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Kizhi Pogost

Kizhi Pogost
The Kizhi Pogost is an enclosure that holds two 18th-century wooden churches and an octagonal bell tower. Kizhi is located on a narrow strip of land on the southern tip of the island of Kizhi on Lake Onega in Karelia.

The jewel of its architecture is the 22-domed Transfiguration Church (1714), with a large iconostasis—a wooden screen covered with religious portraits, featuring much gold leaf. This massive church (also known as the "summer church") is about 30m tall, making it one of the tallest log structures in the world.

The smaller, nine-domed Intercession Church (also known as the "winter church") was built in 1764, and its iconostasis is intact and can be seen by visitors.

The third structure inside the Pogost is the belltower which was built in 1874. The belltower is also constructed with walls of horizontally-fitted logs, though they are covered by exterior wooden planks and cannot be seen. These structures were erected without any nails or other metal, and were made of scribe-fitted horizontal logs, with interlocking corner joinery—either round notch or dovetail—cut by axes.


Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
In 1997 I crossed by train the Republic of Karelia, in my way from Saint Petersburg to Murmansk (from where I continued my journey overland to Norway). I remember that the train stopped in its capital, Petrozavodsk, and I had time to visit the platform to buy a beer.
Because of that brief transit visit, I thought that I had “visited” that Republic, fooling myself.

But in July 2009 I corrected that situation spending three days in Petrozavodsk and around.

This time too, I took the train from Saint Petersburg. Reaching Petrozavodsk I rented abed in a dormitory in the same railway station (for only 300 rubles, or about 10 US Dollars) and after having a shower I went out to get to know the city, which was founded in 1703, the same year than Saint Petersburg, by orders of Peter I. A statue representing him had been erected in the port of the Lake Onega, the second largest lake in Europe (after Lake Ladoga).

The city was pleasant and shelters historical churches plus the Alexander Nevski Cathedral.
But the reason that brought me there was a UNESCO Patrimony of the Humankind; Kizhi, a wooden church constructed at the beginning of the XVIII, plus two more churches and a bell tower, all located in an island in the Lake Onega,

I boarded the “Karelia”, the name of the Hydrofoil (called Meteor by the Russians). The tickets were expensive and where the same for Russians and foreigners: 1900 rubbles round trip.

Although I can speak Russian fluently, since the first words that I pronounce, and because of my Spanish accent, Russians notice immediately that I am a foreigner, so, in order to pay a Russian ticket (Foreigners pay 650 rubbles, while Russians only 130 rubbles), I just said in Russian: “odin”, which means “one” (instead of: “Please, give me a ticket to visit the territory”), and gave to the seller the exact amount of money for a Russian ticket, 130 rubbles.
I picked up my Russian ticket and entered the Museum premises, which included practically the whole island.

There were guides offering their services for a fee to show you around, but I preferred to walk alone.
The first visit that I made was to the famous jewel of Kizhi, called The Transfiguration Church, which was erected without using a single nail. Today it is considered one of the tallest wooden structures in the world.
Inside another church just in front, called Intercession, there was a Mass offered by some priest who came with us in the Meteor.

After the Transfiguration Church I walked around visiting another church, from the XVI century (called St Lazarus) and an old house.

You can visit the whole island in about 3 hours, the time that we were allowed, before returning back to Petrozavodsk in the Meteor “Karelia”. You are not allowed to spend the night in Kizhi Island.

Some buildings had been prepared for the tourists. Entering a great wooden house some women sewing clothes started to sign an old folkloric song. In another one, an art craft man was polishing wooden toys and kitchen utensils.

There was a Post Office in the island, plus two cafeterias and several shops selling souvenirs.

Once back in Petrozavodsk I bought a train ticket for the next day to another Karelian town, Kem, from which port sailed everyday several boats to Solovetski islands, in Archangelsk Oblast, my next destination
Date posted: July 2013
Valerie Reeves (England):
As I arrived on Kizhi at 9 am early in September, there was a chill in the air although the sun was shining, but then it is only a few hundred kilometres from the Arctic Circle. I could hear the tinkling of bells in the distance. Several groups were shown around the site, and after seeing the wonderful trio of the Transfiguration Church, the Intercession church and the Bell Tower I again heard the bells. Next we saw a good representation of a Russian family home - then after a short walk it was our group's turn to be treated to Igor the bell ringer's skills! The wooden architecture on the island was amazing, and never have I been anywhere where the air is so pure, and the blue of the sky and lake against the green grass was so clear. By midday it was very warm, but I cannot imagine how cold it must be in the winter! A truly memorable visit.
Date posted: November 2009
DianneFowler (USA):
I was fortunate enough to have visited Kizhi with Russian friends, with whom I had been travelling. They paid all fees, so I do not know the price of the hydrofoil from Petrozavodsk, nor the entry fee.

Khizi is awesome! Aside from the beautiful setting, the churches, bell tower, and other wooden structures blend wonderfully with their surroundings. I was so impressed by the craftsmanship of the structures and by their size. We had a beautiful day for our visit, and thoroughly enjoyed a picinic lunch near an old, abandoned wood dock. Wildflowers abound on the island, further enhancing it's beauty. Khizi is a must-see for any visitor to Russia.
Date posted: August 2008
Paul Tanner (UK):
The Wooden Churches of Khizi, with their glistening silvery aspen shingles and their setting (if you are lucky with the weather!) among green fields next to blue waters, provide one of the WHS list’s great “iconic” views (photo). Many WHS are just “representative” rather than being “uniquely outstanding” but Kizhi’s striking shapes, magnificent craftsmanship and wonderful location lift them way out “of the ordinary” from among the many Christian buildings on the List – they did not disappoint and fully met my criteria for “Worth a journey”!

The WHS consists of the “Pogost” or walled enclosure and gate containing the Summer Church of the Transfiguration (left), the Winter Church of the Intercession (right) and a bell tower. The small island of Kizhi (6 x 1.5 kms) on which they are situated lies at the northern end of Lake Onega (said to be the second largest lake in Europe). The island itself constitutes an “Open Air Museum” with a range of wooden buildings re-erected from elsewhere in the region (including 2 more churches, one of which is from the 14th century and is claimed to be the oldest wooden building in Russia). We were somewhat concerned that this would detract from the impact of the inscribed “original” churches (which date back to the 18th century). The UNESCO inscription was also worried about this aspect. In fact, for a number of reasons, we felt that the extension of the site beyond its historical scope was a successful use of the space available on the island, even though the relocated buildings at the southern end of the island could be seen from the Pogost.

First, whatever method of transport you use, it is quite a journey to get to the island and the Pogost by itself, wonderful as it is, can usefully be augmented by other sights. The buildings and their vernacular contents are of interest (if a bit too "perfect"!)and there are also the usual “peasants” in costume doing peasant-like things a la Skansen! Second, the site receives a LOT of tourists. Leaving aside the independent and local travellers who arrive on the 75min hydrofoil journey from Petrozavodsk (there is no tourist accommodation on the island), perhaps 5-10 cruise ships per day disgorge around 250 tourists each in a short space of time during the summer season as part of a tour of the “Golden Ring” between Moscow and St Petersburg. The open air museum buildings are conveniently “duplicated” – ie 2 (different) farmhouses, 2 (different) churches etc. Each guided group only visits one each and this diverts and splits up the numbers visiting the Pogost. They are also reasonably spaced apart and not too close to the Pogost. So, in general, we felt that the crowd management worked well. Unusually for us we too were “guilty” of arriving on a cruise ship (travelling from Astrakhan to St Petersburg in our case) and had 5 hours on the island. After taking part in the guided trip we had plenty of opportunity to schedule return visits to most of the buildings between group arrivals and thus achieve reasonable “solitude” both inside and out. Our trip was “inclusive” but I understand that entry to the island (for foreigners at least) is around 15 euros.

The larger Transfiguration Church is under restoration and has been closed to visitors since around 1980 with the project scheduled to continue until 2013. You can find a reconstruction of its Iconostasis on the
Kizhi Museum Web site. The documentation about the restoration process on that site describes what has been done and the many continuing technical and financial problems. At one time UNESCO even considered adding this building to the list of Sites in Danger. Whether the new wooden ramp and gateway (just visible at bottom left in my photo using Internet Explorer 7.0 zoom!) indicate any imminent reopening for the public during the project or are to provide improved access for equipment and materials needed to carry out the restoration I know not.

The Church of the Intercession is open. It is much smaller and simpler than the “summer” church which provided for more people travelling from long distances. It contains a number of Icons and an altar. It was nice to get inside and contrast its more simple expressions of faith with the exuberance of the exterior but the real glory of the site is to be found in the external views. The shape of the buildings and the open water/countryside location, together with the changes in sun and sky, provide new interest at every step and turn. You will need a lot of space on your digital card!.
a.m. (finland):
kizhi afternoon 2004

soft & warm august wind - sunday afternoon - divine
sun above the landscape - eternal water onega. the island
was full of good energy, the beauty of wooden architecture
was like a medicine for my restless mind. i realized that
history is like liquid - i felt it in my veins. and when i heard the bells ringing... i became a part of a large
sacred system.

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Site info

Kizhi Pogost
Country: Russia
Inscribed: 1990
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (1) (4) (5)
Category: Religious structure, Christian

Site history:
1990 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Kizhi Pogost

In the news:
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Related links:
» Visit to Kizhi Pogost.

Related Forum posts:
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Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Wooden architecture .
Domes . Freestanding Bell Tower .
Notable lakes .
Built in the 18th century .
WHS on Other Lists
World Monuments Watch (past) .

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