Russian photographer captures disappearing wooden churches (PHOTOS)

Konstantin Goncharov
Konstantin Goncharov went on a mission across the Arkhangelsk Region to capture and immortalize these disappearing pearls of Russian architecture.
The village of Sloboda.

Around five years ago, photographer Konstantin Goncharov discovered the organization "Obschee Delo" (“Common Cause”), which works on restoring wooden monasteries - and joined as a volunteer. The idea for a photographic project arrived with the first expedition. Something like this is a complicated undertaking: all of the structures are situated quite far apart from each other - and the rest of civilization.

In March 2019 Goncharov managed to organize an expedition across the Arkhangelsk Region, during which he visited villages around the town of Kargopol, boasting a rich collection of architectural monuments. It is there that he took this series of shots.

Abandoned houses in the village of Shelokhovskaya.

A lot of villages these days are completely abandoned. “My aim was to reveal the issue of dying monasteries. People leave, the monastery loses its congregation, and falls into disrepair, nothing can be done then,” Goncharov tells Russia Beyond. “How do we go about saving it? Only by preserving it through photographs.”

The Epiphany Church in Lyadiny.

In the small, rustic village one could until recently witness an architectural ensemble consisting of two wooden churches and a bell tower, dating back to the 18th century - one of only four in all of Russia. Sadly, during a rainstorm back in 2013, a thunderbolt struck the structures, setting them on fire. The people managed to salvage an old iconostasis. Only the Epiphany church survived.

The Church of John Chrysostom in Saunino.

This solitary structure can be seen from far away in the endless northern field. The wooden church of John Chrysostom is among a few surviving monasteries dating back to the 17th century. A partially preserved iconostasis remains inside.

The Church of John Chrysostom in Saunino.

An unusual sight for the north - a hexagonal structure can be seen by the bell tower.

The Chapel of Iliya the Prophet in Sloboda.

A small wooden 19th century chapel, which burned down in the 1990s, is still under reconstruction. A scenic view of village houses opens up nearby.

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Grekhnev Pal.

A wooden monastery, early 20th century, seen here at the entrance  to the village of Grekhnev Pal. The walls and roof are already coated in weeds. A message hangs on one of the dilapidated walls: “Folks. If you would like life to go on - renovate the monastery.”

Sretensko-Mikhaylovskaya Church in Krasnaya Lyaga.

The church, constructed in 1655, is considered the most ancient in the Kargopol area. It once boasted a gallery, with the Monastery of the Birth of the Mother of  God stood nearby. Today, this is all that remains of the church.

Sretensko-Mikhaylovskaya Church in Krasnaya Lyaga.

In the olden days one could witness three large villages around the lake. But the water had gone, and with it the inhabitants of Krasnaya Lyaga.

The Chapel of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God in Konevo.

A small wooden chapel, early 18th century, still active today: services are performed on Sundays and holidays.

The Epiphany Church in Pogost.

The village of Pogost has preserved wooden houses dating back to the 19th century. They are still inhabited. An old iconostasis and a collection of frescos can be seen inside the 18th century monastery.

The monasteries in Shelokhovskaya village.

The Monastery of the Archangel Michael (seen in the back), constructed in 1715, is crumbling, but its arches are still adorned with murals. The Church of the Presentation of the Lord is around 100 years younger, but is also visibly slanted to the side. Today it is dangerous to enter.

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