"Courtyard and home: 13-15th cent."
by M.G. Rabinovich
from Очерки Материальной Культуры Русского Феодального Города
Quick and dirty translation by Lady Sofya la Rus, Mka Lisa Kies
[Translator's Note: As usual, parenthesis are from the original Russian text. Items in brackets are my comments
Russian dwellings of the 13-15th centuries have been studied perhaps less than the earlier (pre-Mongol period) and later (16-17th cent.). Archeological material giving a firm basis for the study of ancient Russian dwellings, illuminates the 13-15th centuries rather more weakly. Here is manifested the long-lived purposeful archeological work mainly on research of monuments of earlier periods. But in cities, archeologists still record layers of the 13-15th centuries, as far as they were necessary to pass through in order to arrive to earlier horizons. Are available a series of publication from which we will quote. The same concerns written sources, in that those for the 13-15th centuries are very poor. The Russian chronicles illuminate mainly political events and maintain rather little information about personal dwellings. More importantly, these indirect records shed light on the makeup of estates and construction of homes of different classes. Rather more material give documents, particular, private documents (spiritual documents – wills, purchase deeds, exchange agreements [меновные], enserfment [кабальные], etc.). In them can be found rather detailed descriptions of courtyards and homes with enumeration of the main structures, sometimes even with indication of their material and construction. However, from the 13-15th centuries to us have survived very few such documents. The overwhelming majority of them relate to the 16th, and especially the 17th century. Property census [писцовые] and census books appear only at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries and can attract us only retrospectively – inasmuch as they describe settlements made-up in the 15th century.
Probably still poorer are graphic sources. Reliable illustrations of settlements and dwellings of this period are met only in a few icons (for which will give reference in appropriate places), the Radzivill (Kenigsberg) chronicle, like also the Tver copy of the chronicle of Georgii Amartol, although illustrated in the period examined by us, but their texts are connected to events of a rather earlier period, and the illustrations, in a number of cases, are copies from some more ancient originals (Podobedova, 1965). By this conditional character of the illustrations of buildings is extremely impeded their use for reconstruction. With great success these drawings have been used for establishing the details of structures (for example, fences, gates, etc.) (Makovetskij, table 3).
The meager information of the various sources we attempt to summarize in articles included in “Essays of Russian Culture of 13-15th centuries” and in the collection “Ancient dwellings of the people of Eastern Europe” (Rabinovich, 1970, 1975). In the present section, go in several more precise definitions.
Especially unique structure in the 13th-15th centuries remained the estate-courtyard with residential homes and workshop/economic structures. City yards in the central and southern lands can present similarities to those preserved until the present day in southern Great Russian and northern Ukrainian villages developed with dwelling houses, standing at some distance from the street (behind a fence), with economic buildings, dispersed in the estate and not connected directly to the house. In northern Rus, in Old Ladoga and Beloozero, houses with connected, in all likelihood covered/roofed, household courtyard existed already in the pre-Mongol period. In Beloozero such structures with L-shaped yards were traced not earlier than the 12th century; so it follows that it could exist also in the 13th century (Golubeva, 1960, p. 81). In Novgorod are met shelters-livestock sheds of columnar construction, connected with the house; in Moscow in one estate of the 15th century, to the izba directly connected a columnar cattle yard, covered with thatch (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 52; Rabinovich, 1964, p. 212). However for majority of Moscow estates, the economic/household structures were not connected with the house.
In the cities, significant pieces of land belonged to the major feudal-boyars and monasteries, which did not use them wholly for their personal courtyard, but established suburbs, populating their land with crafts and trades people. The yard of the noble himself occupied a whole large square/area. It was encircled with a strong, high palisade – тын [paling]. Massive gates (in width, evidently, a bit more than 2 meters) led into the yard – usually wide, paved with block and lath. Boyar courtyards included usually several residential homes, in one of which live the master himself, and in the remaining – his dependents or tenants, to whom the owner yielded part of the rooms. However, it is hard to clarify/explain why in great stands, undoubtedly belonging to nobles, are found homes and workshops of craftspeople. Later, property census books often directly indicate that the boyar did not life in his own courtyard, but settled dvornikov – his people or craftsmen. The latter could be dependents of the master, or commercial-industrial people [посадскими людьми].
A large estate of the middle of the 13th century, discovered in excavations in Novgorod, included twelve structures, among which were three residences, two workshops and seven auxiliary structures. (Kolchin, 1957, p. 281).
The noble owned servants – men and women, who had to be lodged. He was required to appear at the call of the prince “with horses, people and weapons”, therefore in his city courtyard were kept many livestock – horses for work and riding, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats for domestic needs. Products for the subsistence of the boyar and his servants had to be provided for, which in the majority were brought in as natural rents from numerous villages. For preserving all this food, necessary were cellars [погреб]. About well arranged cellars in the estates of the Moscow elite, in which were kept “меды господьскые” [lord’s honey], speaks the chronicle (year 1382). Cellars could be built under the house, but there were also separate standing cellars. Already in the 70s of the 14th century are recorded stone cellars in the refectory of the Chudov monastery, while at the end of the 15th-beginning 16th centuries was built the Muscovite great-princely palace with “cellars and ice-houses” (PSRL, t. XXV, p. 207, 195, p. 249).
In the courtyard, there were also sturdy warehouses for keeping different types of supplies, and also baths, and for major nobles – sometimes even their own house church. Almost every courtyard had a vegetable and fruit garden.
Archeological excavations until now had not uncovered a single estate which could be undoubtedly defined as the estate of a merchant. Possibly, wealthy merchant courtyards in their character were similar to the estates of nobles, and had many residential and economic structures.
The majority of parcels in the city were, as before, occupied by craftsmen. The courtyards of craftsmen had rather less size, fewer structures and without fail – manufacturing facilities. Residential homes often served also as workshops. In the courtyard were also other manufacturing facilities and economic structures – animal sheds, stables, baths. Supplies and prepared products were kept in the cellar and shed.
A characteristic estate of craftsmen, uncovered in Moscow in Zaryad’e, in layers for the end of the 14th to the beginning 15th century. On Great Street looked out a large dwelling house -“5-wall”, to which was joined on two sides a palisade. In the courtyard, behind the house, was located a small smelting kiln-bloomery, an economic structure (evidently, an animal shed) and a well (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 200-202). The master was occupied with extracting iron from ore and casting bronze ornaments. He worked in the courtyard around the forge and in the house.
Another estate, related to the middle of the 15th century belonged to a bootmaker. It also was surrounded by a palisade; here were uncovered the remains of a residential home, cellar and next to the cellar – the remains of deep in the earth work room under an awning (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 201).
The interior plan of the courtyard depended on many conditions. In the estate of a feudal lord the house was located in the heart of the courtyard, and on the street looked out blank walls of economic structures, paling fence and gate. Such a plan suggests the secluded character of the economy of the feudal lord; it was discovered both in archeological study of estates of 16th century, and preserved plan of estate of 17th century. In them can be seen the root of the traditional plan of building up noble estates of the 18th century with honorable clean courtyard in front of the home, and economic yard and garden behind it.
For courtyards of craftsmen, merchants and clerks [приказных] for the sake of development of market relations stood all the more typical position of dwelling house in the row of structures nearest to the street. Excavations in Novgorod showed that for this general rule there are exceptions. Dwelling houses on the intersection of Great and Serf Streets were placed in the 11th-17th centuries both along the street and in the heart of the lot. Among estates studied by excavations are found the property of the Zhabin boyars, many of whom were renowned Novgorod posadniks. The single stone boyar home on this territory once looked out on the street (Kolchin, 1956, p. 57 and after). Excavations in Moscow, in Zaryadye, in the region of the street which also bore the name “Great”, showed that on the estate of a tanner of the 12-13th century the dwelling home stood in the heard of the courtyard; on the estate of a caster-jeweler of 14-15th centuries it looked out on the street; on the estate of a bootmaker of the 15th century, it stood in the courtyard (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 226-228).
In choosing the position of a dwelling house many incidental conditions had significance about which we can now only guess. Thus, in the workshop of a metal caster naturally was a bloomery/smelter, in the workshop of the bootmaker the location of the home in the heart of the courtyard did not interfere with the master receiving customers, since his work room (at least in the summer) was at the gate, under an awning.
Speaking about the planning of an estate, it is necessary to note still one detail: wells often were located inside estates. But already in 15th century, they served sometimes several properties. Thus, between two Moscow estates, burned in the 1468 fire, was established a narrow (less than 2 meters wide) passage, in which was located a well. From two sides in this passage looked out a continuous palisade fence.
Evidently, even craftsmen had small vegetable gardens and fruit trees, as about this reports several sources.
The cited materials show that urban estates of the 13th-15th centuries presented a close economic unit, keeping in self all necessary for life and manufacture. However, the estate of craftsmen was more connected both with neighboring estates and the urban markets in the whole way of life of its owners. Evidently, not by chance that exactly in Novgorod with its extraordinarily developed trade relations even a boyar’s home in the 15th century could look out on the street.
Жилой дом - Dwelling house.
The examined by us second stage of development of cities is characterized by prevalence of surface framed homes. One can think that in rebuilding after the Mongol-Tatar destruction of cities, they built mainly such homes. If in the second half of the 13th century in the cities of southwest Rus still were met half-dugouts [полуземлянка], then already from the 14th century and until the end of the studied by us period – 18th-19th centuries – the overwhelming majority of homes of city-dwellers were frame. The dwelling house was erected of sound (usually pine or fir) logs and had an under-story [подклет, podklet] of height in the south most often of several logs, while in the north higher (but not more than 1.5 meters), serving also for storage of produce and property. On the podklet was placed the living space with stove. To this room rose usually on external stairs on several steps. Not even all northern Russian homes had a podklet. Sometimes the floor of the izba was warm, put on an earthen bed and earth banked on the walls. In construction of the frame in its lower rows [венцы] they arranged additional construction, put out from its end as if yet another timbered frame; this external beam retained the earth bed [подсыпка] (Spegal’skij, 1972, p. 34). More often the earth, poured against walls from the outside, was retained by boards (modern embankment).
Tall roofs of homes were covered by boards or, as showed the excavations in Novgorod and Moscow, oak lath (lemekhom) [shingles]. In Novgorod predominated, evidently, homes on a podklet; in Moscow there were both such houses and izbas with earth embankment; in Pereyaslavl were uncovered homes without podklet with wooden floor. In Beloozero and Staraya Ladoga homes without podklets stood on a bed [подсыпка] of clay.
Frames in the 13th-15th centuries were erected still exclusively in обло [method of interlacing the logs – cutting the semicircular notch into the underside of the upper log]. Several structures were propped up on a unique foundation of horizontally laid cut/waste logs. Their corners sometimes stood on vertical columns footed in earth (stul’yakh) [стульях, literally stool/chair] or on stones.
The foundation of the home of the ordinary city-dweller as before was erected of logs, around a square cage [клеть], forming usually a single living room (from 3.5 x 3.5 up to 6 x 6 meters).
Further development of residential homes went along the line of increasing the number of rooms. Great antiquity have, as already said, whole-log two-chamber frames, in which the main log 5th wall divided the home in two parts. The functional significance of these parts of the residence of affluent city-dwellers up to now is not exactly clear. P.I. Zasurtsev, researching in Novgorod, put forth the opinion that the larger chamber, where usually is located the remains of the stove - izba in the proper meaning of the word (istobka [истобка]), and the smaller, where the stove is not traced, - the hall/porch. Objecting to this, Yu. P. Spegal’skij advanced another hypothesis: the room with the stove – this is the povalusha [повалуша, usually a large tower-like area with its own roof, joined to other living spaces with a hall, often used for feasts], while the one without the stove is the podklet [understory] of the gornitsa [dining room] – of an upper apartment, where was established warm bedrooms, which were heated with smoke [warmth?] rising from the povalusha (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 52, 57; Zasurtsev, 1967, p. 59; Spegal’skij, 1972, p. 107-113). To us it appears that in this dispute Yu. P. Spegalskij is not correct. His position that in this “log upper part of the frame and its covering could liken to our radiator” (p. 111), is unjustified from the point of view of elementary physical laws. (The thermal conductivity and heat capacity of wood is very low, that gives it good insulation, but does not give it similarity to a “radiator”.) However, debatable also is the unconditional definition of the unheated room as a hall. In Muscovite 5-wall-houses in the 14th-15th centuries this was rather a “clean” unheated solar [свелица] in which they passed through from porch through to the izba with the stove. The size of the izba and solar were in this case essentially identical (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 202).
In Novgorod such frames predominated already in the 11th-12th centuries, but later it seems to have become fewer. In the 13th-15th centuries, along with one-room and two-room residences widespread also were 3-room structures, usually of 2 frames, joined with hall, but even in Novgorod the Great they did not make up the majority of structures.
In other settlements 3-room structures are rare, but all the same are found. In particular, 3-room residences are uncovered in the city of Oreshka (Gussakovskij, 1956, p. 14; Kirpichnikov, 1971, p. 28; Kolchin, 1956). Evidently, the residence, consisting of 2 rooms (or living room and storeroom – kleti) joined with a hall, was spread widely in Russian cities and villages only in the 16th-17th centuries, about which we will speak below.
In living rooms and halls the floor was paved with large pieces of thick, axe-hewn wooden boards, and the direction of them usually was from the entrance to the opposite wall of the apartment. In southern Russia homes could also have a densely rammed earth floor. In a smoky izba, as also in the 9th-13th centuries, the ceiling was usually absent (Spegal’kij, 1972, p 61-90). In rich city homes the ceiling was made of beams or blocks [плах], propped on the wall and central beam – the matitsa. According to some information, over the ceiling was poured earth to preserve heat. Windows in homes with smoky stoves were made small, volokovye [волоковые –smalls window with sliding shutters to let out the smoke in traditional izbas, red – basically a missing section of a single log – no window frame], and in poor homes completely left without windows, for economy of heat (Spegal’skij, 1972, p. 61-90). In the rooms where the stove was with a chimney or where they lived only in summer, could be made also framed [косящатые, literally with a jamb] windows of modern type. Massive frames of the windows were covered with bladder, mica, occasionally with glass, in palaces even colored glass. Earlier than in other cities, window glass appeared in Novgorod and Moscow – from the 14th century (Kolchin, 1957, p. 280; Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 43). This was a luxury, accessible only the very rich people. But even glass at that time, not to mention mica or bladder, allowed in only light and did not allow one to see anything outside.
Even in rich homes, where the stove was with a chimney, and in the windows had mica or glass, a large part of the day had to use artificial light. For lighting served most of all a luchina [лучина, splinter/chip/torch], bunches of which were placed in specially wrought out figured svettsy [светцы, light stand]. Such svetsy were tailer-made for hammering into the wall, and are often found in excavations. Sometimes were used oil lamps – small ploshki [плошки, dishes] with turned up edges and with a ring-shaped handle. In these ploshki, evidently, was lowered a wick. People richer could allow themselves such luxuries as tallow, and also wax candles. Surviving metallic and earthenware candlesticks allow one to establish that the thickness of candles varied (from 1 to 5 cm in diameter).
The stove, serving the ordinary city-dweller both for heating and for preparing food, was usually placed, as before, in one of the corners. But in a home from the beginning of the 14th century, was uncovered in the Russian quarter of the city of Bolgar, a wattle and daub stove standing nearly opposite the entrance of the wall, approximately along the middle of it (Efimova, Khovanskaya, Kalinin, Smirnov, 1947, p. 107-109). The overwhelming majority of stoves were wattle and daub, arched, with flat base/bottom; at the beginning of the examined period are met occasionally stone ones, while at the end of it – brick stoves. The stove stood on a opechka [опечка, stove surround/base], which most often of all was set on four (more rarely three or two) vertical dug into the ground columns, and were not constructed connected with the frame of the izba. In the izbas of artisans the stove did not have a chimney and the smoke went straight out into the room, and from there – through the door or a window to the outside. There could also be dymniki [дымники, smoke bonnets] known by later ethnographic material (see: Blomkvist, 1956, p. 120, 256).
The entrance to the izba was across a threshold: the door opening was not cut through very low, so that the lower log guarded from the creeping of the cold wind. The door was made of thick plates of wood, joined with wooden bars or figured iron plates – zhikovina [жиковина, metal plate]; set into the door in a clip/iron ring of the door opening on wooden or iron pins, and sometimes even suspended on iron hinges. The position of the entrance door and stove as before determined the whole interior plan of the izba.
Outbuildings also, like dwellings, were log-built from log cells/squares. The floor in economic structures was made of earth or of un-planed (and sometimes even unpeeled) slender logs and poles. In the cellars of such the logs often were arranged rolled over an underground part of the cellar, which had usually an earthen floor. Sometimes, the frame of the cellars were made not of whole logs, but from splits in several pieces. The earth thrown out in digging the pit was poured on the outside on the walls and on the roof of the cellar, as previously were built the half-dugout houses. Are met also quite small cellars in the form of dug into the earth casks, hollowed out entirely of large stumps (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 250), or large clay vessels (Potanov, 1963, p. 149). The poor, who did not have great resources/reserves, could manage with even such “cellars”. In prosperous estates the cellar, if it stood separate from the house, had often also a napogrebitsa [напогребица – literally, over-cellar], serving for keeping various belongings.
Baths were in many north Russian courtyards. They were made also of logs, but sometimes in the structure went scraps of other structures. Thus, in Moscow, in Zarya’de, was found a bath, burned in the great fire of 1468 (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 206-208). Its log-levels were built of logs of uneven thickness, already used in some other earlier structure; the floor was build of slender unhewn poles, not closely fitted to each other for better drainage of water, as in contemporary village baths. With such poles was paved the earth in front of the frame (possibly over them was an awning/lean-to); this could explain the known custom of going out from the bath into the fresh air during the steaming. The bath was not large (3.6 x 3.8 meters). The main part of it was occupied by a wattle and daub stove. Found near the bath was a charred wooden trough which allow one to propose the presence of a draining device, connecting with some type of larger drainpipe. In the bath were, in all likelihood, as in later times, lidded wooden pitchers [жбаны] with water, wooden tubs and dippers.
The external fence, encircling the estate, appeared as a palisade of logs of diameter 15-20 cm; but there were also less mighty fences, dividing separate parts of the estate. Thus, often appeared the necessity to separate the clean front yard from the economic yard, to guard the kitchen garden and garden from domestic birds, etc. In excavations uncover such internal fences of various construction. These were small palisades of vertical drive-in slender poles, horizontal wicker fences of the usual type, fences of horizontal poles, and propped on posts, such as are met also in contemporary villages. In the fence were wickets and gates. Part of a board wicket was met in excavations in Novgorod. From the gate usually preserved only the remains of the verej [верей] – heavy vertical columns, on which was suspended the gate. The panel of the gate itself up to now has not been found, but finds of heavy nails with large ornamental heads allows to propose that gates were decorated with such nails, driven in patterns. The verei often were richly decorated with carving. Are found in Novgorod splendid carved columns that could have supported either a hall, or a verej. Over the gates were usually made a light roof (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 46).
The homes of feudal nobility and other rich people, as earlier, presented themselves as large, log-built of wood structures, always of several frames, and in height – in several floors. Mansions are usually built now in three stories: the lower – un-inhabited podklet, the second, where properly were located the main apartments – both residential, and formal, and the third where goes out only the solar [светлица] and the terem [tower] with an original/peculiar platform/landing – gul’bushchami [гульбущами, walkway] – around it (Zabelin, 1918, p. 25-28). Indication of written sources allow to conclude that palaces in the 13th-15th centuries were about the same as in the earlier period. They included a multitude of rooms, located on various floors and serving both for personal life, and for formal receptions, banquets and entertainment. In personal use of nobles was located usually several rooms, from which the main was, as before, the warm izba. Chronicles of the 15th century indicate that among princely servants was the stoker – istobnichishko [истобничишко] (PSRL, XXV, p. 269).
From formal apartments is known the gornitsa [supper room/feast hall]. Such gornitsa and povalusha in the princely palace, evidently, were several, as mentioned in 1479, the princely gornitsa was called a “srednej” (PSRL, XXV, p. 325). Repeatedly recorded in sources, povalushi were, evidently, as also later, tall tower-shaped structures on several stories. In povalushi could be placed also the formal, decorated with painting, gornitsa. This structure was analogous to the earlier terem.
In the 14th century the word “seni” (as applied to palace structures) designated also, as earlier, and enclosed gallery of the upper story, and not a hall/lobby (in this meaning it is met later). The chronicler, recounting about the revolt in Tver against the Tatar baskak Cholkhan in 1327, reports that Cholkhan defeated in battle with the Tverians was “fled to seni. Prince Aleksandr sealed the seni of his father and the whole courtyard, and burned Sholkan with the other Tatars…” (PSRL, XXV, p. 168). In palaces are mentioned also convivial halls with oak tables (in summer time tables could stand also in the seni), and private rooms (lozhnitsa – bedroom of prince, separate seni of princess, where she sat with her retinue) (PKB, p. 169-170).
As before, the palace was crowned with a richly decorate terem [tower]. When in 1380 from the Moscow Kremlin stepped out the army to battle with the Mongol-Tatars, the wife of Prince Dmitri Ivanovich long followed with her eyes, sitting “in her gold-topped terem” on a runduke [see below] near “glass-pieced window”, looking out to the south (PKB, p. 55) (it is possible, that in the terem were also other windows looking out on other sides of the world). This terem, probably, was rather spacious, inasmuch as the princess found room in it with her whole retinue.
Sometimes in the sources is mentioned the svetlitsa – as evident from its very name, a special bright room, intended for women’s fine work: embroidery, artistic fabric and other fancy work. I.E. Zabelin supposed that the svetlitsa was distinguished from other rooms, which have windows only on one wall, by being arranged so that windows were on three, and even on four walls (Zabelin, 1918, p. 30).
The lower floor of a wealthy mansion – podklet [understory] – for the most part served, as in the homes of commoners, for various household needs. Evidently, there were not rooms for preparation of food, which in general were put separate from the grand mansion, in order to decrease the risk of fire, however even this helped poorly given the crowded buildings of that time. The chronicle for 1480 reports about a fire in Moscow which arose because “under wall of city”, i.e. outside the palace, was placed the kitchen (PSRL, t. XXV, p. 326). In Novgorod, probably for the same reason, archbishop Evfimii built himself in 1442 a stone kitchen (NPL, p 423).
Palace apartments were built as needed in different periods, therefore the palaces of Russian nobles, as everywhere at that time – in Europe and in the East, were not built to any single, before-hand thought-out plan. Every new “chamber” was added to the others where they found it was needed and either joined with a passage or door, or a separate entrance was made with exterior or interior stairs.
In the 15th century major feudal lords began to build themselves stone palaces, which at first were included in a whole complex with the remaining wooden rooms of the palace. Perhaps, the largest of all such buildings is known in Novgorod the Great. In construction work there were found the remains of several stone homes of the 15-16th centuries (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 68-69), evidently belonging to the main boyar families. One stone home, uncovered by the excavation of AV. Artsikhovskij, undoubtedly belonged to Novgorod posadnik [mayor] Yuri Ontsiforovich Zhabin. It was built in the beginning of the 15th century and existed almost 100 years – to the end of the 15th-beginning of 16th century. From the home was preserved a thick foundation, laid to a depth of almost 4 meters. By the remains of the building we can judge about it only the general lines. The stone palace had a large for that time area (more than 70 sq m – 9.5 x 7.5 m). It stood on a tall uninhabited stone podklet, divided with stone partitions into 2 parts. In them, evidently was kept some sort of valuable property (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 70). To the home was joined a porch, resting on thick wooden columns. Across them [the columns?] could be found both in the podklet and in the residence of the second floor, along which were wooden seni [halls], width about 3 m, also resting on columns. It is possible that the home had also even a third floor.
On this estate was built about in the twenties of the 15th century also a small stone cellar (6.5 x 6.5 m) (Zasurtsev, 1972, p. 257-259).
Another stone building, which researchers consider belonged to offspring of the namestnik [governor] of Dvinov land Feliks, was put on the Trade Side of Novgorod, on Il’inskoj street, not far from the church Spasa on Il’ine. This home was in many ways similar to the home of Yuri Ontsiforovich, only somewhat surpassing it in area (10.4 x 8.2 m), but it had not a wooden, but a stone porch (Zasurtsev, 1972, p. 259-260). It was built also in the beginning of the 15thth century. Finally, the Gotland Court in Novgorod in the 15th century had a small stone tower, included in one building complex with a wooden barn/granary (Zasurtsev, 1972, p. 261-263).
Stone palaces in the middle of the 15th century started to build also spiritual hierarchs. Thus, in 1442, Novgorod archbishop Evfimij built “room stone in his courtyard” (NPL, p. 423). In Moscow only eight years later, in 1450, “metropolitan Iona laid in his courtyard a chamber stone” (PSRL, t. XXV, p. 271). This was, however, not a residential but a dining chamber. Later is mentioned a stone chamber of merchant Tarokan near Frolovski gate of the Moscow Kremlin. Presentation about the character of the stone chambers in wooden palaces give the preserved to our day the stone part of palaces of the end of the 15th century (Uglich palace & chamber of Facets of the Moscow palace).
Stone buildings were built also on podklet, and the main rooms were located so that they were level with the remaining place building, with which they were united with landings or passages. The lower floors – podklet of this stone building also was used for household purposes, and the chamber itself, in all likelihood, was a hall for formal receptions, as is known about the Palace of Facets. For dwelling, for a long time was preferred more healthy wooden rooms.
In building of stone palaces was used the solid experience of construction of stone churches, defensive walls and towers (construction fundamentals, techniques of masonry, etc.). The one and the same masters built them. For buildings in the 15th century used natural stone – limestone. They took usually the type that was close by: in Novgorod – rose coquina [a type of limestone], in Moscow – “white stone” from Myachkov or Dorogomilov. In Moscow from the second half of the 15th century came into use also brick.
The external decoration of the homes of the nobility in the 13th-15th century, as earlier, was massed evidently, on the upper part of the building, which best of all was visible (especially in these cases, when the home stood in the heart of the courtyard). They were shown both in complex figural forms of roofing and even gilded terems, and also in ornamentation of eaves, friezes, carving on wood and stone, and possibly, also in arrangement of carved columns on walls and porches. On roofs were also chimneys with figural carved smokers [chimney tops] (Zabelin, 1918, p. 25). Carving decorated also gates.
Interior of rooms, in particular formal, were richly decorated. About this speaks commonly met in chronicles mentions of “various uzoroch’ya” [узорочье, any finely decorated, expensive item – often with gold or silver], taken by enemies in the destruction of the princely palace. How exactly looked this decoration, is not yet precisely known.
Evidently, already in that time in wealthy homes the stove had chimneys and windows were mainly framed [косящатые], with mica panes [оконницами, window frames/sashes]. In the 14th century in especially luxurious palaces were already also glazed windows – as in the mention of the terem of Dmitri Donskoj with its “stekol’chatym [стекольчатым, from steklo - glass]” windows; one can think that glass was colored, creating a play of color inside the terem. About this, as finding such glass, one can judge by finds in Novgorod in layers of the second half of the 14th century of a large glass stained-glass window: on gray background glass – blue color (Kolchin, Yanin, 1982, p. 28). Judging by later material, they loved also stained-glass windows of brighter colors, creating the illusion of solar lighting even on a cloudy day.
The interior of apartments of the palaces of nobles were sufficiently lit up both by natural and artificial light, that there arose in them the necessity of special decoration. Sources of the 13th-15th centuries do not maintain information about the painting of walls in palaces, but such a custom existed even in the earlier period, and about the painting of the interiors of apartments of princely and tsarist palaces in the 16th-17th centuries we have a multitude of records, therefore there is a full basis to think that also in the 13th-15th centuries, walls and ceiling of rich rooms were decorated with paint, walls could also be decorated with valuable materials – “uzoroch’em [узорочьем, see above]”.
Brick stoves with chimneys also very early had to be not only sources of heat, but also important elements of decoration of the interior. The folk custom of white-washing the stove and painting it with various patterns and drawings on different subjects, evidently, is very ancient. Later tiled stoves, receiving wide distribution already in the 16th-17th centuries, in all likelihood replaced painted stoves.
The “krasnij” [beautiful] corner of the room was decorated with a multitude of icons, faced with gold, silver and valuable stones. Among them were ancient icons and works, from the hands of the best contemporary artists. Decoration of interior of chamber was supplemented with massive different furniture – tables, benches, bunks/bolsters [столы, лавки, коники]. The “Story of the Mamaev battle” mentions also standing in the princely terem runduki [рундуки] (long bench-chest, while in other meaning, chairs decorated with carving). In excavation in Novgorod are found carved doors of cupboards, however cupboards, if one judges by material of western European cities, appear somewhat later. In formal reception halls stood also special postavtsy [поставец, sideboard] with valuable dishes.
The main traits of the development of urban dwellings in the 13th-15th centuries were: universal predominance of above-ground frame homes and economic structures, disappearance of half-dugouts, increase of kamernosti [камерности, many-chambered?] residential homes, in particular widespread in area of wealthy craftsmen 5-wall-houses, the appearance of stone civic buildings as formal chambers in princely, episcopal and merchant homes.
Differences in the construction of homes of rich and poor citizens all deepened in proportion to the development of trade-monetary relations.
From M.G. Rabinovich. Очерки Материальной Культуры Русского Феодального Города. [Essays of the Material Culture of the Russian Feudal City] Москва Наука 1988.
COPYRIGHT (c) 2007 by Lisa Kies. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if the article remains complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.
Return to Russian Materials.