Fast forward to the 21st century when Richard Davies, an architectural photographer, sees these beautiful postcards and is inspired to travel to Russia to find out which churches had survived. “Wooden Churches” is the photographic exhibition resulting of the trips that he took between 2002 and 2007 to document the current state of the forgotten Russian treasures.
The buildings portrayed date as far back as the 15th century and appear as fading ghosts dotting the landscape of desolate Russian countryside with their splendidly rich outlines characterized by onion shaped domes. The domes are strictly decorative, constructed of wood framing and covered in wooden shingles; they represent heaven in the Russian Orthodox tradition but are popularly believed to symbolize burning candles. The churches are humble in size but ingenious and virtuous in looks. Most of the religious icons that used to adorn the interiors have been looted and the churches stand now bare but still carry a spiritual presence. Some are leaning over sideways, as if voluntarily throwing themselves to the ground in what seems to be irrevocable state of decay. Many have been saved by dedicated specialists and enthusiasts, whose untiring work goes on. Richard Davies’ ultimate goal through the exhibition is to help raise public awareness of the plight of these wonderful buildings and that more restoration projects will attract the funding they deserve.
His photographs offer a precious blink of bygone Russia through a selection of splendid buildings and the incidental and yet unforgettable characters that surround them.
The collection is on show for free until the 27th of July 2008 at Pushkin House 5a Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2TA as part of the London Festival of Architecture.