The Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi Island, Russia


This is the Church of the Transfiguration built in the early 18th century on a dry stone wall foundation on Kizhi Island in Russia. It is an octagonal spruce and pine log framework with 22 domes (cupolas) covered with birch bark under some 30,000 ornately carved aspen shingles. The shape and size of the domes vary from tier to tier. Depending on the light, the shingles shimmer like silver.


The aspen shingles are all cut by hand. The green wood artisan (left) is cutting the step design in the shingle for a 'macovca', a little poppy pod dome, which you can see on the bottom right of the picture. The blade on his carving axe is curved. If you were to have only one axe for all your natural building needs then this would probably be your best choice.

Robin Wood, an experienced green wood artisan, has written a good account of the carving axe and has designed his own carving axe which is manufactured by Neeman Tools.



Aspen (left) is flexible, strong and doesn't burn easily. Heat-treated aspen is a popular material for the interior of saunas. Aspen shingles weather to a beautiful silvery-grey and are resistant to rotting and warping.

Enjoy the video tour (below) of Kizhi Island where you will see the church, other naturally built homes on the island and some traditional Russian crafts.

  A tour of Kizhi Island  

A tour of Kizhi Island