This article originally appeared at Russia & India Report
William Clement Smith builder of timber frames and wooden churches are his passion. When he saw a photograph of the wooden churches of Kizhi Island in Mortise & Tenon Magazine, he saved up his money and headed to Karelia with his family to celebrate his 60th birthday and see the spectacular ensemble with his own eyes.
He went to Kizhi’s wooden churches, the authentic village of Kinerma, the Belomorkanal and the town of Kem’ to uncover the secret of this incredible, airy architecture. Here are seven reasons why more than 180,000 people come every year to see these churches on this tiny island in Karelia and why you should not miss out.
1. The wooden architecture in the churches on Kizhi Island is rated to be world’s eighth wonder and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
2. Legend has it that the architectural ensemble on Kizhi Island (in Lake Onega, 764 kilometres north of Moscow) comprising two churches and a bell-tower built in the 18th and 19th centuries, was sculpted by a carpenter named Nestor. According to legend, the only tool Nestor used was his axe. He apparently did not use even a single nail. When the building was completed in 1714 Nestor threw his axe in the lake so that nobody could replicate his masterpiece. However, it must be pointed out that, contrary to legend, there are nails in these wooden buildings, but they were used only to fix the decorative wooden panels to sloping walls and not in the original construction.
4. The Assumption Cathedral in the Karelian town of Kem’ (1105 kilometers from Moscow) is built from logs so thick that no human being could ever wrap their arms around them.