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Travel with the Met: Wooden Architecture and Mysticism on Kizhi Island

Kizhi Pogost. Photograph by Vanessa Hagerbaumer

Our local guide explained that the first settlers to the Kizhi Island area in the sixteenth century practiced two religions simultaneously: Russian Orthodox Christianity and pre-Christian pagan mysticism. Their devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church manifested primitive wood construction techniques into architectural masterpieces. The photo above shows an ensemble of wooden structures called the Kizhi Pogost, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Pogost includes two churches and a bell tower surrounded by a fortification wall.

Photograph by Vanessa Hagerbaumer

The hardship of life in this northern region—which, it is joked, experiences "nine months of winter and three months of disappointment"—engendered the continuation of pagan rituals to induce the spirits of fertility and fair weather. On a gorgeous summer solstice day last week, many of my fellow travelers fell under the spell of this fairy tale island.

About Travel with the Met

The Travel with the Met program invites art lovers to gain new insights and fresh perspectives on art and culture. Itineraries are offered year-round to more than two dozen exciting destinations. Learn more about Travel with the Met.

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