900 years alone

Most of the Golden Ring tours takes tourists directly from Vladimir to Suzdal. And that’s a mistake. Between the two lays a lesser known, but magnificent little jewel.

The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl is a rare example of XII century architecture. Situated at the confluence of Nerl and Klyazma Rivers, no one  knows precisely when it was built. But it is known that the church was commissioned by Andrei Bogolyubsky, which makes it almost 900 years old. The building itself isn’t very imposing. Built in white stone, it is almost a cube in shape, with elongated proportions to make its outline seem more slender (at the expense of practicality: this architectural solution made its interior too dark for holding divine services), with a solitary dome on top. Mind you, this is by no mean a “secret place” as in 1992 the church was even added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the site White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal.

What prevents it (luckily, I would say), from becoming a very popular tourist attraction is also what makes the place so unique. It is purposefully built on a small hill,  and in spring, when the whole are at the convergence of the two rivers floods, the church appeared as if floating on water. During summer is very easy to reach the place (also thanks to a local railway station less than a kilometre away) and in winter if the snow isn’t too high it is a walk in a white wonderland as the building almost disappear, having the same colour as everything around it. In spring a boat is often the only mean of transportation to get to the doors of the church, but it is also the season when the hill goes back to being an island and the result is breathtakingly beautiful. The geography of the area made it also impossible for any other “substantial” building to be erected in the proximity of the church (I specified “substantial”, because there actually is a little one-storey house right next to it). Therefor the church remained isolated (in the most literal sense of the word, which comes from the Italian isola, meaning island) for close to a millennium.

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