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A hipped roof or tented roof is a special type of roof, widely used in 16th and 17th century Russian architecture for church and belltowers. It is either:
  • a conical (actually polygonal) roof made of wood, where wood logs are located along the sides of the roof, which makes the roof high, thin and rather pointed, or
  • a roof of similar shape (thin, pointed, nearly conical), made of brick or stone.


These types of churches are typically Russian and are never found in other Eastern Orthodox countries. Some scholars, however, argue that hipped roofs have something in common with European Gothic styles of architecture, and even tend to call this style 'Russian Gothic'.

Hipped roofs are thought to have originated in the Russian North, as they prevented snow from piling up on wooden buildings during long winters. In wooden churches (even modern ones) this type of roof is still very popular. The earliest specimen of such a church was recently transported to an abbey in Vologdamarker. Another notable example is an 18th century church in Kondopogamarker, Karelia).

The first ever tent-like church built in brick is the Ascension church of Kolomenskoyemarker, designed to commemorate the birth of Ivan the Terrible. Its design was prone to most unusual interpretations. Some scholars, for example, view hipped roofs of this variety as phallic symbols. It's more likely, however, that this type of design symbolised high ambitions of the nascent Russian state and liberation of the Russian art from Byzantine canons after Constantinoplemarker's fall to the Turks.

Tented churches were exceedingly popular during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Two prime examples dating from his reign employ several tents of exotic shapes and colours arranged in a complicated design. These are the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kolomenskoye (1547) and Saint Basil's Cathedralmarker on the Red Squaremarker (1561). The latter church unites nine hipped roofs in a striking circular composition.



In the seventeenth century tented roofs were placed in a row, sometimes producing astonishing decorative effects. The first instance of this type is the Marvellous Church in Uglichmarker, whose three graceful tents remind one of three burning candles. They also became a typical architectural solution for church belltowers. In the Nativity church at Putinkimarker (Moscowmarker) this trend was pushed to its limit, as there are five major and three minor tents used in the construction.

It is said that Patriarch Nikon, who often passed near Putinki church on his way to the Trinitymarker, considered the monument to be in violation of canonical rules of Byzantine architecture and proscribed building tented churches altogether. During his time at office, many beautiful tented churches were demolished, notably the ones in Staritsamarker and the Moscow Kremlinmarker. Only in the late 19th century was the ban lifted, and the hipped roof design was revived in such remarkable monuments as the Church of the Savior on Bloodmarker in St. Petersburgmarker and St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral in Peterhofmarker.


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