The Church of St. Dmitrii in the Russian town of Vladimir, east of Moscow, has such a great elegance and beauty about itself. The church also has a great bit of mystery to it as well. It has carved white stone facades that have served as remarkable testimony to the anonymous medieval artisans that built it. The church was built around 1197 by Prince Vsevolod III. The church at the time of construction was considered a royal church fitting into the autocratic society that Russia had until the Soviet Union. Many churches that were being built at the time were a way for local princes to show off their power and support of the Orthodox Church. This church definitely did that for Prince Vesvolod.
The church has many masteries about itself concerning the carvings in and outside the church. There was many relief images of lions, centaurs, snow leopards, and exotic ornaments carved on the white-stone walls. There were also images of King David inside the church. The mystery lies in the fact that many of these images were non-Christian which is odd when considering that at this time Christianity was the religion in Russia. Historians still debate today on what the inspirations or meanings behind the carvings were and why they would have included them.
In 1238 the town of Vladimir would fall when the Mongols invaded Russia. The church structure would survive until Russia was united once more. The town of Vladimir never really recovered due to the invasion and also the massive growth of Moscow which left the church kind of untended especially during the Soviet Union control of Russia. This could explain why this church survived and some did not. In June of 2005 the church did reopen and is one of the best sites to visit while in Russia.
The symbolism of the church shows the very beginning of Russia and in a way how it ended up. The church symbolizes Russia’s view on society, religion, and also culture. The mystery of the church carvings really shows the uniqueness that Russia has even under the most imprisoning times. The church is a testimony to the religious continuity of Russia.
Permanent record: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/prk2000002197