyov and his disciples attracted a long line of people who waited to touch and kiss this icon replica. The original Old Testament Trinity icon is on display in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

We visited the Cathedral of the Assumption, with star-spangled domes, where a service was just underway. Here a non-Russian couple stood together and the man draped his arms around the woman’s shoulders. A babushka came over and motioned they should not touch. I stood watching the hundreds of people inside, many worshipping, but most, like me, watching the ornate surroundings and the serious service. Supposedly Ivan the Terrible gave money to finish the cathedral in 1585 in a show of remorse over killing his son.