Who would think that deep in the Russian North there would be such an iconostasis? The architecture of the church itself is quite usual and traditional for this region. Moreover, this iconostasis is not a copy of anything else. It is the original work of art and the result of creative thought and search. We would hardly know about it, if not for one project in this area.
Four kilometers away from Veliky Ustyug on a Glyaden hill (old name is Gleden) stands the Holy Trinity Troitse-Gledensky Monastery. The first reliable mention of this monastery dates back to the 16th century. The legend dates its foundation to the 12th century. Once rich and famous, the monastery was closed in 1925. The monastic community hasn't returned there since. Today Troitse-Gledensky Monastery is part of the Veliky Ustyug Museum Reserve. At the same time it serves as the residence of the archbishop of Veliky Ustyug diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Trinity cathedral was built in the monastery in 1659. The five-tier iconostasis has been created with donations from Ustyug residents from 1776 to 1784. It is now a landmark of the Russian North.
The prototype for this iconostasis was the iconostasis in Zachatievsky cathedral in Spaso-Yakovlevsky Monastery in Rostov. But the Northern craftsmen didn't copy it, they created the original work of art.
The iconostasis is in the Baroque style. It has its characteristic splendor of decoration and pretentiousness of forms. The local carvers and icon painters oriented themselves towards Saint Petersburg examples. This meant that they adopted a lot of the latest European trends of that time.
It is possible that the mirrors in Saint Petersburg palaces inspired the original decision of the craftsmen. They used mirror plates as a background for the figures of apostles of the Royal doors. The existence of the mirrors in the iconostasis was documented in the monastery inventory in 1785. But soon the mirror plates were taken off. Such a decoration looked too unconventional.
The compositions of the icons also depart from the Orthodox tradition. This is because they were painted from printed Western European engravings. Alexei Kolmogorov from Ustyug painted most of the icons.
Petr Labzin's crew made the gilding. They used the complex technique of a double with continuous engraving - figured prints on raw gesso.
The carving was made by the brothers Timofei and Nikolai Boganov from Totma. The recognizable feature of Totma craftsmen are the twisted cartouche frames. According to one version, this element derives from the sea charts. The navigation was known in the Russian North since ancient times.
The iconostasis of the Troitse-Gledensky Monastery was restored by Moscow renovators in the 1970s. Today it is "back home" in its cathedral. In summer, when the monastery is open to tourists, everyone can come and look at it.