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Kizhi Wooden Church

Sacred Buildings: Kizhi Wooden Church on the Island of Kizhi in Russia


Although built of roughhewn logs in the 14th century, the churches of Kizhi, Russia are surprisingly complex.
14th Century Russian Chapel

Kizhi Wooden Church

Photo: ArtToday.com
Russia's wooden churches often perched on hilltops, overlooking the forests and villages. Although the walls were crudely constructed of roughhewn logs, the roofs were often complex. Onion shaped domes, symbolizing heaven in the Russian Orthodox tradition, were covered with wooden shingles. The onion domes reflected Byzantine design ideas and were strictly decorative. They were constructed of wood framing and served no structural function.

Located at the northern end of Lake Onega near St. Petersburg, the island of Kizhi (also spelled "Kishi" or "Kiszhi") is famous for its remarkable array of wooden churches. Early mention of the Kizhi settlements are found in chronicles from the 14th and 15th century. In 1960, Kizhi became home to an open-air museum for the preservation of Russia's wooden architecture. Restoration work was supervised by the Russian architect, Dr. A. Opolovnikov.

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