Russian Wooden Churches: Travelling in Russia's Far North, with Richard Davies

From the frozen wastes of Northern Russia, Richard brings the most remarkable collection of photographs we have ever seen


The amazing Wooden Churches of the Russian North represent one of the greatest, most peculiar, most quixotic and special expressions of Christian art ever created. An absolute delight to the eye in their fairy-tale improbability, these churches, dating from medieval times till well into the 19th Century, are, of course, now under [terrible threat. Isolated and neglected both under communism and Putinism, most are in various states of collapse. Their architecture is unique and priceless but arguments over restoration, conservation and repair rage, whilst funds remain negligible. The great and powerful Russian government ignores the desperate pleas of its scholars and historians. Without effort and commitment these buildings will soon disappear into the taiga.

“The churches in these photographs were central to their communities, just as the Orthodox faith was central to the people. These fragile, desecrated structures have a spiritual presence that commands respect. Those that remain stand as testament to the indomitable spirit of the Russian people. The wooden churches stand out dark and clear above the bleak landscape. The North-West of Russia is the terra-incognita of Europe. This is the taiga: flat and impenetrable, densely packed with coniferous forest. Agriculture struggles on this thin, waterlogged terrain. The fierce winters grip the land for over half the year with frosts as low as minus 40 Celsius..."

Richard’s book, written with Matilda Moreton (whose wonderful travel-diaries are full of revelation), is the product of intrepid travel over many years and profound, scholarly research. It is a treasure-house of information, extraordinary history, literature and poetry, little-known customs and legends; and the photographs of the wooden Churches provoke exclamations of delight and wonder on every page. Signed copies of “Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North” will be available to purchase from the author on the evening.

Richard Davies

Richard is an architectural photographer who has worked with Norman Foster, David Chipperfield, John Paulson and many others. His passionate interest in buildings, places and people has taken him across the world: through Africa, including an epic journey across the Sahara; into Tibet many times; all over China; and for over a decade throughout Northern Russia. He has produced books on Chinese Art and Porcelain; on Tibet: In Search of Shangri La, with Charles Allen; and on Russian Churches: “Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North” with Matilda Moreton. His photographs have recently been exhibited in Moscow, in Helsinki and in Talinn.

2012Martin Keeley