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17th-century wooden masterpiece gets new lease of life

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.russiatoday.ru/features/news/12077 August 7, 2007, 10:22 17th-century wooden masterpiece gets new lease of life The restoration of one of the finest
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      http://www.russiatoday.ru/features/news/12077

      August 7, 2007, 10:22
      17th-century wooden masterpiece gets new lease of life

      The restoration of one of the finest examples of Russian wooden
      architecture, the Church of the Dormition, is underway in the
      north-western Murmansk region. Built in the 17th century without a
      single nail it became the first Orthodox church in Russia's Polar region.

      The Varzuga village is the oldest Russian settlement in the far
      north, hidden in the Russian tundra, away from the sea. It brought
      Orthodoxy to this part of the country and remains proud of its
      mission, and is a unique showplace.

      "It's the jewel of the Kola Peninsula, it's our pride. Not only
      Varzuga's pride, but the Murmansk region's. There isn't another such
      church anywhere in the country," Nikolay Dyachikov, ferryman, notes.

      Over the centuries, it has survived not only the harsh northern
      climate, but dramatic turns in Russian history and has remained the
      only Orthodox church in the region left intact after the revolution.

      But concerns arose as to whether the three-centuries-old building
      would survive much longer. The struts have never been renovated. And
      the main task of today's carpenters is to figure out the craft of the
      ancient constructors who built it without using a single nail or
      bracket to clamp the logs together.

      "The first carpenters used only axes: they did it without saws or any
      mechanisms. Today if we make a saw cut we still finish it with an
      axe. It prevents the wood from rotting and absorbing water," Sergey
      Makarov, head carpenter, explained.

      The carpenters promise the building will look just the same as the
      original and survive another three centuries.

      "This church is standing on the relics of the first monks who came
      here in the 14th century in order to maintain Orthodoxy in Russia.
      That's why it stands so firmly. It's especially surprising given the
      conditions of this Northern land," Father Mitrofan said.

      The 88 icons of the church are also in need of urgent restoration.
      Moscow experts have already begun work but say it could take up to
      three years until the far North's oldest church opens its doors to worshippers.
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