July 12, 2019

A Good Time to Visit Pskov

A Good Time to Visit Pskov
Pskov Fortress under a full moon. Oleg Tokarev (CC)

The cozy town of Pskov in Western Russia received world-wide recognition this weekend, as its ancient churches were inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. The so-called Pskov school is renowned for its simple, asymmetrical forms that inspired the centuries of architecture that followed: Le Corbusier once called the style "medieval constructivism."

The city's oldest buildings date to the twelfth century, but the style was at its peak after Pskov became a political and economic force as an independent republic. Meanwhile, its builders were renowned all over Rus. Some were even invited to build the cathedrals in the Moscow Kremlin, alongside Italian architects.

Here is what UNESCO said about Pskov's churches:

Characteristics of these buildings, produced by the Pskov School of Architecture, include cubic volumes, domes, porches and belfries, with the oldest elements dating back to the twelfth century. Churches and cathedrals are integrated into the natural environment through gardens, perimeter walls and fences. Inspired by the Byzantine and Novgorod traditions, the Pskov School of Architecture reached its peak in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and was one of the foremost schools in the country. It informed the evolution of Russian architecture over five centuries.

Here are the ten churches now recognized as part of our global cultural heritage.

Pskov's churches have had various fates. Some are now museums, while some are functioning places of worship, but all are in need of tender loving care. We hope the new inscription on the list will instill a new sense of responsibility on the part of local authorities, while piquing the interest of tourists so as to generate needed finances for upkeep.

In more good news for Pskov tourism, the Pskov Museum, which unites the city's most notable landmarks, including the kremlin, is to be promoted from regional to federal status. While this sounds like just a bureaucratic change, it actually means more prestige and funding from Moscow, expanding its means beyond its current, tiny regional budget.

When visiting Pskov, you can use a handy free app to orient yourself, and, while there, don't forget to visit the nearby Pushkin Hills, Pechory and Izborsk!

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