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Dionisy

Ferapontov Monastery

Museum of Frescoes

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Choose the angle for viewing the wall painting

  1. Western Façade
  2. Cupola, drum and pendentives
  3. Section of Central Crosswise Nave. East View
  4. Section of Central Crosswise Nave. West View
  5. Section of Central Lengthwise Nave. North View
  6. Section of Central Lengthwise Nave. South View
  7. Section of Northern Lengthwise Nave. North View
  8. Section of Northern Lengthwise Nave. South View
  9. Section of Southern Lengthwise Nave. South View
  10. Section of Southern Lengthwise Nave. North View
  11. Section of Western Crosswise Nave. West View
  12. Section of Western Crosswise Nave. East View
  13. Section of Eastern Crosswise Nave. East View
  14. Section of Eastern Crosswise Nave. West View
  15. Medallions

See also:

Dionisy and Andrei Rublev

Fresco technique

Genealogy of Icon Painter Dionisy

St. Ferapont of Mozhaisk (Belozero), Miracle-worker from Luzhki




Museum of Frescoes

The main cathedral of the former Ferapontov monastery, the Virgin Nativity Cathedral, houses frescoes that were created in 1502 by famous Moscow artist Dionisy and have survived until now.

Dionisy’s miraculously preserved wall painting was not known till 1898. The inscription informing of the date of the wall painting and its creators was first cited in I. Brilliantov’s book The St. Ferapont Belozero Presently Abolished Monastery, a Place of Captivity of Patriarch Nikon.  Towards the 500th  Anniversary of the Monastery. 1398-1898. It is located on the arch of the northern entrance and describes the year (1502) and period (34 days) of the creation of the wall painting by icon painter Dionisy and ‘his children’. V. Georgievsky’s monograph The Frescoes of the St. Ferapont Belozero Monastery, the first work on Dionisy’s wall painting in the Virgin Nativity Cathedral, was published in 1911 and was followed by a number of studies dedicated to the history of the wall painting, its iconographic scheme and technique as well as the style of Dionisy and the masters working with him.

Dionisy, who was well-known for his icons and wall painting made in Moscow and monasteries of the Moscow principality, was commissioned by the Archbishop of Rostov Joasaph to paint the walls of the first stone cathedral of the Ferapontov Monastery. The cathedral erected by Rostov masters in 1490 is a perfect example of Rostov architecture that preserved features of early Moscow stone buildings. The cross-domed three-apse cathedral stands on a high foundation. Its slender proportions are emphasized by vertical pilaster strips and three rows of corbel arches (kokoshniki) that are crowned with a slim drum (the small drum above the southern side-chapel has been hidden under the roof from the end of the 18th century). At the top the cathedral walls are decorated with a band of patterned brickwork with balusters and ceramic plaques with plant motifs and at the bottom, with a band of animal and plant motifs going back to Vladimir-Suzdal white stone carvings. Three portals with ogee curves are cut out of white limestone.

Inside, the cathedral is divided into three naves by four square pillars that support high spring-loaded arches under the drum. The wall painting that numbers almost 300 compositions and characters covers almost all the surface of the walls, vaults, pillars (except for the eastern pillars behind the iconostasis and the altar wall), window and door soffits and the central part of the western wall above the door and the bottom part of the southern wall above the tomb of St. Martinian outside.

Frescoes were painted from top down to bottom by rows. It is seen in the joinings of the white chalk ground laid on the walls. Compositions of each row are united by the same theme. There is Christ Pantocrator in the cupola, archangels and forefathers under him, the Evangelists in the pendentives, saints in medallions on the spring-loaded arches, the Church Fathers’ teaching on the arch flanges, evangelic scenes on the vaults, the Last Judgement on the western wall, the Akathist scenes  at the window level, the Ecumenical councils further down, warriors-martyrs on the pillars and John the Baptist, the Mother of God with the child and St. Nicholas the Miracle-worker and accompanying scenes  on the altar apses. At the bottom running along the perimeter of the walls and pillars there is an ornamental band. The outside painting on the western wall reflects the composition inside the cathedral and tackles the theme of salvation of the human race and the coming Kingdom of God through the Virgin Nativity and Deesis representations. The composition above the tomb of St. Martinian is dedicated to the glorification of the Theotokos, the protectress of the monastery founders, Ferapont and Martinian. The Ferapontov wall painting that is connected with the monuments of Byzantium of the 14th and early 15th centuries (and partially of the earlier period) is at the same time the first instance of a unique combination of scenes and themes typical of subsequent Russian ensembles, notably the wall painting of the Moscow Kremlin Dormition Cathedral made in 1513-1515 and renovated in the mid 17th century. The themes of the Virgin Nativity Cathedral wall painting was not directly tied to the Russian reality, however, their universal content made the wall painting important for Russia especially due to the representations of Russian saints including Moscow metropolitans and other subjects typical of Russian art (Protection of the Mother of God etc.).

The size and proportions of Dionisy’s compositions harmoniously fit into the architecture of the cathedral, its interior and walls. The elegance and ease of the graphics, elongated silhouettes, accentuating the weightlessness of the saints, levitating in heaven, exquisite celestial colours and richness of shades and tints determine the originality of the Ferapontov cathedral painting.

After the World War II, when remarkable Novgorod cathedrals of the 12th - 15th centuries (The Saviour on Nereditsa, the Dormition on Volotov Field, the Saviour on Kovalev, Archangel Michael on Skovorodka) were destroyed by the fascists, Dionisy’s wall painting remained one of few extant fresco ensembles of  Old Rus. The area of the cathedral wall painting covers around 600 square metres. Among old Russian monuments these frescoes stand out for their intact condition. A scientific study showed that the Nativity Cathedral wall painting has a solid ground and is noted for the good condition of colour layers.

Since 1981 the Russian Federation Ministry for Culture Scientific Methodological Council has been supervising scientific research and conservation works, carried out in line with methods, developed specially for Dionisy’s frescoes, thus controlling the temperature, humidity and condition of the white chalk ground and pigments. Preventive conservation of the frescoes and controlled temperature and humidity level formed a scientific basis for preserving Dionisy’s frescoes as a National Heritage monument of Russian and European culture.

The Virgin Nativity Cathedral

The Virgin Nativity Cathedral

Numerous historic sources that mention Dionisy admire his wisdom and talent. Apparently, it was to him that the prominent ideologist, writer and public figure of those times Joseph Volotsky addressed his writings. Dionisy’s themes are determined by religious and philosophic ideas of public service and duty and an original interpretation of the role of Russia in the course of history. Confident and elegant drawing, light transparent colours, unique compositional harmony and flowing lines are inherent to Dionisy’s art. Images created by Dionisy are imbued with spiritual serenity and represent the forthcoming Kingdom of God.




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Museum of Frescoes



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