Статья 'Кирха Побетен в XIV–XV вв.: историческая и виртуальная реконструкция' - журнал 'Историческая информатика' - NotaBene.ru
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Historical informatics

The Church of Pobeten in the XIV–XV centuries: historical and virtual reconstruction

Agibalov Egor Dmitrievich

Graduate student, Department of History, Baltic Federal University

238552, Russia, Kaliningrad region, village. Romanovo, Shkolnaya str., 16a, office 305

Baranova Elena Vyacheslavovna

PhD in History

Associate Professor, Department of History, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University

236016, Russia, Kaliningrad region, Kaliningrad, Chernyshevsky str., 56a, room 35










Abstract: The purpose of our work is to study the history and virtual reconstruction of the church of Pobeten, an object of historical and cultural heritage of the XIV-XV centuries. The method of analogy, creation of a digital model, photogrammetry, methods of historical informatics were used in the work. Special attention is paid to the history of the church of Pobeten and the work on creating its virtual copy. It describes working with various tools (Agisoft Metashape, Sculptris Alpha, Geomagic Studio and Sketch Up) to create photogrammetric and three-dimensional models of a historical object of the XIV century. The possibilities of using photogrammetry and three-dimensional modeling methods in the synthesis to create a virtual reconstruction of the Pobeten church are considered. The result of the work was the receipt of versatile historical data about the church of Pobeten and a virtual three-dimensional model based on them, which has the ability to edit: it can be supplemented with various elements, as well as integrated into larger works. The scope of application of the work and the results obtained can be historical local lore, preservation of objects of historical heritage, the use of the resulting product in museum installations. An interdisciplinary approach in historical research combined with computer science methods, specifically with three-dimensional computer modeling, provides exceptional opportunities, especially with the growth of information technology development, and is an actual tool of historical research in modern science.


East Prussia, Kaliningrad Region, Three-dimensional computer modeling, photogrammetry, preservation of historical heritage, churches, Pobeten, Historical reconstruction, digital history, Interdisciplinary approach

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The Kaliningrad region is part of the former East Prussia, because of all the subjects of the Russian Federation, it is on its territory that the heritage of the German states is located – churches built in the period from the XIII to XX centuries. Unfortunately, most of them are in a ruined state due to human and natural factors. This creates the problem of preserving the history of such structures, their architectural features, which are gradually disappearing into oblivion.

At the same time, humanitarian knowledge is actively developing in the field of digital technologies. New methods are provided by historical informatics, in which the possibilities of virtual reconstruction of historical objects are actively used. This makes it possible not only to visualize the results of the work, but also to reconstruct the monuments of cultural heritage. One of the positive aspects of this direction is the durability of digital media. 

The history of the church.

Our work is dedicated to one of the churches of the Kaliningrad region, located in the village of Romanovo (formerly the village of Pobeten) Zelenograd district, its virtual reconstruction. In addition to studying the history of this object of the XIV-XV centuries, creating a digital copy of it, knowledge about identical churches was analyzed and synthesized, which made it possible to systematize knowledge about architectural church structures of the heyday of the Teutonic Order in the territory of East Prussia.

The church in the settlement of Pobeten was originally a Catholic, and later a Lutheran church, built in the XIV century and became the most monumental of the village churches in East Prussia. The church is best known for the fact that its pastor was Abel Ville, who created in the middle of the XVI century a translation of Luther's Catechism into Old Prussian "The Catechism of the Enchiridion in Prussian and vice versa in German", the third edition of which was probably the only printed evidence of the Prussian language [1]; [2, S. 222-224].

It is worth starting with the fact that the German churches of the XIII-XIV centuries had common features in their structure. During the period under review, the Gothic style prevailed in the church architecture of East Prussia (namely brick, Hanseatic or North German Gothic [3]) in the construction of temples. The main feature of brick Gothic is the monumentality and massiveness of buildings.  This is primarily due to the fact that during the development of the territory of the Prussians and their Christianization during the Crusades, the need for castle and cult architectural objects was high. In addition, the availability of materials also played a role. The Teutonic Order did not forget about the protective function of parish churches, so that when attacked, for example, by the Prussians, religious buildings could serve as a shelter for the local population [4, S. 181].

The first mention of the vicar of Pobeten dates back to 1321, but the church itself was built later [1, S. 218]. The village of "Pobeti" was first mentioned in the work of Peter of Dusburg "Chronicles of the Land of Prussia". In this first monument of the Order historiography, Pobeten was first mentioned in 1258 in the Chronicle of the Land of Prussia [5]. In addition, there is a mention of the area "Pobeti" in the documents on the division of Sambia between the order and the bishop for the same year [6]. The name of this settlement, as A.B. Gubin writes, came from the Prussian language and meant "the land of Beten" by the name of the owner of this area [7], who participated in the events during the Prussian uprising in 1260 [8]. Another variant explains the etymology of the word as a description of a place in the west (from the Prussian "po" - near, against, about and "b?tan" - evening, west) [9]. Now the settlement is called Romanovo, it is located in the area of the Russian highway A-192, eight kilometers south of the city of Pionersky (formerly Neukuren [10, S. 224]) and belongs to the Zelenograd district. The church itself is located in the northeastern part of the district to the west of the A-192 highway.

In 1288-1289, the fortress "ordenhaus" ("order house") was built on the basis of the Prussian fortification – the fortified Prussian val mountain. In connection with the construction of the fortress, the settlement of Pobeten was founded: in the immediate vicinity of the church there are various remains of a wall originating from the former "House of Pobeten" [11].  By 1295, the mention of the first pastor from Pobeten, who tried to get help for his Prussian flock from the Konigsberg komtur, is attributed [8]. Probably, he conducted a service in the western part of the castle, where it is assumed there was a chapel, which is mentioned in 1321, even before the construction of a large church in Pobeten [2, S. 218.]. The first documented name of the pastor refers to 1320-1321. The name of the mentioned pastor was Conrad. Initially, he conducted services in the fortress chapel, since the church itself was built later in the XIV century. [1].

The church was built of natural fieldstone and brick, which framed the corners, windows and doorways.  The church was one of the largest village churches in Zemland in the Gothic style, with a tower added in the XV century, and already in the XVI century the church was plastered [12]. The three-part observation tower had more niches than windows in Italian belfry towers [13].




















Fig. 1. The church tower is whitewashed from the northwest. The photo is dated 1943/1945 [14].


Fig. 2. Children at the pharmacy. The tower of the Whitewashed church is visible in the background. 1900-1910 [15]


The choir and nave (the nave is 24 meters long and 9.5 meters wide) originally had flat wooden ceilings, which later became vaulted [4, S. 104-109]). The existing strict vault was divided into many parts (by inserting edges between them), while the edges had to be straight in order to give the strict vault a star-shaped appearance. The high choir of the parish church itself, including the sacristy attached to the altar part from the north, was built around 1350 and continued by the nave in the last quarter of the XIX century.

Fig. 3. Whitewashed interior of a Protestant church [15].

The main feature of the church of Pobeten is its monumental tower, built in the XV century (and received a new coronation only in 1800), thanks to which the church became the most monumental village church in Zemland [16]. At about the same time, the stepped eastern facade (choir wall), topped with double-leaf towers, was divided by Gothic blind niches.

 At the end of the XIV century. the choir received a vault with eight-pointed stars on openwork consoles. The star vault in the nave was completed only in the XV century . It had ribs that were made in the style of Rough assembly, the crossbars were covered with steel [4, S. 104-109]. Also in the XV century. a multi-figure fresco was painted in the altar part of the church depicting a procession of saints or, according to another version, figures of donors to the temple (donators).

Fig. 4. The church in Pobeten. 1912-1922 [15]

Fig. 5. Whitewashed. At the Church. Dating: 1900-1920 [15]


At the moment, the church belongs to the ROC [17]. The church is currently mothballed, which happened in 2018 [18], and is gradually being destroyed. According to one of the first settlers who settled in Pobeten (in 1947, renamed Romanovo [19]), the church was not damaged during the Great Patriotic War [20], and later was used as a warehouse for chemical fertilizers (there is evidence that it remained in almost complete condition until the 1980s. [21, 22]). In 2007, the church was recognized as an object of cultural heritage of regional significance. However, the received status did not save the church from desolation and gradual destruction in any way, therefore it is important to preserve the memory of it, its history before it finally collapses.


Photogrammetry within the framework of this research work made it possible to create a digital copy of the church of Pobeten at the present stage of its history. This is important, since it became possible to obtain data on the architectural forms of the church, find out the dimensions in order to compare with the preserved information about it and create a plan for the time of the XIV-XV century.

Work on the creation of a 3D model using photogrammetry took place in several stages. The first stage consisted of capturing the object in a series of photographs and then processing the images in a special program. All photographs should be taken at a verified distance along a number of shooting points around the object. This was necessary so that later the program would use machine vision to determine the common parts of the images and build a series of points with three-dimensional coordinates of the object (point cloud), which could later be converted into a 3D object. 

As part of the creation of a digital copy of the church of Pobeten, the shooting was carried out at a distance of 15-20 meters from the object with movement around it in a circle, a total of 324 photos were taken (See Fig. 6-8.). For additional quality of the model, the photos were processed in Adobe Photoshop [23] to remove all unwanted defects, trim excess edges, increase the contrast of images.


Fig. 6. Shooting of the Whitewashed church from a quadrocopter. Northeast side.

Fig. 7. The Church of Pobeten, the eastern entrance. Shooting with a quadrocopter. East entrance.


Fig. 8. The church is Whitewashed. Shooting with a quadrocopter. South-east side.


After that, all the obtained images were imported into the program for photogrammetry of the object – Agisoft Metashape [24]. It allows you to save the created digital copy in the form of a high-quality three-dimensional model covered with texture [24]. After processing the photos by the program, a sparse point cloud was created (See Fig. 9.), which allowed us to determine how correctly the geometry of the object was recognized.



Fig. 9. Sparse point cloud created in the Agisoft Metashape program

 After creating a sparse point cloud, the longest process began – the formation of a dense point cloud, which became the framework of the future model (See Fig. 10.). At the second stage, the dense point cloud was "cleaned" and exported to a 3D model. All unnecessary objects captured during the shooting of the object and not related to it (usually natural objects such as bushes, trees, rocks, terrain irregularities) were removed.

Fig. 10. A dense cloud of points of the church is displayed in the viewer program for verification and subsequent editing.

 After that, the 3D model was edited using the Sculptris Alpha 6 program and Geomagic Studio. The last of them allowed to start the process of checking and correcting the geometry of the three-dimensional model.  The unfortunate moments that Geomagic Studio did not fix were edited in Sculptris Alpha 6. This program allows you to fix a 3D model using an intuitive interface and tools based on brushes, the parameters of which can be flexibly edited (See Fig. 11.).

Fig. 11. Correction of the photogrammetric model of the church of Pobeten in the Sculptris Alpha 6 program.

Further, the 3D model can be used as a basis for a future virtual reconstruction of the historical appearance of the church. The fundamental method for creating a digital reconstruction of a cultural heritage object is 3D modeling.  Methods and technologies of 3D reconstruction are determined primarily by the state of the research source base. Each of the sources suggests a special approach to working with a visual historical document.

In our case, the photogrammetric model made it possible not to make field measurements, but to obtain modern data; the plan of the church at the end of the XIX century, with which it seemed possible to check (not taking into account the additions of a later time, and not the XIV-XV centuries), was preserved thanks to the work of Adolf Boetticher (See Fig. 12) [4, S. 106].

Fig. 12. The plan of the Pobetenskaya church. 1880-1896 [4, S. 106].

 All the pictorial sources, the photogrammetric model of the Pobetenskaya Church, as well as the data obtained during the study of church architecture in the XIV-XV centuries on the territory of East Prussia, were carefully analyzed and synthesized for subsequent use in the reconstruction process. Based on them, the plan of the church of Pobeten was created, which was later transferred to a special program for virtual modeling.

The SketchUp Pro program was used as a tool for creating a 3D reconstruction of the church of Pobeten, the main purpose of which is to create geometrically correct architectural forms [25]. Initially, the design work involved the creation of a room frame. The beginning was laid on the eastern and at the same time the most preserved side of the church. The work in this case was carried out on the basis of preserved photographs of the past and current state of the church of Pobeten. The choir wall was drawn on the basis of photographs of the XIX-XX centuries, postcards of this time and modern photographs of the church of Pobeten. A similar process was carried out with the central part of the church.

What the roof looked like in connection with the northern part, it was possible to find out only from one photograph of the church of Pobeten, dated in the period 1920-1940. Therefore, to create an authentic view of the building, data on other churches of East Prussia of the same time were used. The side lancet windows were made with an eye to the fact that in the XIX century. they were enlarged downwards [26], and therefore in a three-dimensional copy of the church they differ from those that were used in the photographs of the XIX-XX century. and the modern view of the church is Whitewashed: their height was reduced.

The tower (due to the fact that at the moment it has been destroyed to the level of the nave) was created solely on the basis of photographs. There were no problems with the location of windows, niches, recesses: illustrative sources were enough to recreate the historical appearance of the object of cultural heritage. Photos have become excellent sources showing the location and size of each of the elements needed in the work.

After the foundation of the church was created, the process of applying textures took place. Texture maps were created based on photographs that were carefully edited and prepared in Adobe Photoshop, and later exported to Sketch Up and applied to a 3D model. Thus, a three-dimensional model of the church of Pobeten was created at the time of the XV century (See Fig. 13.).


Fig. 13. Three-dimensional model of the Pobetenskaya church


In conclusion, it should be said that the reconstruction of the historical appearance of the gradually decaying architectural objects of the past is an urgent task for the study of the historical and cultural heritage of the Kaliningrad region. One of the ways to implement the task comes to the rescue – virtual reconstruction. In this research paper, the history of the church of Pobeten, the most monumental village church in Zamland, and the process of its virtual reconstruction were considered.   In the course of the study, the prerequisites for the creation of churches on the territory of East Prussia in the XIV-XV centuries are considered, as well as the features and commonalities of church buildings of the period under consideration are highlighted. In general, this made it possible to obtain data on the Pobetenskaya Church, its architecture, history, and therefore to create a reliable virtual copy of the object for the period of the XIV-XV centuries.


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The history and culture of various regions of Russia is distinctive and unique, which is largely determined by numerous ethnic groups that differ in language, culture, economic structure, and psychological temperament. Russian President Vladimir Putin notes that "our state was built around the values of multinational harmony. This is the most important foundation of our consolidation, which is only getting stronger in the face of external aggression and threats." Among the wonderful places of our country, our enclave, the Kaliningrad region, should undoubtedly be named, on the territory of which there are, albeit few, but nevertheless monuments of European culture. The former Konigsberg, and now modern Kaliningrad, attracts tourists from all over Russia, and at the same time those researchers who focus on the heritage of the East Prussian period. These circumstances determine the relevance of the article submitted for review, the subject of which is the historical and virtual reconstruction of the church of Pobeten in the XIV-XV centuries. The author sets out to analyze the history of the church, to recreate its historical appearance with the help of virtual reconstruction, as well as to systematize knowledge about architectural church buildings of the heyday of the Teutonic Order in the territory of East Prussia. The work is based on the principles of analysis and synthesis, reliability, objectivity, the methodological basis of the research is a systematic approach, which is based on the consideration of the object as an integral complex of interrelated elements. The scientific novelty of the article lies in the very formulation of the topic: the author seeks to carry out a virtual reconstruction of a historical object on the territory of the modern Kaliningrad region. Scientific novelty is also determined by the involvement of documents from the funds of the Administration of the Administration of the municipal formation "Zelenograd City District". Considering the bibliographic list of the article as a positive point, its scale and versatility should be noted: in total, the list of references includes 25 different sources and studies. The undoubted advantage of the reviewed article is the involvement of foreign literature, including in German, which is determined by the very formulation of the topic. Of the sources attracted by the author, we note first of all Internet news resources, as well as materials from museum collections, chronicles, etc. Among the studies used, we will point to the works of A.B. Gubin, O. Shlicht, A.P. Bakhtin and other specialists, whose focus is on various aspects of the history and architecture of East Prussia. Note that the bibliography of the article is important both from a scientific and educational point of view: after reading the text of the article, readers can turn to other materials on its topic. In general, in our opinion, the integrated use of various sources and research contributed to the solution of the tasks facing the author. The style of writing the article can be attributed to a scientific one, at the same time understandable not only to specialists, but also to a wide readership, to anyone interested in both the visualization of historical objects in general and the monuments of the former East Prussia in particular. The appeal to the opponents is presented at the level of the collected information received by the author during the work on the topic of the article. The structure of the work is characterized by a certain logic and consistency, it can be distinguished by an introduction, the main part, and conclusion. At the beginning, the author determines the relevance of the topic, shows that the church in the settlement of Pobeten was originally a Catholic, and later a Lutheran church built in the XIV century and became the most monumental of the village churches in East Prussia. It is noteworthy that in 2007 the church was recognized as an object of cultural heritage of regional significance, but the church is nevertheless being destroyed, therefore, as the author rightly notes, "it is important to preserve the memory of it, its history before it finally collapses." As noted in the work, "photogrammetry within the framework of this research work made it possible to create a digital copy of the church of Pobeten at the present stage of its history." The author points out that "texture maps were created based on photographs that were carefully edited and prepared in Adobe Photoshop, and later exported to Sketch Up and applied to a 3D model." The main conclusion of the article is that "the reconstruction of the historical appearance of gradually collapsing architectural objects is an urgent task for studying the historical and cultural heritage of the Kaliningrad region." The article submitted for review is devoted to an urgent topic, will arouse readers' interest, is provided with 13 drawings, and its materials can be used both in training courses and as part of the development of virtual reconstruction methods. In general, in our opinion, the article can be recommended for publication in the journal "Historical Informatics".
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