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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:52 AM   #1
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Introduction to Russian Architecture


This English-language thread is the introduction for those who would like to learn more about Russian architecture. I'll try to keep it short.

This album is also available at:


[Sky Palace] is website dedicated to all architecture of the world and you could participate as a manager of your national section.

Last edited by ainttelling; August 29th, 2010 at 12:53 AM. Reason: deleted subjective opinion
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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:53 AM   #2
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– names of the buildings are given below images (except some, but just to avoid confusion there are index symbols);
- graphics exceed 10 megabytes so it might take a while to load;
– all kinds of masonry are referred to as "stone";
– if images are not displayed it is only temporary;
– the text is copyrighted but you can use it for any purpose except exciting any kind of hatred (or anything illegal for that matter).

Last edited by ainttelling; August 22nd, 2009 at 03:16 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:54 AM   #3
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Part I

Wood, due to its temporary nature, is not what one would consider to be the material of "eternal landmarks". Many of the "oldest" wooden structures in the world have been rebuilt multiple times, even if as the exact copies. Wood was the material of choice of the East Slavic peoples before the Baptism, and long after, despite the rapid development of masonry that followed. And from what the archeological evidence can tell us, carpentry was highly developed in Rus'.

[] - Evolution of the East Slavic house from the VIth to the Xth centuries - [drawings by Valeriya Makarova]

We find the remains of fortified courts from the VIIIth century onward – thousands of those appeared before the IXth century which signified the development of feudalism.

[] - Reconstruction of a hunter's court - [drawing by Mykola Kozurak]

Interesting wooden ensembles and fortresses in the East Slavic lands are mentioned by foreign travelers from the IX-Xth centuries.

[] - Reconstruction of the XIth century Lyubech Castle (Ukraine) by Boris Rybakov - [picture source].

Before the Scandinavians sacked power in Kyiv, their cultural influence on Ukraine was limited – on the trading route from Northern Europe to the Byzantine ships had to be dragged on land for almost 100 kilometers. Through 1500 km of river travel, the ships could also be attacked by unfriendly locals and nomads. That's why only warriors and merchants with heavy escort undertook it. In Northern Russia, on the other hand, the cultural influence of Scandinavians and Russians on each-other was mutual – for example, the log-shell frame technique was unknown in Scandinavia before the contact with the East Slavs (Vikings used the stave technique instead).

In the year 988 Kyivan Rus' adopted Christianity. That doesn't mean East Slavs would immediately switch to stone architecture. Written sources mention 13-framed wooden cathedral in Novgorod (Xth century) and a beautiful wooden cathedral in Rostov (991); from chronicles we also learn the names of two chief architects from Vyshhorod (Ukraine) – Miloslav (early XIth century) and Zhdan-Mykola (end of the XIth century).

[] - Reconstructions of Russian wooden buildings from various periods - models by Viktor Bakharev - [picture source]

An interesting fact – even after adopting the Byzantine culture, East Slavic architects preferred to use their own system of mathematical calculations. Still, the first stone churches in Kyivan Rus' were built by Greeks, in the Byzantine style, using Greek measurements.

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 04:24 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:55 AM   #4
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Part II

The first unique East Slavic style of stone architecture emerged in Belarus (due to its political isolation from Kyiv) and then spread eastward, into Smolensk and Novgorod. In Belarus itself the style was eventually replaced by Western European styles because Belarusian aristocracy would switch to Catholicism from the XIVth century onward. Here are some examples of the Western Rus' architecture:

[] - Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior - Polatsk (Belarus) - 1150s - architect Ivan - [picture source]

[] - Church of Archangel Michael - Smolensk - 1180-1190s - [picture source]

[] - Cathedral on Protok - Smolensk - 1181-1203 - [picture source]

Other examples of the Western Rus' Architecture.

A prominent master of the Polatsk-Hrodna school was the Ukrainian architect named Pyotr Miloslav. Two buildings are attributed to him with certainty. These are:

[] - Church of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa - Chernihiv (Ukraine) - 1198-1199 (accurately restored in 1943-1962) - [an-tonik, sobory.ru]

[] - Church of St. Basil - Ovruch (Ukraine) - end of the XIIth century (restored in 1907-1911 (not entirely accurate)) - [picture source]

[] - Kyiv in the XI-XIIIth centuries - Population estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 - [picture source lost]

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 03:46 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 03:57 AM   #5
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Part III

In 1237-1240 Rus' would be invaded by Mongolians, who destroyed large cities and killed most of the inhabitants. On those who survived (peasants from afar) taxation was installed. The development of architecture was thrown back severely. The first stone church in Eastern Rus' would be build two generations later.

At the same time, Novgorod and Pskov, who had escaped the invasion, were suffering from the loss of their main economic partners. Still, many charming churches were built in Novgorod in those troubled times.

[] - Church of Theodore Stratelates "on the Stream" - Novgorod - 1360-1361 - [picture source]

Other examples of the Novgorod school (scroll down for pictures).

Pskov school eventually went in a somewhat different direction. Here's a couple of good examples of the late Pskov school:

[] - Church of the Resurrection of Christ "at the Herd" - Pskov - 1532 - [picture source]

[] - Church of Nicholas the Miracle-worker "from Usokha" - Pskov - 1535 - [Oleg Gusarov, sobory.ru]

Other examples of the Pskov school (scroll down for pictures).

It should be noted that Novgorod and Pskov regions were occupied by Nazis during WWII and they destroyed many historical monuments. Here are reconstructions of some of the lost churches of Pskov.

[] - Krom (fortified downtown) of Pskov in the Middle Ages - [reconstruction by Gennady Mokeyev]

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 03:50 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:00 AM   #6
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Part IV

Meanwhile, after paying taxes to Mongolia for a quarter of millennia, Moscow had managed to overthrow their authority and eventually subjugate most of the historic lands of the East Slavs. In the development of the XVth century Moscow school, architects from Pskov played a prominent role.

[] - Savior Cathedral in the Andronik Monastery - Moscow - 1427 - [picture source]

Other examples.

In my personal, non-scientific opinion, all schools of Russian stone architecture until the XVIth century, from Polatsk-Hrodna to Early-Moscow, belong to one style – the Ancient Russian style (the Pskov school was the most unique of them all). However, in the XVIth century the Early-Moscow school and the Northern style had fused, giving birth to a new style – the Moscow style.

The Northern style was developing in the sparsely-populated northern lands (particularly of what is now the Arkhangelsk oblast), where churches were constructed of wood, often with tent-like roofs. It could very well be that those roofs were influenced by Pagan idols (those were logs with elaborate carving). In the urban tradition the earlier tendency to stretch upwards was the Church's attempt to compete in height with civilian architecture – 3- and 4-storey building appeared in the East Slavic lands as early as the XIth century.

[] - Church of Clement (model) - Una (Archangelsk oblast) - 1501 - [picture source]

And here's one of the best examples of the newly-emerged Moscow style:

[] - Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Ostrov - Moscow oblast - 3rd quarter of the XVIth century - [picture source]

And, of course, the St. Basil - [picture source] - [] :

It was built in 1555-1561 by the architect from Pskov named Postnik Yakovlev. Initially the temple was white, with golden domes, but was repainted in the next century. "St. Basil" is somewhat unique compared to other churches in Moscow style. Still, it is the best candidate to represent the "Russian Gothic". In 1895-1905 a temple with no derivations from St. Basil's tradition would be build in Peterhof – the Cathedral of Peter and Paul - [picture source] - [] :

I would say it's a safe bet that perhaps 3 dozen cathedrals in this style would be build in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had the Mongolian invasion and taxation not destroy cultural achievements of Kyivan Rus.

Although Russian culture was decimated not only by Mongolians and Nazis – many churches with tent-like roofs would be demolished by patriarch Nikon who considered them uncanonical. Here's one of those that survived – Church of Our Lady Hodegetria - Vyazma - 1638 - [picture source] - [] :

Luckily the Fiery (kokoshniki arches), Ornamental (russkoye uzorochye) and Colorful trends were also developing within Moscow architectural tradition.

[] - Church of the Annunciation in Taininskoye - Moscow oblast - 1675-1677 - [picture source]

[] - Church of the Life-giving Trinity in Ostankino - Moscow - 1677-1683 - architect Pavel Potekhin - [picture source]

[] - Kolomenskoye Palace (Ko-lo-men-sko-ye, Wooden Palace of Alexei Mikhailovich in Kolomenskoye) - Moscow - 1649-1650, restored in the beginning of the 2000s using measurements of the original - architects-builders Semyon Petrov, Ivan Mikhailov - [picture source]

Here are other examples of the Moscow style.

A transitional style had emerged in Yaroslavl, which was the second largest city in Russia at the time. This school went through several periods, each with distinctive characteristics.

[] - Church of the Decapitation of St John the Baptist in Tolchkovo - Yaroslavl - 1671-1687 - [picture source]

Other examples of this school.

Moscow style also thrived in Murom.

The Northern homeland, however, was not as receptive to the decorative trend. There, beauty was achieved through simplicity (like it was in the Middle Ages):

[] - Cathedral of St Nicholas the Miracle-worker - Nikolo-Vyazhishchsky Convent (Novgorod oblast) - 1681-1685 - [picture source]

[] - Pogankin's Palace - Pskov - 1671-1679 (or the first third of that century) - [picture source]

Wooden architecture of the North, for the most part was developing independently from Moscow. Two particular churches are regarded as the highest point of the Northern style. They are:

[] - Transfiguration Church in Kizhi pogost in Karelia - 1714 - architect Nestor - [picture source]

And the Church of the Protection of the Holy Virgin - [picture source] - [] :

- original: 1708 - Ankhimovo (Vologda oblast) - architect Nestor
- restoration using measurements of the original: 2003-2008 - Novosaratovka, Nevsky Forest Preserve (Leningrad oblast) - architect Aleksandr Opolovnikov

Other examples.

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 04:04 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:01 AM   #7
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Part V

Rich merchant families – the Naryshkins and the Stroganovs – were advocating stronger ties with Europe. They sponsored building of many churches in a new style that was similar to European architecture – the Russian Baroque (first school of this style was the Naryshkin Baroque).

[] - Church of the Protection of the Holy Virgin in Fili - Moscow - 1690-1693 - architect Yakov Bukhvostov - [picture source]

Other examples of the Naryshkin-Stroganov Baroque. A prominent architect of this style was Yakov Bukhvostov.

In the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, Russia and later Russian Empire would attempt to colonize Siberia. The style of this massive move of people and resources was Siberian Baroque.

[] - Church of the Palm Sunday - Totma - 1774-1794 - [picture source]

Here are other examples of this style. It's quite similar to Ukrainian Baroque because many colonists were in fact Ukrainian. Although the prime Siberian churches are more opulent because the government was investing in the development of Siberia heavily.

Regarding the attribution of Siberian Baroque to a separate style – that's not accurate. Artificial stretches should be avoided – to a person from a distant non-European culture, who is not interested in architecture, most of the European churches look the same (and vice versa). The appropriate attribution of it would be as a school within East Slavic Baroque. The similarities of the Naryshkin-Stroganov Baroque to the European Baroque are mostly in decorations. Then again – regarding the demolished church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin in Moscow (1696-1699) we can't even tell whether the architect was Russian or Ukrainian. The Siberian Baroque is structurally similar to Ukrainian and through that European Baroque, but its decorations are not limited to European curves – sometimes they may include Buddhist motifs:

[] - Church of the Feast of the Cross - 1747-1758 - Irkutsk - [Igor Yevdokimov, baikal.ru]

In Moscow and St Petersburg the dominant style of the second half of the XVIIIth – first half of the XIXth centuries was Neoclassicism/Empire. Prominent architects: Vasily Bazhenov, Matvei Kazakov, Andrei Voronikhin, Andreyan Zakharov.

[] - Petrovsky Palace (Gothic Revival style) - Moscow - 1776-1780 - architect Matvei Kazakov - [picture source lost]

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 04:08 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:03 AM   #8
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Part VI

Moscow was burned to the ground in 1812 during the war with Napoleon. Then nothing happened until 1850s (except the questionable Russo-Byzantine style). By this time nationalism was gaining ground among Russian intelligentsia and this was reflected on architecture – in the second half of the XIXth century the traditional Russian architecture was resurrected in the form of the Russian Revival style. The inspiration was usually drawn from the Moscow style, but sometimes from other schools and styles.

[] - Church of Our Lady of Kazan - Zelenogorsk - 1910-1915 - architect Nikolai Nikonov (I) - [picture source]

[] - Vladimir Lenin's Museum (former City Duma) - Moscow - 1880-1890s - architect Dmitry Chichagov - [picture source lost]

[] - French Embassy (former Igumnov's Mansion) - Moscow - 1893 - architect Nikolai Pozdeyev - [picture source]

[] - Assumption Church in a Court of Optina Monastery - St Petersburg - 1895-1897 - architect Vasily Kosyakov - [Mikhail Chuprinin, sobory.ru]

[] - Cathedral of Archangel Michael - Izhevsk - 1897-1907 (demolished in 1937, restored in 2004-2007) - architect Ivan Charushin - [picture source]

[] - GUM Mall - the Red Square - 1890-1893 - architects Vladimir Shukhov and Aleksandr Pomerantsev - [picture source lost]

[] - Cathedral of the Protection of the Holy Virgin - Hrodna (Belarus) - 1904-1905 - Ivan Savelyev and other Belarusian architects - [picture source]

Unfortunately, the churches in this style were built just a few decades before the revolution, and as such, the Communists demolished many of them for "lacking historical value".

Another revival style developed in Russia was the Byzantine Revival style.

[] - Cathedral of the Annunciation - Kharkiv (Ukraine) - 1888-1901 - architect Mikhail Lovtsov - [picture source]

Some of those escaped destruction. Here are other examples. Also, there's a pretty good article about this style on wikipedia.

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 04:13 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:04 AM   #9
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Part VII

At first, Communism was supported by many Russian and Jewish intellectuals and artists. In the 1920s they created the ultra-modern Constructivism style the rest of the world was looking up to.

[] - Zuyev Workers' Club - Moscow - 1926-1929 - architect Ilya Golosov - [picture source]

Stalin did not like Constructivism, focusing on Neo-Classical architecture instead.

[] - Moscow State University - 1949-1953 - architect Lev Rudnev, sculptor Vera Mukhina - [picture source]

Moscow Metro:

[] - Mayakovskaya Station - 1938 - architect Alexei Dushkin - [picture source]

[] - Kiyevskaya-Koltsevaya Station - 1954 - chief architect Yevgeny Katonin, chief artist Aleksandr Mizin (Ukraine) - [picture source]

[] - Arbatskaya (Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line) Station - 1953 - chief architect Leonid Polyakov - [picture source]

The Soviet approach to metro architecture is known as the "Underground Palace" and is not limited to Moscow and St. Petersburg – even though Khrushchyov thought Stalinist architecture was excessive, and it was seen as such until Soviet break-up, several beautiful metros were built in other Soviet cities, such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, Tbilisi, Baku…

After the "conservative" period (1933-1955), nothing approached the scale of innovation of the 1920-1930s, still, modern trends were revived in the 1960-1970s. The use of raw concrete, that is otherwise questionable, was supposed to evoke childhood memories of rapid urbanization. We have a coverage of the East European Socialist architecture on SkyscraperCity:


After the switch to capitalism, not maintaining Socialist landmarks properly became a form of propaganda of the new economic system.

I cannot name all the leading Russian architects from the Soviet Union as I'm not very familiar with the subject but Vladimir Shukhov, Konstantin Melnikov, Alexei Dushkin, Lev Rudnev and Nikolai Nikitin are without a doubt some of the most important names in the XXth century architecture.

In the 1990s and 2000s, thousands of new places of worship have been built. Even though Russian architecture went through more than seven decades of atheism, among these churches are some very nice ones, like the Church of the Nativiny of the Holy Virgin in Nadovrazhino - 2000-2001 - architects Andrei Anisimov and Tatyana Yefimova - [picture source] - [] :

More great examples here (stone) and here (wooden).

The prevalent opinion of the Russian architecture enthusiasts are usually these points:

1) Most of new Russian religious buildings (typical projects) are not at the world level (India, SEA, the Arab states…);
2) Further development of Russian architecture must be rooted in Orthodox philosophy, and 3) Russian tradition.

Here are some excellent renders of the proposed churches designed by the "Tovarishchestvo Restavratorov" firm.

Of course, the church and the state are more distant from each other compared to the times before 1917, and even within Russian Orthodox Church there is a great degree of financial autonomy. What puzzles me though, why the only grand projects sponsored by government are restorations of the demolished buildings, [rant]such as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior? I mean you found the money, why not hold some sort of competition and build something truly magnificent in its place? (The answer, of course, is that restoring it was a purely-political decision.)[/rant]

The "excessive" tradition of the Moscow metro was revived – some of the new stations are comparable to the early ones (Sretensky Bulvar, Victory Park…)

Last edited by ainttelling; September 16th, 2009 at 04:16 AM.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:06 AM   #10
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1) Fortresses:

[] - Mangazeya, a fortified settlement in Siberia - 1601-1605 - [picture source]

[] - Novodevichy Convent - est. 1524 - Moscow - [picture source]

- Fortress: 1680s - architect Pyotr Potapov
- Bell-tower: 1689-1704 - architect Yakov Bukhvostov

[] - Astrakhan Kremlin - 1582-1589 - architects Mikhail Vel'yaminov, Grigory Ovtsyn, Dei Gubasty - [picture source]

- Cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin: 1698-1710 - architect Dorofei Myakishev
- Bell-tower: 1902-1909 - architect Sergei Karyagin

[] - Solovetsky Monastery (Solovki) - Arkhangelsk Oblast - est. 1436 - [Pavel Bogdanov, sobory.ru]

- Fortress: 1584-1594 - architect Ivan Mikhailov
- Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Savior: 1556-1566 - architect Trifon

Regarding the XVth century Moscow Kremlin towers – the Tsar ordered them to be rebuilt as originally they lacked aesthetical qualities – the spires and decorations we see today were added in the XVIIth century.

A prominent master of fortification architecture was Fyodor Kon (Fyodor "the Horse"; second half of the XVIth century). He built the "White City" in Moscow (1585-1593, 10 km, 27 towers, 10 gates) and the Smolensk Fortress (1595-1602, 6.5 km, 38 towers and gates), as well as several beautiful churches.

2) Details of wooden architecture:

[] - Building techniques, including the log-shell frame - [drawing by Valeriya Makarova]

[] - Sewers and drainage systems - [from Mikhail Rabinovich: "About Moscow in the XI-XVIth centuries"]

[] - Roof of the traditional Russian house - [drawing by Valeriya Makarova]

01 – Zhelob
02 – Okhlupen'
03 – Stamik
04 – Slega
05 – Ognivo
06 – Knyazevaya Slega ("Knyas")
07 – Poval'naya Slega
08 – Samets
09 – Poval
10 – Prichelina
11 – Kuritsa
12 – Propusk
13 – Byk
14 – Gnet

3) Peasant houses with carved decorations:

Gallery (pics are enlargeable)

Many of those were built in the XIXth century. And in Soviet Union these houses were built and given as a reward to exemplar workers.

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Old August 6th, 2009, 04:07 AM   #11
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I hope similar threads would be created for architecture from other cultures. This concept is called "the compass of national architecture". Core points: quality pictures, definitive monuments, appropriate classification, additional materials on an external site, and a couple of months of polishing the article.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 09:16 PM   #12
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Wow. Fantastic thread!!
upcoming predictions:


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Next two years the economy will crumble and the stock markets will crash thanks to demon.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 12:53 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ainttelling View Post

[] - Mangazeya, a fortified settlement in Siberia - 1601-1605 - [picture source]

Sublime Picture.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 03:21 AM   #14
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not Siberia, it is in Moscow

[☝] - Novodevichy Convent - est. 1524 - Fortress: 1680s, architect Pyotr Potapov - Bell-tower: 1689-1704, architect Yakov Bukhvostov - [picture source]
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Old August 7th, 2009, 03:53 AM   #15
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Some of those are breathtaking!!
The shiny domes of the Assumption Church in St. Petersburg really are fantastic.
"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." - Winston Churchill
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Old August 7th, 2009, 07:05 AM   #16
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Marvelous! Just marvelous! just shows how great russian architecture!
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Old August 7th, 2009, 08:20 AM   #17
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Excellent thread... Russian architecture is intriguing, to say the least.
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Old August 12th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #18
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Old August 15th, 2009, 12:51 AM   #19
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Some of those Churches are just magnificent! with the attention to detail given
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Old August 17th, 2009, 05:52 AM   #20
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This is the most impressive thread that I ever seen on SSC. Thanks for sharing these photos and stuffs!
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