Kizhi Pogost

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Kizhi Pogost
Native name
Russian: Кижский погост
Kizhi 06-2017 img08 Pogost view.jpg
View of two main churches
LocationLake Onega, Republic of Karelia, Russia
Coordinates62°04′00″N 35°13′30″E / 62.066667°N 35.225°E / 62.066667; 35.225Coordinates: 62°04′00″N 35°13′30″E / 62.066667°N 35.225°E / 62.066667; 35.225
Built17-18th century
Official nameKizhi Pogost
Criteriai, iv, v
Designated1990 (14th session)
Reference no.544
RegionEurope and North America
Kizhi Pogost is located in European Russia
Kizhi Pogost
Location of Kizhi Pogost in European Russia
Kizhi Pogost is located in Europe
Kizhi Pogost
Kizhi Pogost (Europe)

Kizhi Pogost (Russian: Кижский погост) is a historical site dating from the 17th century on Kizhi island. The island is located on Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia (Medvezhyegorsky District), Russia. The pogost is the area inside a fence which includes two large wooden churches (the 22-dome Transfiguration Church and the 9-dome Intercession Church) and a bell-tower. The pogost is famous for its beauty and longevity, despite being built exclusively of wood. In 1990, it was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites[1] and in 1993 listed as a Russian Cultural Heritage site.[2]

General information[edit]

The pogost was built on the southern part of Kizhi island, on a hill 4 meters above the Lake Onega level. Its major basic structural unit is a round log of Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) about 30 cm in diameter and 3 to 5 meters long. The Kizhi Pogost was built without using a single nail. Many thousands of logs were brought for construction from the mainland, a complex logistical task in that time.[3]

The Church of the Transfiguration[edit]

The Church of the Transfiguration (Russian: Церковь Преображения Господня) is the most remarkable part of the pogost. It is not heated and is, therefore, called a summer church and does not hold winter services. Its altar was laid June 6, 1714, as inscribed on the cross located inside the church. This church was built on the site of the old one which was burnt by lightning. The builders' names are unknown. A legend tells that the main builder used one axe for the whole construction, which he threw into the lake upon completion with the words "there was not and will be not another one to match it".[4][5]

The church has 22 domes and with a height of 37 meters is one of the tallest wooden buildings in Northern Europe. Its perimeter is 20×29 meters. It is considered that the 18-dome church on the southern shore of Lake Onega — built in 1708 and destroyed by fire in 1963 – was its forerunner.[6] According to the Russian carpentry traditions of that time, the Transfiguration Church was built of wood only with no nails apart from the domes and roof shingles. There are approximately 180,000 nails securing the 60,000 roof shingles.[7][8] All structures were made of scribe-fitted horizontal logs, with interlocking corner joinery — either round notch or dovetail — cut by axes. The basis of the structure is the octahedral frame with four two-stage side attachments (Russian: прируб, "prirub" from "rubit" meaning "to cut wood"). The eastern prirub has a pentagonal shape and contains the altar. Two smaller octagons of similar shape are mounted on top of the main octagon. The structure is covered in 22 domes of different size and shape, which run from the top to the sides. The refectory is covered with a three-slope roof. In the 19th century, the church was decorated with batten and some parts were covered with steel. It was restored to its original design in the 1950s.[3][9]

The church framework rests on a stone base without a deep foundation, except for the western aisle for which a foundation was built in 1870. Most wood is pine with spruce planks on the flat roofs. The domes are covered in aspen.

The iconostasis has four levels (Russian: четырёхъярусный) and contains 102 icons.[6] It is dated to the second half of the 18th – early 19th century. The icons are from three periods: the two oldest icons, "The Transfiguration" (Russian: Преображение) and "Intercession" (Russian: Покров) are from the late 17th century and are typical of the northern style. The central icons are from the second half of the 18th century and are also of the local style. Most icons of the three upper tiers are of the late 18th century, brought from various parts of Russia.[9]

Kishi church detail roof 02.jpg
Church Of The Intercession Of The Blessed Virgin. Island Of Kizhi. 4.jpg
DSC06593 2021 Кижи, Церковь Преображения Господня.jpg
Details of the domes (Transfiguration Church) Church of the Intercession of the Virgin Belfry and the Church of the Transfiguration

The Church of the Intercession[edit]

Inside the Church of the Intercession
Exterior of the church

The Church of the Intercession (Russian: Покровская церковь) is a heated ("winter") church where services are held from October 1 until Easter. The church was the first on the island after a fire in the late 17th century destroyed all previous churches. It was first built in 1694 as a single-dome structure, then reconstructed in 1720–1749 and in 1764 rebuilt into its present 9-dome design as an architectural echo of the main Transfiguration Church.[10][11] It stands 32 meters tall with a 26×8 meter perimeter. There are nine domes, one larger in the center, surrounded by eight smaller ones. Decoration is scant. A high single-part porch leads into the four interior parts of the church. As in the Transfiguration Church, the altar is placed in the eastern part shaped as a pentagon. The original iconostasis was replaced at the end of the 19th century and is lost; it was rebuilt in the 1950s to the original style.[12]


The original bell-tower rapidly deteriorated and was re-built in 1862 and further reconstructed in 1874 and 1900.[6][11] The tower stands 30 meters tall with a 6×6 meter perimeter. It has a square wooden frame resting on a foundation (rubble with lime mortar); the frame is divided inside by two walls into three rooms: antechamber, stairs and a storage place. Above the square frame, there is an octagonal part with the zvonnitsa on top. Then there is a pyramidal (octagonal) roof resting on pillars. The roof is topped with a cross. Wood types are the same as in the churches: pine, spruce and aspen.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The Church of the Transfiguration is the Wonder for the Slavs in the PC game Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition.


The fence serves no defensive purpose at all. It is a symbolic division between the holy ground and the outside world.[14] It was reconstructed in the 1950s as a 300-meter-long log structure surrounding the two churches and the belfry. The structure rests on a tall boulder basement. The main entrance is 14.4 meters wide and 2.25 meters tall, and faces east near the Church of the Intercession. There are wicket gates at the eastern and northern sides and a small wooden tower in the north-western corner. The tower has a square base and a four-slope batten roof with a spire. The walls, gates and wickets are also roofed.[15]


  1. ^ Kizhi Pogost at UNESCO
  2. ^ Decree N 1847 on November 6, 1993, by the President of Russia Archived August 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  3. ^ a b Stephen J. Kelley, ed. (2000). Wood structures: a global forum on the treatment, conservation, and repair of cultural heritage. ASTM International. pp. 42–47. ISBN 0-8031-2497-X.
  4. ^ Stephen J. Kelley, Joseph R. Loferski, ed. (2000). Wood structures: a global forum on the treatment, conservation, and repair of cultural heritage. ASTM International. p. ix. ISBN 0-8031-2497-X.
  5. ^ Robin Milner-Gulland (2000). The Russians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 35. ISBN 0-631-21849-1.
  6. ^ a b c Ethnographic and open-air museums, UNESCO, pp. 170-173
  7. ^ William Minor (1995). Unzipped souls: a jazz journey through the Soviet Union. Temple University Press. p. 142. ISBN 1-56639-324-8.
  8. ^ John Onians (2004). Atlas of world art. Laurence King Publishing. p. 161. ISBN 1-85669-377-5.
  9. ^ a b Церковь Преображения Господня (in Russian) Kizhi Museum site
  10. ^ "Музей-заповедник "КИЖИ": 40 лет — Электронная библиотека — Музей-заповедник "Кижи"". музей-заповедник КИЖИ. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10.
  11. ^ a b Metamorphoses of the century, Kizhi Museum site
  12. ^ Церковь Покрова Богородицы (Church of the Intercession) (in Russian) Kizhi Museum site
  13. ^ Колокольня Кижского погоста (Kizhi Pogost Belfry) Kizhi Museum site
  14. ^ "Документы и материалы по истории Кижского архитектурного ансамбля (1946–1979) [Documents and materials on the history of the Kizhi architectural ensemble (1946–1979)]" (in Russian).
  15. ^ Ограда Кижского погоста (Kizhi Pogost Fence) Kizhi Museum site

External links[edit]