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13 June – 1 October 2024

The Vladimir and Suzdal State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum and Heritage Site, Suzdal City

Organised by:

The Moscow Kremlin Museums, the Vladimir and Suzdal State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum and Heritage Site


The Moscow Kremlin Museums,the Vladimir and Suzdal State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum and Heritage Site


Our Saviour with Golden Hair

The Moscow Kremlin Museums and the Vladimir and Suzdal State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum and Cultural Heritage Site are carrying out an exhibition project to commemorate the millennium of the first annalistic mention of Suzdal. The show will take place in the Cross and Archbishop's chambers of the Suzdal Kremlin. It is dedicated to the centuries-long history of Suzdal, which, like the legendary phoenix bird, has experienced periods of unprecedented prosperity, as well as periods of total ruin, followed by the revival of the city.

The mass migration of the inhabitants of the Old Rus from the 'axis' of Novgorod and Kiev, on the Varangian-Greek trade route, to the north-east began in the 11th century. New cities were founded on these lands: Rostov, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Vladimir, Moscow, Yuriev-Polsky, and Kolomna. After the Tartar-Mongol invasion of 1237-1239, when Novgorod finally separated from other Russian cities and Kiev, sacked by Batu Khan, lost its former status, these places became not only the northeastern edge of the Christian world, but also a unique, distinctive centre, the point of attraction to which people flocked as before.

The north-eastern part of Russia experienced the influence of two empires of the Christian world: the Eastern, Byzantium, and the Western, the Holy Roman Empire. Greek and Western European masters who came to the Suzdal Land created a number of exceptional monuments, thanks to which the pre-Mongolian period heritage of this region occupies a special place in the history of the Christian world. The white-stone architecture, which became a recognisable symbol of the old towns of north-eastern Russia, proved to be the most vivid embodiment of the fusion of Russian, Byzantine and "Latin" artistic traditions.

The display, dedicated to the millennium of Suzdal, begins with the 11th-13th centuries – the golden age of the Grand Principality of Vladimir. It begins with artefacts of the pre-Mongolian period, such as the southern gates of the Suzdal Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, made in the technique of gold inlay; the icon of Our Saviour with Golden Hair, where the Byzantine iconography is combined with the imitation of the Western European technique of champlevé enamel on the background and clothes; the relics sent from Thessaloniki to Vladimir to Prince Vsevolod the Big Nest, namely the reliquary of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki and an icon of this saint on a grave; silver adornments from the Grand Kremlin Buried Treasure; an exquisite folding icon of the Deisis, made in the cloisonné enamel technique, from the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum; as well as an old halo from the icon of Our Lady of Bogolyubovo, kept in the Moscow Kremlin Museums.

The tragic story of Batu’s invasion is illustrated by a single but very expressive piece – the burnt icon of St Sabbath the Sanctified.

The period of devastation was followed by the revival of the Suzdal region, the rise of religious life and the flowering of art in the first quarter of the 15th century. The exhibition features the first copy of the most significant Russian relic – the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, which was brought in the 12th century from Byzantium to Vyshgorod near Kiev and then to Vladimir. It was probably made by Andrey Rublev for the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir, since the miraculous original was moved to Moscow as protection from Khan Tamerlane’s forces. Metropolitan Photius commissioned a pure gold cover for the ancient icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, with the 12 feasts of the Gospel depicted in the margins – an incredible value for Russia at that time. The icon of Our Lady of Vladimir from the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin repeats both the ancient image in the centre part, and the cover with the feast days.

At that time, the Suzdal Principality remained the centre of the accumulation of Russian territories. It was there, that in the 15th century a united Russian state emerged as a result of the rivalry between the principalities of Tver, Suzdal-Nizhny Novgorod and the winner in this competition – the Principality of Moscow. The succession from Suzdal and Vladimir to Moscow is shown in the final part of the exhibition, which focuses on the most prominent historical figures of the time of the Moscow Principality. It tells about Tsar Vasily Shuysky, the last of the Rurikids on the Russian throne, and Suzdal Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharsky – the hero of the Time of Troubles and the saviour of the homeland. Vasily Shuysky came from the Suzdal branch of the Rurikids and made many valuable donations to the churches and monasteries of Suzdal.

The late Middle Ages in the history of the Suzdal Land are illustrated by the objects related to outstanding church hierarchs. Illarion, the Metropolitan of Suzdal and Yuriev, who lived in the late 17th century, encouraged the flourishing of religious life in the ancient city and built the Archbishop's Chambers in the Suzdal Kremlin, thanks to his connections with the Tsar's court. Visitors to the exhibition will admire luxurious vestments, church utensils and gospels in precious covers. The Moscow Patriarch Joseph, who was the last in office before the schism of the Russian Church, promoted the all-Russian canonisation of the builder of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin in Suzdal – Georgy Vsevolodovich, Grand Prince of Vladimir, who was killed in the battle with the Mongols in 1238. On display are also the Patriarch’s sakkos, his liturgical objects, a commissioned shroud and silver plates used to decorate the Holy Prince’s shrine.

The icon of Our Lady of Vladimir dating back to the second quarter of the 17th century, probably made on the orders of Patriarch Joseph, completes the exhibition. Its margins illustrate in detail the text of the icon’s Legend, including its journey from Tsargrad (Constantinople) to Vyshgorod, then to Vladimir, and the miraculous rescue of Moscow from the troops of Tamerlane Khan. It symbolically unites all the key events of the thousand-year history of Suzdal, such as the shift of the centre of the Russian lands from Kiev to the north-east of Rus, the succession from Byzantine, the formation of the Suzdal region as a special "Land of the Virgin" – the core, around which Russia would be assembled.