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Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior with the Medieval Rampart City Wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky (1152-1157)

Date of Submission: 16/09/2019
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Yaroslavsl district, City of Pereslavl-Zalessky
Ref.: 6427

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Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior: N56 44 12 E38 51 09; 1.1 ha
Rampart City Wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky: N56 44 13.9 E38 51 12.4; 2.5 ha

The nomination consists of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior, erected 1152-1157, the earliest preserved example of ancient Russian white-stone architecture, and the surrounding defensive wall of the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky. This city was founded by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, ruler of the Rostov-Suzdal Principality, on the bank of Plescheyevo Lake in the 12th century and built simultaneously with the Cathedral of the Transfiguration.

The ancient rampart city wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky surrounds the historical center of the city. The wall's inner border, which surrounds the Pereslavl Kremlin, coincides almost its entire length with the Valovoe Ring street (named after the wall, in Russian “Val”). In the north, the natural boundary of the wall is the Trubezh River. In the east and south, the rampart borders with the Bolshaya Protechnaya street, in the west – with the housing of Trubezhskaya street. The Transfiguration cathedral is located in the northern part of the Pereslavl Kremlin. The designated border of the cultural heritage site of the Transfiguration cathedral almost completely covers the central square of the city – Krasnaya.

Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior

The Transfiguration Cathedral of Pereslavl-Zalessky (ancient name of the city was Pereyaslavl-New), which is proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List, is unique since it is one of the earliest and the only well-preserved example of north-eastern medieval Russian architecture. The surrounding city wall is also unique in its size and authenticity. This was one of the largest fortifications of its time in Russia. The area of the Pereslavl Kremlin is about 28 hectares, while the fortified part of the Upper Town of Kiev, the capital of the Kievan Rus occupied 10 hectares1. The rampart city wall of Pereslavl has been preserved intact, which makes it an invaluable monument of Old Russian defensive architecture.

Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky (1090-e-1157), the founder of the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky, was the sixth son of Vladimir Monomakh, the ruler of the Kievan State, and was far from being the first in the line of heirs to the grand Kievan reign, although towards the end of his life, for a brief period of time, he was able to occupy the Kievan throne. In 1113, Prince Yuri Vladimirovich was given the Rostov-Suzdal Principality on the far outskirts of the Kievan State. His capital was Rostov, but in 1125 he moved it from Rostov to Suzdal. After a long internecine struggle for power over Kiev in the 1130s and 40s, Yuri Dolgoruky returned to Suzdal in the early 1150s and began to strengthen his principality. Yuri Dolgoruky pursued a policy of colonization of his northeastern lands by immigrants from South-Western Russia. To accommodate those, he founded a whole series of new cities, which were to become his new administrative centers. It is known that in 1151, during a brief reign in Kiev, Prince Yuri managed to seize the Kiev treasury. This provided the means for the intensive development of the northeastern lands and the construction of new cities and churches.

Among these were Dmitrov, Yuriev-Polskoy and Moscow. Also, according to some historians, he founded Zvenigorod, Dubna, Peremyshl, Kostroma, and other cities. Dolgoruky's activities present a picture of nothing less than extensive urban planning system and fortress development. Pereslavl-Zalessky occupies a peculiar place in this system. Its name comes from the old city of Pereaslavl in the Kievan State, whose residents Yuri Dolgoruky transferred to the new city. In his article devoted to analysis of Yuri Dolgoruky’s construction activities, architectural historian S.V. Zagraevsky cites a well-known chronical account: “… Prince Yuri in Suzdal be, and God cleared his eyes to the church building. And many churches he had put in Suzdal country, … transferred the city from Kleshchyn to Pereslavl, and built a great city, and the church of the Savior of stones established, and provided the holy books and marvelous relics of the saints... ”

The large dimensions of the fortress and the monumentality of the TransfigurationCathedral suggest that Pereslavl was intended to become a new center of the Rostov- Suzdal (later Vladimir-Suzdal) Principality. Prominent art and architecture historian, I.E. Grabar described the role of the Transfiguration cathedral in the history of Russian architecture: “It still does not have the slenderness that is so striking in the Vladimir churches of the subsequent time; it is much more squat, stocky and archaic than those, but it is important for us because it is essentially the only surviving monument out of those that could have served as prototypes for the later churches.”

The Transfiguration cathedral is one of the few ancient Russian monuments, the date and circumstances of construction of which are beyond doubt. In the year 6660 (1152 modern chronology) several chronicles contain entries about the return of Grand Duke Yuri Dolgoruky to Suzdal land and construction of many churches, including the Savior-Transfiguration Cathedral. The cathedral is characteristic of the Russian architecture of the 10-12th centuries (the period before the Mongol invasion of Rus). It is a type of one-domed, сross-in-square church. It was a deliberate simplification of the other type that was used in Kievan Rus and Novgorod the Great, of elaborate multidomed churches usually surrounded by galleries and side-chapels. The Transfiguration Cathedral was the first white-stone construction in Vladimir-Suzdal Rus. For the first time in the Suzdal land, architects used the Western European Romanesque construction technique of buildings made of natural stone, the so-called “rubble masonry”, which was then used in the Russian architecture up to the 14th century. Its essence was that the space between two rows of carefully hewn squares of white stone was filled with broken stone and lime mortar. The new construction technology gave the building a look of solidity, which was not typical for the architecture of the previous period. Describing the masonry of the cathedral walls, architectural historian N.N. Voronin emphasized the high precision of the block fitting: “Stacked of perfectly hewn squares of white stone almost “dry” [without mortar], so that the seams were barely visible to the eye, the cathedral seems to be carved out of a giant block of white stone. However, the very surface of the stone was devoid of blandness, since it had texture and bore traces of spoon-like furrows from its processing.” When constructing the Transfiguration cathedral, the architects developed a new artistic language, which allowed to create a unique style based on the fusion of the Byzantine tradition of spatial organization and Romanesque practice of monumental constructions. This style influenced the subsequent development of Russian architecture.

The almost square volume of the cathedral is finished with a light tholobate (or a drum) with a bulbous dome. The semicircles of zakomaras, circumventing the volume of the cathedral, unite the facades. The facades look arrayed surfaces, forming an architectural composition that is remarkable in its entirety. The bottom half of the building walls is thicker than the upper part, and an offset ledge divides the wall between the lower and upper halves. It has a slight slope to the center. The apses walls also have a slight slope out of the surface of the eastern wall. The planes of the facades are divided into three parts with lesenes, the stepped shape of which resembles buttresses. Only semi-circular window openings located in the upper part, cut through the massive wall.Slit-like simple unframed windows caused some researchers to compare them with embrasures. Window and door openings have no frames, which only emphasizes the power of the massive walls. Doorways located in the central areas of each facade have stepped portals. At the present time, the 19th century door joinery fillings and the 17th century restored double wing wrought doors are preserved.

The Romanesque influence on the Transfiguration Cathedral is evident not only in the construction technology and material selection, but also in the architectural design of the facades. It includes Romanesque decor elements: on the eaves of the apse there is an arcature band, a dog-tooth stonework, and an ornamental band; on the drum there is a toothed corbel band, a dog-tooth stonework and a semicircular roller band. These elements do not have specific prototypes, although many researchers refer to the imperial cathedral in Speyer (Germany) as a model. However, other historians have rightly pointed out that the analogue of the toothed corbel band on the drum of the Transfiguration cathedral look similar to one at the church of San Giovanni Battista in Ravenna. It is impossible to distinguish work of any particular architect. Most likely, the masters freely worked in the stylistic framework of the Romanesque décor style.

The interior of the cathedral strikes with a harmony of space. This is a four-pillar church divided into three longitudinal naves. Orderly lined white-stone masonry is one of its artistic elements. Crossed pillars, slightly tilted to the center, increase the verticality of the interior. One of the features of the interior was the elevation of the tops of the arches, which have not a simple half-round, but a complex curvilinear outline with an elevated central part. Romanesque details were used in the interior as well. Fusts (shafts) of pillars and pilasters are made in the form of a flattened roller. All features of the internal space are reflected on the facades of the building. The offset ledge that separates the bottom part from the upper part of the walls is located at the level of the choir. The lesene blades inside the cathedral correspond to the same ones on the facades. For example, the eastern parts of the northern and southern facades are somewhat narrower than the western parts. The same can be observed in the interior, where the eastern pillars almost merge with the altar piers. Originally colored tile floors and frescoes emphasized the solemnity of the internal space. Currently, the floors are made of white-stone slabs. Only fragments of ornamental oil painting in the choirs have been preserved. In the north-western corner there is a spiral metal staircase. The 19th century marble altar barrier was carved in pseudo-Byzantine style. In the south-western part of the cathedral, under the choirs, tombstones of the Pereslavl princes are located, the marble facing of which was made during restoration work in the late 19th century. A memorial plaque on the history of the cathedral was installed inside after the 1891-1894 restoration. The Transfiguration Cathedral of Pereslavl became an expression of ecclesiastical and princely power. The ceremonies of the “setting for reign” of the Pereslavl princes were held here. In the 13th century, Pereslavl experienced five invasions of the Tatars, which resulted in damage to the cathedral. The last princes of Pereslavl — the son and grandson of Alexander Yaroslavovich Nevsky — were buried in the cathedral. In 1311, a Russian orthodox church convention was held to judge the archbishop Peter.

Medieval Rampart City Wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky The earthen rampart of the ancient fortress of Pereslavl-Zaleski is a magnificent example of Russian defense architecture of the 12th century. The city was placed at the junction of the strategic land road and the old water trade route. In order to travel from Rostov to Chernigov and Ryazan principality by land, one had to enter the fortress of Pereyaslavl. Located on the shores of the largest tributary of the lake Plescheevo, the city began to control one of the most important trade routes from Novgorod to Bulgar, on Kama River. The Nikon chronicle account for the year of 1152 reads that Prince Yuri Vladimirovich established a fortress where the River Trubezh flows into Lake Kleschino (now Plescheevo). "... and the city of Pereslavl transferred from Kleshchyn, and created it the larger than the old, and put there the stone church of the Holy Savior ...". The Pereslavl fortress became the largest not only among the old cities of northeast Russia, but also among those newly built by the prince. The length of the ramparts, representing a complex engineering structure, is about 2.5 km. The old ramparts, to date, have largely retained the height and width of the ridge of about six meters.

According to the observation of the cultural historian S. Avernintsev, medieval people perceived the city walls as the boundaries of a certain “cosmos” opposed to chaos: these were “enclosed inner city space orderly organized around churches, fenced with strong walls from chaotic spaces in the steppe, the place of the princely court, the focus of faith and knowledge. For the people, this presented such a clear image of the arranged “house” of Wisdom, isolated from the “outer darkness”, about which we can hardly have an idea.” The second important observation is that “for a medieval person, in its semantic aspect, the city is associated with a temple; the city is like a spacious temple, the church is like a center of the city, and both are images of the same ideal: Heavenly Jerusalem.” (S.S. Averintsev). The value of the wall as a stronghold, as an organizational and symbolic basis of an urban settlement, is very significant. The fortress was a symbol of the city, the most consecrated part of it. In the light of this quotation, the transfer of the city from Kleshchyn to Pereslavl and the construction of a powerful city wall can be explained not only by defense against external enemies, but also by the protection of the inner spiritual world of the medieval city dweller.

The peculiarity of Pereslavl-Zalessky as a fortress was that here, in contrast to the ancient Novgorod, Pskov, Suzdal and Moscow, there was no established name for the area inside the ramparts. In Novgorod it was Detinets, in Pskov - Krom, in Suzdal and Moscow - Kremlin. Here, in Pereslavl, the inner space of the ramparts received its name of the kremlin already in modern time. The territory inside the fortress walls housed not only the princely court, but also the courtyards of the feudal nobility, warriors’ units, churches and public buildings (prison). It was an area administratively united. Probably, such an organization of space can be explained by the fact that the prince wanted to make the city not only a defensive, but also an administrative, political and religious center.

The emergence of a new city near the existing ancient settlement of Kleshchin was caused not only by political conditions, but above all, because of the change of types of defense architecture.

The fortresses of the southern and north-western Russian principalities followed the principles of the Slavic settlements of the so-called “cape” type. In this case, constructors usually used relief features: high river banks or ravine slopes, as well as places at the confluence of two rivers as a natural barrier. From the “field” side, the fortresses were defended with a moat. Most of ancient Russian cities were built according to this arrangement: Kiev, Pskov, Novgorod, Vladimir, and also the ancient Kleschin on the southern shore of the Pleshcheyevo lake.

As B.A. Rybakov, a well-known archaeologist, noticed, by the 12th century, cities became not only economic centers, but first and foremost centers of feudal rule. These were spread throughout the fertile plains in the interfluve of the Oka and Volga rivers. They protected not only trade routes, but also provided security for the surrounding rural settlements. Along with the usual “cape” type fortresses, or fortresses erected on the open elevated plateaus, construction of a new type of fortresses had started, the round fortresses in the plain areas of valleys. These provided all-around visibility and all around defense, which allowed to equally effectively protect all the wall sections. The main means of defense were mighty earthen ramparts with fortified walls mounted on top. Building of such fortresses was possible only in open areas, in new locations, by choosing a convenient site. Perhaps this reason was the main one in the decision to lay a new city on the shore of the Kleschino lake. Its layout combined a “cape” type with a “plain” type fortress design. The erection of the fortress on the flat land required a lot of labor, as it was accompanied by a huge amount of earthworks. Famous archeologist and researcher of Russian architecture P.A. Rappoport estimated that 60,000 man-days were spent to construct another fortress, in the city of Yuriev-Polsky, which was smaller than Pereslavl.

The ramparts of the Pereslavl ancient fortress were preserved and are now a cultural heritage site of federal significance. The old chronicle dates the beginning of the construction of the earthen wall in 1152, as well as the cathedral. The chronicle known as the “Chronicler of Pereslavl Suzdal”, mentioned the end of the construction of the church “in Pereyaslavl the New” by Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky after his father died in the summer of 6665 (1157). The earthen rampart wall was reinforced with a wooden fortress. Its construction was begun by the Grand Duke Vsevolod on July 29, 6703 (1195), and was finished the same year. The construction of the earthen ramparts began in 1152 under Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky, and was completed by his son Andrei. A new fortress was placed on the left bank of the River Trubezh not far from its mouth, where the waters of the river washed out a small depression that contributed to navigation. From the east, Murash Stream came to the fortress, and from the south and the west, a moat was dug. The pear-shaped fortress was earthen, with wooden walls, watch towers, and gate towers. Archaeologists have established that the ramparts were complex engineering structures. Oak and aspen log structures were built and filled with clay and dirt to a height of 30 cm. On top of those more dirt with sand was poured. To prevent sliding the slopes, they were reinforced on the outside with vertically installed shafts. The same shafts with sharpened tops were installed into the bottom of the moat surrounding the fortress. The outer mound of the rampart facing the “field” had a significant inclination, up to 45 degrees. The earthen rampart surrounds the modern center of the city and has a total length of about 2500 meters (if excluding the length of the passages, the length of the ramparts is 2110 m). The width of the rampart’s base reaches from 25 to 30 meters, and the height of the ramparts is from ten to 16 meters in some areas. The width of the ridge of the rampart, on which wooden walls originally stood, is about six meters.

Historical events of national importance occurred in the ancient fortress throughout its lifetime. Here, in the prince's palace near the rampart and the Transfiguration Cathedral, Alexander Yaroslavovich Nevsky was born in 1220, honored Russian prince and the Orthodox Church Saint, who won battles over German and Swedish invaders in the 1240s. The ramparts still play an important role in shaping the urban structure of the central part of the city. With a small exception, they are preserved in their historical dimensions, which represents a great rarity for defensive structures of the 12th century.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Transfiguration Cathedral. The city of Pereslavl-Zalessky was founded by the Suzdal Prince Yuri Dolgoruky in 1152 on the banks of the Pleshcheyevo Lake at the mouth of the river Trubezh, not far from the already existed ancient settlement of Kleschin. Prince Yuri assigned Pereslavl the role of a new political center of North-East Russia. In addition, the new fortress had to become an integrated part of the developed system of fortifications of Vladimir-Suzdal Rus, being the largest among those. The Transfiguration Cathedral and the City Wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky were built simultaneously during 1152-1157, and represent a single ensemble. The choice of location for the construction of the cathedral near the city fortifications was not accidental. Their close proximity to each other indicates that they were part of a single fortification system. Although archaeologists did not find evidence of galleries or passages from the cathedral to the wall, the architecture of the cathedral indicates that the cathedral and the city wall were connected. A covered door on the western part of the northern facade of the cathedral that faces the wall, provides for that.

The Transfiguration Cathedral should be considered a turning point in the history of ancient Russian architecture, which determined its further development over the next two hundred years, until the 14th century. In many respects, it became a “pilot” model and a prototype for the entire white-stone architecture of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality. It was the first and the most outstanding architectural work that survived until our time, in which the Western-European white stone construction technology new to Vladimir-Suzdal Russia was introduced. According to the historians of architecture, the commissioner of the church, Prince Yuri, heir to the Kiev-Byzantine cultural tradition, consciously chose examples of Romanesque architecture to follow, as he sought to integrate his principality into the mainstream European civilization process. In his buildings, he abandoned the complexity inherent in the multi-domed cathedrals of Kiev and Novgorod, built in Byzantine style, in favor to the simpler and smaller singledomed cross-in-square archetype, which allowed use of white stones as building material. The natural stone was the material of the imperial cathedrals of the Holy Roman Empire, more difficult to process and more expensive than the bricks and plinths that were usual for the Kievan Rus construction. The use of white stone was supposed to emphasize the special role of Pereslavl-Zalessky as a new administrative center of the principality and establish Prince Yuri as a rich and influential ruler.

The Transfiguration Cathedral was not only the first experience of using the Romanesque construction technique of white stone, but remained the most perfect example of it among all the surviving ancient Russian buildings. The craftsmanship of white stone masonry made of smoothly hewn squares of stone is so great that the walls seem like a single stone. In 2015, during the process of restoration work, washing off the lime plaster uncovered seams up to 18 mm wide.

The decoration of the cathedral also has Romanesque prototypes. Compositional and architectural design of the facades and interiors of the church using Romanesque elements give it a kind of austere simplicity: modest decoration is concentrated in the upper part of the cathedral: arcature, dog-tooth stonework, and an ornamental band on the apses of the church, and a toothed corbel band of the tholobate.

In addition, in the Transfiguration Cathedral, the builders used for the first time original volumetric-spatial and construction techniques, which were used in many later constructions. Here, the architects have developed a type of cross-in-square single domed ecclesiastical building, that rooted in the Byzantine tradition, yet new to the Russian architecture. This archetype was subsequently developed by the contractors of Andrei Bogolyubsky, the son and successor of Prince Yuri. According to architectural historian, A.I. Komech, “in summarizing the analysis of architectural monuments of the Yuri Dolgoruky era, it is necessary to note the clear dependence of the size and shape of both the plan and the vertical construction of churches on the size of their domed square. The main composition of the facades is subordinate to the bulk composition, so the appearance of the churches gives a complete picture of their interiors. This quality, as well as the aforementioned subordination of all the basic forms only to the sizes of the domed square, clearly shows the specifics of the architectural thinking of the architects.”2 This was the innovative essence of the Transfiguration Cathedral, which served as the basis for the subsequent creations of the Vladimir-Suzdal architects.

A distinctive feature of the cathedral is that, despite some massiveness and static nature of the architectural masses, it yet gives an impression of verticality. This effect was created by a decrease in the thickness of the walls above the ledge level. The architects also used optical corrections, in particular the inclination of the walls and the slight elongation of the arches. With these techniques, they visually increased the height of the cathedral.

Another distinctive innovative feature is that the builders found the optimal algorithm for structural robustness, ensuring maximum strength of the building. Violation of this algorithm caused collapse of the upper parts of a number of ecclesiastical buildings, for example, the Saint George Cathedral in Yuriev-Polskoi and the church of the Golden Gate in Vladimir. Due to the perfection of the construction and technology, Pereslavl’s Cathedral stood without significant damage and did not require repairs for more than seven hundred years. The combination of immaculate proportions, an array of white-stone walls and the austere decoration, the integrity of the spatial plan with the towering appearance of the exterior, create a unique artistic image of the Transfiguration Cathedral. The compositional and architectural design of the facades, including the Romanesque motif of decoration and the division of the wall planes with lesenes, define the solemn rhythm that gives the building its sculptural monumentality. The stately simplicity and confident might of the cathedral would have had a strong emotional impact on its contemporaries; they are no less admired by the today's viewer.

Ancient Russian ecclesiastical architecture is an integral part of human cultural heritage, and the Transfiguration Cathedral occupies a distinguished place in that heritage. It combines the Byzantine tradition of spatial composition and the Western European technologies of construction and decorative ornamentation of architectural structures. This was not just a mechanical merging of incompatible elements together, but a creative interpretation of the main principles of the ecclesiastical architecture of the East and West. In this masterpiece, the Byzantine and Romanesque traditions blended into a new distinctive architectural style of white-stone architecture of Vladimir-Suzdal Russia. Decorative, technological and design techniques, first used in its construction, served as a model for the white-stone monuments of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, recognized as part of the world cultural heritage.

The earthworks of the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky. In the Middle Ages, having defensive fortifications around cities of Eastern and Western Europe was necessary for survival, and Pereslavl-Zalessky was not unique un having a defensive wall. However, Pereslavl stands out among numerous Russian fortresses. The city's wall is one of the most exceptional and a nearly perfectly preserved examples of the transition to a new type of fortification architecture, namely construction of valley fortresses as opposed to elevated places. This stage is characterized by a new way of interaction between natural and man-made landscapes. The place for the new fortified city of Pereslavl was chosenin a lowland, in contrast to the old settlement of Kleschin located on a high bank near the lake. Waters of the river Trubezh and the Murmash creek, between which a channel was dug, secured access to the city. The Pereslavl city wall was the longest and highest line of fortifications of the second half of the 12th century (the length of the walls is about 2500 meters, the height of the wall from ten to up to 16 meters). The large size of the fortress suggests that Prince Yuri Dolgoruky intended for the city to become a new administrative center of his principality. High pear-shaped rampart wall with the wooden fortress on top formed the panorama of the cityscape, standing out against the background of the natural valley. The fortress not only provided defense capability for the city, but also responded to the prince’s political ambitions and aesthetic needs of the feudal elite.

Contractors used a very solid construction of walls, which was based on wooden log structures filled with clay and earth. In spite of the fact that, for centuries the fortifications withstood numerous attacks aimed to destroy them, the walls of Pereslavl-Zalessky not only withheld, but also kept the basic parameters of the original architecture. The earthen walls of Pereslavl-Zalessky are deservedly considered to be an outstanding work of the ancient Russian defensive architecture of the 12th century. They served as a model for fortifications of the north-east of Russia during the period of feudal fragmentation. The originality of the engineering construction of the walls, the expressiveness of the composition, outstanding dimensions, the ensemble connection with the Transfiguration Cathedral, the harmony with the surrounding landscape and the surrounding buildings, place them among the outstanding monuments of world culture.

Criterion (i): The medieval ensemble of the Transfiguration of the Savior Cathedral and the City Wall - a masterpiece of ancient Russian construction and architectural and engineering thought.

Justification: The Transfiguration Cathedral combines perfection of white-stone masonry, the integrity of its appearance and the strength that resulted from the application of innovative methods and construction technologies. Among them, the development of a simplified scheme of the cross-in-square single-domed church; the proportioning system, based on a single module: the dependence of the size and shape of both the plan and the vertical construction of the church on the size of the domed square; determination of the structural robustness algorithm; compliance of the external forms of the church with the internal construction of volumes; and tendency to spatial verticality. The use of a combination of constructive, technological and artistic methods led to the creation of a majestic image of the cathedral and proves the high professional level of its creators. The city wall is a complex engineering structure: at its base wooden structures were installed, which were filled with earth, and gave strength to the fortress.

Some archeological evidence indicates functional connection between the fortifications wall and the cathedral. The fortress was the compositional center of the left-bank part of the city. The Transfiguration Cathedral and the City Wall work as ensemble. They both enhance the cityscape, and are significant in forming the city panorama from the Pleshcheevo lake and surrounding valleys.

Criterion (ii): The Transfiguration Cathedral (1152-1157) is the first example of the creative fusion of Western European Romanesque style and the Byzantine tradition of church construction, which opened a new stage in the church architecture of North-Eastern Russia and served as a prototype for subsequent construction.

Justification: At the time of construction of the Transfiguration of the Savior Cathedral, the Byzantine and Romanesque architectural traditions merged into a new unique style of white-stone architecture in the large part of Eastern Europe, Vladimir-Suzdal Rus. It blended together a Byzantine tradition of spatial composition, Western European techniques of stone construction, and methods of architectural decoration of the Romanesque style. The cathedral became the first example of the new style and the prototype of church construction for the next two centuries (up to the second quarter of the 14th century). Methods of design, construction and decoration developed during its construction were applied and further developed in the building of white-stone monuments of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality recognized as the world cultural heritage.

Criterion (iv): The city wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky is the most prominent and characteristic specimen of a circular lowland fortress - a defensive structure of a new type, which was used in the 12th century on the entire European territory of modern Russia.

Justification: The city rampart wall surrounding of Pereslavl-Zalessky is one of the first and most outstanding example, in size and design perfection, representing a new type of defense structure, which became widespread in the 12th century: a fortress built on a lowland and intended for all-around viewing and all-round defense, as well as for protection of trade routes and surrounding villages. Unlike the kremlins and the Detynets, which were set on the hills and played a predominantly defensive role, the new plain type opened up a possibility for building large fortresses in which military, religious, administrative and dwelling functions were combined. Due to its large size, exceptionally durable engineering design and high quality of construction, the Pereslavl city wall is considered the best example of such fortifications within the modern Russian Federation. It adds knowledge about the social organization of the medieval city and the development of fortification architecture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


Transfiguration Cathedral:

The main attributes of the outstanding universal value of the Transfiguration Cathedral are:

- The original spatial design of the cross-in-square single-domed church building;

- The original 1152-1157 white-stone walls made in the technique of rubble masonry, including the vaults of the church and the apses, their design and material;

- The original material and character of the finishing of the facade surfaces;

- Ancient graffiti in the form of inscriptions and crosses - a valuable historical source about the social life of the medieval city;

- The original composition and pattern of the Romanesque architectural decoration of the facades;

- The original spatial-planning structure of the interior of the cathedral within the main walls, openings, and vaulted ceilings;

- The architectural and artistic decoration of the interior from the later periods, which does not stylistically clash with the general appearance of the inner space of the church: fragments of the 1890s ornamental oil painting of the walls of the choir, the marble altar barrier, the floor made of white-stone slabs;

- Original location and town planning characteristics of the building, the role of the building in the historical urban environment;

- The memorial role of the building as the place of baptism of the great historical figure, Alexander Nevsky, and the tomb of the Pereslavl princes.

Despite the centuries-old history, in general, the building of the cathedral has kept the authenticity of architectural features and attributes that testify to the uniqueness and significance of this building - its spatial structure, material and masonry of the walls, the decoration of the facades, and the graffiti. Losses occurred mainly in the interior of the cathedral: throughout its existence, its iconostasis has been destroyed in fires several times. The old wooden iconostasis was replaced with the altar barrier in the 19th century. The original 12th century frescoes were also lost during the restoration in the 19th century. They were replaced by oil painting, which was subsequently removed. In the 19th century, damaged stones in the altar and on the pillars of the church were replaced. Some of the stones on the facades were also replaced during the renovations of the 1890s and of the 20th century. Several times after construction, the material and configuration of the dome, roof, and roof covering were changed. The 20th century restorations brought them back to their original forms. Despite the increase in the scale and nature of the surrounding buildings, the cathedral retains its original urban-planning value. Its location near the ramparts prevented denser housing development, as has the park area surrounding the cathedral, and the location of several churches nearby. Thus, the authenticity of the most important original 12th century architectural attributes of the outstanding value of the cathedral has been preserved in full.

Rampart city wall:

The attributes of outstanding world value of this component of the nomination are:

- The architectural and artistic value of the wall, its role in the city panorama, its silhouette;

- Location in the lowland area at the mouth of the Trubezh River; its role in the city fabric;

- Size of the wall (about 2500 meters long, from ten to 16 meters high and up to six meters wide at the top) and its oval, slightly pear-shaped outlines;

- The unique construction of the wall, which is based on wooden structures, above which an earthen fortress was built;

- The material of the ramparts, erected on a bed of rubble and chalk, consist of wooden log structures, filled with clay to a height of ten to 30 сm, and then with dirt to the whole height;

- The memorial significance of the wall of Pereslavl-Zalessky as a place where the most important battles of the Tatar invasions of khans Batyi, Edigey and Tokhtamysh, as well as the 17th century Polish-Lithuanian invaders took place.

During the 12th - mid 18th century, a wooden fortress stayed on the top of the rampart wall, which was destroyed several times but rebuilt. There is no archival data that the rampart wall was repaired or altered. In 1759 the wooden fortress was demolished. The rampart city wall remained intact and has not undergone any changes since then. It can be considered that the rampart city wall has retained, in its intact state, all the attributes of its outstanding world value since its construction in the mid 12th century.


The Transfiguration Cathedral meets the criteria of integrity. It is a complete architectural structure. Its walls and decor are preserved almost completely in their authentic form. Over the centuries, the shape and material of the roof and the dome of the cathedral were changed a few times. To prevent the destruction of the building, in the 19th through the 20th centuries, it was restored several times. Some of the white-stone squares of the masonry were replaced, due to disrepair. New stones were processed in a way to define the difference from genuine blocks. These are of different color and texture. In preparation for restoration, research was carried out, during which it was established that the form of the roof, made in the 1860s, was preserved in the cathedral. The bearing structures of the dome (zhuravtsy) retain their shape and authentic parts from the beginning of the 19th century. Inside, there are still construction parts and a covering of the dome from the 18th century, and a 12th century stone vault above the drum. In 1985–86, the iron roof and the dome covering of the cathedral were replaced with a copper coating. During restoration in 2002, the copper coating was painted green, to be consistent with the 19th century roof and the dome. This restoration works helped to restore the building to its original appearance and preserve its integrity, but did not impact the authenticity of the attributes of the outstanding universal value.

Little archival information is available on the renovations of the earthen rampart of the city in the period of the 13-16th centuries. It is known that in the 17th century there were two, and then three passage gates; probably, in these places the ramparts were lowered or the passage gates were set flush with the surface of the day (L.D. Mazur). After the dismantling of the wooden fortress in 1759, passages were leveled at the places of the old gates (P.S. Plishkin). To date, the City wall of Pereslavl has remained intact. Thus, the integrity of the rampart wall is fully preserved.

Comparison with other similar properties


Pereslavl-Zalessky was one of the typical Russian fortified cities. On the other hand, it differs from other ancient Russian cities in that Prince Yuri Dolgoruky established it in a new place where no settlement had been before. Residents of the old nearby settlement Kleshchin were moved to the new city. Likely Pereslavl was supposed to become a new capital of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality. With the construction of this fortress, Prince Yuri "laid the political and cultural base for the Suzdal region to become a center [of the future Russian] state." (Zagraevsky S.V. Yuri Dolgoruky and the old Russian white-stone architecture. M., 2001. p. 121).

Comparison of the Pereslavl-Zalessky’s cathedral and rampart wall need be done with sites that have a similar set of attributes and values. Those combination of attributes include:

The historic period of construction;

Spatial and decorative characteristics of buildings;

Building materials and construction;

The size and length of the city fortifications;

Construction features of the fortifications;

Authenticity and degree of preservation.


Transfiguration Cathedral

As was shown above, the Russian white-stone architecture of the Vladimir-Suzdal Russia of the pre-Mongol period assimilated elements of the Byzantine architectural tradition on the one side, and on the other – of the Western European Romanesque. Despite the synthesis of these influences in general, the Transfiguration Cathedral, like other Russian white-stone churches of the same period, is an original work of the Old Russian church architecture. There are no analogues in the world, that could be considered as a comparison. As described above, comparative analysis of other churches and cathedrals of the same period preserved in the territory of former Rus (in Novgorod, Kideksha, Vladimir and Bogolyubovo) only emphasize the uniqueness of Pereslavl.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod the Great (1045-1050), is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site "Historical Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings." St. Sophia Cathedral was built a century earlier than the cathedral in Pereslavl. Compositionally it is a cross-in-square church; it has five naves and three galleries, in which there are several additional altars; five domes, the sixth dome was above the staircase tower. For construction, limestone was used, which was not processed, only the outer part was slightly aligned. A lime mortar was used to fasten the blocks. The arches and vaults were made of bricks. Novgorod’s Sofia is larger and more sophisticated than the Transfiguration Cathedral. However, the comparison does not detract from the dignity of the Transfiguration Cathedral. On the contrary, these cathedrals represent two completely different approaches to church construction, which reflected political goals and artistic tastes of their commissioners. Building materials, masonry techniques, spatial composition, decorative details, the principles of the proportion of the two cathedrals differ tremendously. Novgorod’s Sofia was built in the Byzantine framework.

The patron of the Transfiguration Cathedral, Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, made a conscious decision to retreat from the traditions of his ancestors, who built churches in the Byzantine style. In the Pereslavl Cathedral, there is a minimization of the complex spatial planning of the cross-domed church of the Byzantine type with naves, galleries, towers and extensive choirs. These are all minimalized to the simplest scheme of a single-headed three-nave four-column church; the rejection of large volumes in the name of the use of complex and expensive Western European construction techniques of white stone and decorative design in the Romanesque style. A comparison with Sophia Novogorodskaya demonstrates that the Transfiguration Cathedral became a signature building and opened a new page in the history of Russian church architecture.

Church of Saint. Boris and Gleb in Kideksha (1152), is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site "White-stone monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal." The church was built simultaneously with the Transfiguration Cathedral on Yuri Dolgoruky’s residence estate. In its construction, a system of proportions was used that was developed for the Transfiguration Cathedral, when the thickness of the walls and pillars was taken as the initial module. The use of this system led to the proliferation of the type of church buildings with a five-square-meter under-dome square. In this regard, the Church of Boris and Gleb repeats the Transfiguration Cathedral. The same techniques of whitestone rubble masonry were used here as at the Pereslavl Cathedral, and similar decorative details of Romanesque origin. At the same time, the Boris and Gleb church differs from its prototype. In the Boris and Gleb church, the system of proportional relationships was maintained less precisely, but it was not a miscalculation by the architect, but an artistic method. The church is placed on the edge of the high bank of the river Nerl, so the architects paid great attention to the facades of the church and its silhouette. The need for decorative design of facades led to the expansion of the eastern nave, so that the composition of the northern and southern facades was more symmetrical. In the Borisoglebsky church, the central apse is not emphasized in comparison with the lateral ones, which creates greater integrity of the inner space. The vertical construction of the inner space is not fundamentally different from the Transfiguration Cathedral, but small changes in the levels of the heels of the arches led to its more pronounced centricity. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Church of Boris and Gleb collapsed, so most of it was dismantled: the dome, the arches and the eastern pillars of the church were completely disassembled; the apse, the northern and southern walls were kept to the level of the arcature band. The walls were erected again, and a new ceiling and vaults were made and enclosed with a small dome. It is in this 17th century form that the church has reached our days. Thus, in the Transfiguration Cathedral, the attributes of authenticity and integrity related to the period of creation of both churches (1152-1157) are much more preserved, and it is more representational of its time.

The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in Bogolyubovo (construction began in 1158) and the Saint Dmitry Cathedral of Vladimir (1194-1197), are parts of the UNESCO World Heritage site "White-stone Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal." The integrity of the Nativity Church is in a bad state: only the basement part remains. The Transfiguration Cathedral served as a prototype of both churches, but they greatly outperformed the former in size and richness of decoration. In the system of proportional modules developed by the builders of the Savior Transfiguration Cathedral, the height of the placement of portals and windows depended on the height composition of the building, and the construction of external forms was reflected by the internal division of space. These principles were further developed in the Nativity church and the Saint Dmitry Cathedral in Vladimir. Passing from generation to generation, the module developed by the builders of the Transfiguration Cathedral became a tradition and the basis of the white-stone architecture of Vladimir-Suzdal Russia. In both the Nativity and St. Dmitry churches, the development of Romanesque elements in the architectural and artistic design of the facades is apparent, while preserving the typological features of the buildings as a whole, which suggests a consistent development of the style of Vladimir-Suzdal architecture as a unique phenomenon of world culture. A comparison with subsequent white-stone monuments proves the importance of the Transfiguration Cathedral. Its construction laid all the basic elements of the white-stone architecture of the Vladimir-Suzdal lands: the use of white stone, the methods of laying masonry, the proportional construction of space, and the Western European decor.

Comparative Analysis of the Rampart wall Comparison of the Pereslavl with other medieval fortifications shows that the former is distinguished by the original engineering design and the high quality of construction work, as well as large dimensions of the fortress. The Pereslavl city wall survived without destruction against numerous military attacks and attempts to destroy it. This testifies to the fact that the ramparts were very successful and are a unique example of the defense architecture of the 12th century. In contrast to similar fortresses of this period, also built by Prince Yuri – for example, Yuriev-Polskoi and Dmitrov – Pereslavl's fortress is striking in its size and it structural complexity. It is unique among such structures for its integrity and high degree of preservation of authentic attributes of value.

The fortress of Yuriev-Polsky, founded in 1152, was intended to guard the northern borders of the Yuri Dolgoruky’s possessions and was placed at the confluence of the Koloksha and Gza rivers. A small, compact, almost round fortress surrounded the site of the settlement with a total area of about 7 hectares, measuring 340 by 280 meters. A high wall, the length of which is one kilometer along the perimeter, is seven meters high, the base is 12 meters wide. It is poured entirely with dirt from the ground surface and is surrounded by a moat. It had three entrance gates. Dmitrov. In 1154, a fortress was laid on the low right bank of the Yakhroma River, named after Dmitry, the Prince Yuri Dolgoruky’s son, who was born here. The settlement’s small oval plan (350 by 200 meters) is enclosed by an annular wall (length 950 meters) and a wide moat. The height of the walls is from seven to nine meters.

During the twentieth century, archeological excavation was carried out in the fortress, to examine the structure of the city walls and the remains of the ancient settlement. Archaeologists have found that the foundation of the wall was a series of oak log structures, filled with dirt; warehouses for provisions were inside the walls. Outside the ramparts there were settlements. In the same way, the fortress in Kideksha was built, which surrounded the prince's court. It was also significantly smaller than Pereslavl.

These cities had the general compositional principles of a round fortress, as well as the functional purpose of the residence fortress, in which the population was quite homogeneous with the prevalence of military people and artisans engaged to serve the princely court. The Pereslavl Fortress differed from them not only in its much larger size, but also in the presence of heterogeneous urban functions: the Transfiguration Cathedral, the prince's mansion, the courts of rich boyars and siege courts were present here.

Novgorod the Great. The dimensions of Detinets, the urban fortification of Novgorod, are comparable to the size of the Pereslavl fortress. The archaeological excavations revealed that the so-called “gorodnyi” — the wooden foundations of the earthen fortress — existed on the site of the northern wall of Detinets in the 10th century, although at that time the fortifications occupied only a small part of it. Detinets has reached its present size by 1113. The stone walls of the Novgorod Kremlin, whose construction began in 1333, and was completed only two centuries later, stand on an artificial rampart wall and have a length of 1,487 meters. Despite the presence of the city wall, the design of the Novgorod Kremlin construction was completely different than in Pereslavl. Detinets was put on a hill ten meters above the level of the Volkhov River.

From the east, the fortress was protected by the Volkhov River, and from the south, west and north a deep moat was dug. The basis of the defensive fortification was not so much earthen ramparts as in Pereslavl, as the natural barriers such as rivers, and wooden fortifications (from the 14th century – brick walls). Detinets was a center of the Novgorod “veche” (people’s assembly) republic, where the famous gatherings of Novgorod citizens occurred. Here is the main city cathedral - Sofia of Novgorod. Most of the Detinets was occupied by the Vladychny Court - residence of the Archbishop, where numerous churches, residential and ancillary buildings were built. Although Novgorod, the capital of the rich Novgorod Republic, was, compared to Pereslavl, a much older and more populated city with a developed trade and economic ties in Europe, the size of its Detinets is smaller than the Pereslavl fortress. This proves once again that Yuri Dolgoruky assigned Pereslavl an exclusive role in his political system.