Suzdal

Founded in 1024, Suzdal is considered to be a masterpiece of Russian medieval architecture and is a marvelous ensemble of 200 religious and civil sites, including 27 bell towers and five monasteries. The first settlements of the 9th and 10th centuries became a fortified town in the 11th century, and, under the protection of the fortress, the place developed as a very important religious center. The construction of several monasteries, mostly during the 13th and 14th centuries, and a merchant settlement, or posad, for traders and handcrafters, rounded out that status. The principality of Vladimir-Suzdal included most of the cities of the Golden Ring and formed the core of ancient Russia, and while the importance of the town declined beginning in the 17th century, that decline allowed the region to retain its medieval architecture in its original condition. Suzdal is surprising for the abundance of monuments in its winding alleyways and on the banks of its numerous streams and ponds, and for allowing the visitor to discover and bask in the atmosphere of an exceptionally preserved Russian settlement in a beautiful, natural environment. Thanks to that, Suzdal is one of the most visited cities of the Golden Ring, being also designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Panoramic tour of Suzdal. The town of Suzdal is unusual in its layout and urban plan: its buildings are scattered across a beautiful landscape of hills, fields, streams, and ponds, all along the Kamenka River. We will tour the town in an effort to grasp the full scope of its artistic heritage and take in its most significant sites: the kremlin, the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthimius, and the Convent of the Intercession. We will also see the intriguing architecture of the St. Alexander Convent (1240), and also the Trade Row, or Merchant’s Court, and the monasteries of St. Basil and the Deposition. One interesting feature we will notice throughout our tour is that most of Suzdal’s churches were built in pairs.

Visit to the Suzdal Kremlin. As is true of all Russian kremlins, this 11th century fortress was the religious, civil and military center of the town, the place where the most important buildings were built, and where they sheltered within the safety of its earthen walls. It is still the heart of the city and the place where most of its main monuments are located, perched at the top of a small hill from which we will enjoy a splendid view of Suzdal. Inside the kremlin the most prominent sight is the Cathedral of the Nativity, with its Golden Gates dating back to the 13th century, five beautiful domes, and stunningly beautiful wall frescoes. Next to it we will find the Archers Gallery and the Cross chamber, both in the 15th century Archbishop Palace. The small, elegant wooden Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1766 near Suzdal, was transferred here from its original location, and contrasting it with the neighboring, partially wooden Church of St. John the Baptist, built in 1720, yields an interesting study in architectural differences.

Visit to the Suzdal Kremlin Museum of Icons, displaying beautiful religious paintings and dedicated to the thousand-year history of the city.

Visit to the Suzdal Museum of Wooden Architecture. Located opposite the Kamenka River and in front of the kremlin and former Dmitriev Monastery, it displays more than 20 merchant houses, peasant farms, mills, churches, and other wooden 18th and 19th century buildings brought here from different corners of the region. It even features demonstrations of traditional work by handcrafters dressed in traditional costumes, permitting us to turn back the clock and step into daily life in a typical Russian town. Its most important buildings are the Transfiguration Wooden Church (1756) and the Resurrection Wooden Church (1776).

Visit to the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthimius. Founded in 1352 as a fortress, it was strengthened thanks to the support of rich merchants and boyars looking for protection against Tatar invasions. It is made up of almost 1200 meters of solid stone defensive walls nine meters high and six meters thick, and punctuated by 12 high watch towers, also featuring many bells brought here from all over the Vladimir region. Tsarina Catherine the Great used the monastery-fortress as a prison for her enemies, and the jail was still in use during the time of the Soviets, who imprisoned  German Marshal Von Paulus here after his defeat in Stalingrad. Inside the monastery we will admire the Church of the Assumption and the Cathedral of the Transfiguration with its seven domes and spectacular steeple. Its interior is decorated with frescoes from 1689 made by Kostroma masters.

Visit to the Convent of the Intercession. Located on the other bank of the Kamenka River, it was built in 1264. Inside its white walls the Cathedral of the Intercession dates back to 1518 and, unlike many other Russian churches, its interior is bare of paintings. Noblemen and tsars used to lock up noble women with whom they had conflicts here, including tsars Vasili III, Ivan the Terrible, and Peter the Great with each of their first wives.