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Veliky Novgorod: Some Facts and Places to Visit
May 12, 2009 02:01

Novgorod the Great is situated on the banks of the Volkhov River. The town is famous firstly by its architectural monuments happily survived from the Old Russian period and secondly by famous archaeological finds of the same times which you can see in the permanent exhibition of Museum.

1. A little history

In the 8th century the town becomes a centre for the settlements surrounding it, than, in 11th-12th centuries Novgorod is the second capital of the Ancient Russian state after Kiev.

During the medieval period it is a capital of the land with high degree of independence. Before the annexation to the Moscow principality followed in 1478 Novgorod has a particular system of government. Instead of majority of Russian towns and lands ruled by princes, there was some kind of democratic system the Veche Republic. In the new time and particularly after the foundation of St. Petersburg in 1703 Novgorod loses its role of the main trader with the European countries. Because of this the town has survived most of its architectural and archaeological monuments. In 20th century it turned into a centre of tourism and archaeology.

2. Archaeology

The soils on the territory of the town have unique properties because of which the organic rests survive in it. Among them were leather shoes of medieval citizens, wooden pavements and well parapets not to mention about numerous articles of daily use and famous birchbark manuscripts, up-ended our concepts according to literacy in the Middle Ages. The archaeological excavations in Novgorod have recently got a new direction, the underwater excavations. The work is possible only in winter because in this season the flow of the Volkhov River is not so fast and visibility in the water is not so low. In summer it is possible to visit the excavations on the Novgorod Archaeological Expedition.

3. Old-Russian Architecture

The most ancient building is St. Sophia cathedral built in 1045-1050. It is situated in the Novgorod Kremlin named Detinets. It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia and the first one to represent original features of Russian architecture (austere stone walls, five helmet-like cupolas). Its frescoes were painted in the 12th century originally on the orders of Bishop Nikita (died 1108) (the "porches" or side chapels were painted in 1144 under Archbishop Nifont) and renovated several times over the centuries, most recently in the nineteenth century.

Outside the kremlin walls, there are three large 12th century churches. St Nicholas Cathedral (1113-23), built by Mstislav the Great, the cathedral of Yuriev Monastery 1119 (built by Mstislav's son, Vsevolod. and Kyurik, the head of the monastery. A similar three-domed cathedral (1117) of the Nativity of the Virgin, probably designed by the same masters, stands in the Antoniev Monastery, built on the orders of Antoniy, the founder of that monastery.

There are relatively big amount of the medieval churches in Novgorod and besides the town. Some of them were blown up by the Nazis and subsequently restored. The most ancient pattern is represented by the church of Sts. Peter and Pavel (on the Sinichiya Hill, 1185-92), the Annunciation church on the Myachino Lake, 1179, Assumption church on Volotovo Field, 1180s and St Paraskeva-Piatnitsa at Yaroslav's Court, 1207. The greatest masterpiece of early Novgorod architecture is the Saviour church at Nereditsa (1198). This building and the Assumption church on Volotovo Field are among monuments seriously damaged by the Nazis.

In the 13th century, tiny churches of the three-paddled design were in vogue. These are represented by a small chapel at the Peryn Monastery (1230s) and St Nicholas' on the Lipnya Isle (1292, also notable for its 14th-century frescoes). To the 14th century belong two masterpieces of painting, one of them is St. Theodor's church (1360-61, fine frescoes from 1380s)

, and the Saviour church on Ilyina street 1374, painted in 1378 by Feofan Grek.

The Saviour' church in Kovalevo (1345) was originally frescoed by Serbian masters, but the church was destroyed during the war. While the church has since been rebuilt, the frescoes have not been restored.

In the 15th century were built and painted churches to Sts Peter and Paul (on Slavna, 1367; in Kozhevniki, 1406),

to Christ's Nativity (at the Cemetery, 1387), to St John the Apostle's (1384), to the Twelve Apostles (1455), to St Demetrius (1467), to St Simeon (1462), and other saints. Several of ancient churches were reconstructed in the mid fifteenth century, under Archbishop Evfimii II, perhaps one of the greatest patrons of architecture in medieval Novgorod.

Novgorod's conquest by Ivan III in 1478 decisively changed the character of local architecture. Large commissions were thenceforth executed by Muscovite masters and patterned after cathedrals of Moscow Kremlin with elements of local tradition.

There is a picturesque museum of wooden architecture in Vitoslavlitsy established in 1964. Over 20 wooden buildings (churches, houses and mills) dating from the 14th to the 19th century were transported there from all around the Novgorod region.

Read more about Veliky Novgorod...


Yulia Buzykina


Tags: Veliky Novgorod Russian tourism Must See Places   

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