Vologda - city of churches

Vologda region, the land of centuries-old monasteries and churches, is five hundred miles away from Moscow. The main city, Vologda, with its architectural sights and rich history, is a place well-worth visiting.

The character from Russian history most-closely tied up with the history of Vologda is Ivan the IV, or Ivan the Terrible, as he came to be known for his ruthless methods. The tsar’s parents came to the region to pray for a son to be born. During his reign Ivan the Terrible contributed a lot of money into the economic development of Vologda.

Read more about Ivan the Terrible on Russiapedia

Legend has it that he even wanted to move the capital to Vologda. However, when he was supervising the construction of one of cathedrals, some plaster from the ceiling fell and hit him on the head. He took it as a bad sign and kept the capital in Moscow.

This is a place with many marks of Russia’s past, most of them dating back to as far as 16th and 17th Centuries. For example, the famous wooden homes that once housed embassies after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

The most significant historic site, however, is Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. The monastery, founded by a monk from Moscow, is located north-west of Vologda.

According to legend, the Monk Kirill had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who told him to walk north, where God had prepared a place for his spiritual salvation. The story goes that in the year of 1397, Kirill stood on the top of a hill and looked out onto the lake to see the spot where one day he would establish Russia’s largest monastery.

It is still a functioning monastery, though today it only houses three monks. The rest of the complex is a museum.

Another beautiful monastery of the area is Ferapontov Monastery, which has also been turned into a museum.The frescoes in this magnificent sanctuary were painted back in 1502. A tremendous job of restoring them back to their original glory has been done. One single area was left unrestored on purpose. With just one touched-up spot on the patch, you can see the difference between how dark and faded the color used to look and how it looks now.

The Vologda Kremlin is another must-see. It is certainly large and impressive. Interestingly, Ivan the Terrible had in mind the construction of a Kremlin twice as big as that in Moscow when he was thinking of moving the capital. Since this did not happen, the city and the region as a whole have kept much of their historic flavor.

Local people are grateful for this fact. They do their best to keep their traditions alive. At schools, children practice ancient crafts, learn ancient songs and dances.

“It's our story. And it's interesting to know the story of our adults; of our country”, says Natasha Pavlova, a little girl wearing a national costume.

So, if you are a history lover, the charming Vologda region may be just what you are looking for.

Nadezhda Yanina, a local guide, is one of the people who work hard to keep the history of Vologda alive.
Nadezhda named a few reasons why Vologda is so attractive to tourists. She thinks that most people visit Vologda to see its wooden architecture.

“Vologda today is still one of the few Russian cities where you can admire wooden buildings”, says the guide.

She adds that Vologda is also a place remarkable for its stone architecture.

“Vologda was earlier called a city of churches”, she commentates. St Sophia’s Cathedral is a fascinating example of 16th Century architecture.

“Besides this, Vologda is interesting because it is the region where the famous Vologda butter is produced and Vologda laces woven", says Nadezhda.

“I think a lot of tourists come to Vologda to see wonderful buildings and to learn more about Russian history,” sums up the guide.

Watch full interview with Nadezhda Yanina