Sacred Spaces: Church of the Intercession on the Nerl

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Situated at the intersection of Russia’s Klyazma and Nerl Rivers is the Church of the Intercession, a medieval structure “[…] often used to represent the very image of Russia[n] churches.”  Though it is not as grand as Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral or St. Petersburg’s Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, the Church of the Intercession is nevertheless one of Russia’s most spectacular sacred spaces.

The Church of the Intercession was “[…] the first Russian dedicated to the new holiday of the Protection of the Virgin.”  Not much is known of its history, however.  Some historians believe that the church was built in 1158, around the time Bogolyubovo (where the church is located) was founded.  Others believe it was built a bit later in 1165 in memory of Izyaslav Andreevich, son of Grand Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky of Vladimir.  Andreevich had been slain in battle by the Bulgars and, according to legend, “[…]the townspeople bid farewell to the fleet departing to the war against the Volga Bulgars” at the spot where the church was eventually built.

Interior of the Church. Photo via

The “Church of the Intercession is enchanting in its simplicity, clean lines, and the harmony of proportions.” While not much is left of the once-rich interior, the exterior of the church still sparkles and inspires.  On the facades of the building are beautiful white stone carvings of King David surrounded by animals (both real and imaginary).

Throughout the centuries, the church has remained relatively untouched.  The shape of the dome has been changed slightly “and porch-galleries were added in the 12th-century, rebuilt in 18th-century and then demolished.”

It is interesting to note that, in the spring, the rivers alongside the church would flood the area, making the church appear as if it were floating on water.

In 1992 the Church of the Intercession was, as part of the White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  “Today the church is shared between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve. When services are not being held there, it is open as a museum exhibit.”

Tour the Church of the Intercession

The video below offers a wonderful look at the church and the beautiful area surrounding it (click here to view directly on YouTube).

Sacred Spaces Blog Series

Want to learn more about the world’s most unique and fascinating sacred spaces? Follow the links below to other pieces from our Sacred Spaces blog series!

Basilica di San Marco (Venice) | St. Issac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev) | St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | The Duomo (Florence) | The Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) | Cathedral of St. Sophia (Novgorod) | Church of Our Savior on  Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg) | The Church of the Ascension (Kolomenskoye) | St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow) |The Churches of Kizhi Pogost | Monastery of Panagia Elona | Smolny Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Agios Stefanos (Syros Island)

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Intercession Church on the Nerl –
Church of the Intercession on the Nerl –
Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, Vladimir –
Church of the Intercession on the Nerl –
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