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Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings

Cultural criteria: ii, iv, vi
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1992

Novgorod the Great (Veliky Novgorod) is situated north-west of the European part of Russia, approximately 200 kilometers south of St. Petersburg. This is one of the most ancient Russian cities (the first record in the IХ century), which was prospering thanks to its situation on an ancient trade route connecting North Europe with Byzantium and Persia. The ancient extant part of the city is situated on either side of the running here Volkhov River. On the left bank there is so called Sophia side – with a kremlin (it is called “Detinets”) and Saint Sophia Cathedral, and on the right one – Trade side with Yaroslav's Court (Yaroslavovo Dvorishche), Trade Yard and Shopping Arcade (Gostiny Dvor).  

The World Heritage object includes 37 separate monuments and whole ensembles, as well as the archaeological cultural layer of the Х-ХVII centuries in area of about 350 hectares.  

Novgorod Kremlin has an area of 12 hectares. It is surrounded by a red brick wall with 9 towers, 1,385 m in length, up to 10.6 m in height and up to 3.3 m in thickness, which was laid already in the XI century, but after was rebuilt scores of times. The wall itself can be reckoned a very interesting monument of history and architecture.  

The biggest, the most ancient and famous structure of Novgorod Kremlin is Saint Sophia Cathedral. It was raised in 1045–1052 by order of son of Yaroslav the Wise, Prince Vladimir, and it repeated in outline the floor-plan diagram of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev that had been built several years before. Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod is reckoned one of the most outstanding monuments of the Old Russian architecture. It was five-domed church 40 m in height. Its interior was frescoed already in the XII century. During its centuries-old history Saint Sophia Cathedral was reconstructed and restored many times, which somewhat modified its primary aspect. Unfortunally, in this connection its walls’ and domes’ primary painting was almost completely lost. It was also damaged in the years of the Great Patriotic War.  

But in spite of later strata, in whole the church preserved its primary monumental aspect. Built in stone – flag and shell limestone – it seems to embody architecture of the whole Novgorod land. Novgorod princes assigned it a part of a main structure standing out against the surrounding wooden buildings. And all citizens of Novgorod considered Saint Sophia Cathedral as the main symbol of their city. There existed even a proverb: “Where Saint Sophia is, there is Novgorod.”  

Other remarkable structures of Novgorod Kremlin: St. Sophia's Belfry (the XV century, reconstructed in the following), Faceted Chamber (1433), Nikitsky building (1670), Watchtower (1673 г.), Metropolitan's palace (the XVII century), monument “Thousandth anniversary of Russia” (1862).  

Majority of monuments on the opposite side, i.e. on the Trade Side, is concentrated in a little area situated right opposite the kremlin – in Yaroslav's Court. Here is the Dvorishche Cathedral of St. Nicholas – a big stylish structure of the beginning of the XII century with spacious choirs. Only small fragments have remained from frescos once decorating it. Near the Cathedral there are the Holy Myrrhbearers Church and the Church of St. Paraskeva Friday – single-domed, with three narthex. Its construction was tasked by tradespeople of Novgorod to Smolensk architects at the very beginning of the XIII century. At some distance from Yaroslav's Court there is the Church of St. Theodore Stratelates “On the Spring” – a structure having four internal piers and numbered among classical monuments of Novgorod architecture of the second part of the XIII century. Further out there is an ensemble of St. Anthony Monastery with the three-domed Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin of the XII century, where fragments of ancient fresco escaped destruction. Some monuments, included in the World cultural heritage objects, are situated in the suburbs of Novgorod: for example, these are the Yuriev Monastery, with its magnificent Saint George's Cathedral (beginning of the XII century), Church of St Nicholas at Lipna (end of the XIII century), Church of the Saviour at Nereditsa (end of the XII century).  

One of the Novgorod churches - the Church of the Savior in Ilyin Street - became famous for the extant here frescos of Theophanes the Greek, painter of genius from Byzantium, who worked in Russia in the second part of the XIV century and at the beginning of the XV century.  

Now the Novgorod Kremlin and other monuments are part of the well-known culture preserve that was organized in 1925 on the base of one of the most ancient museums of Russia, founded as far back as 1865. Novgorod State United Museum Reserve is famous not only for its architecture, but also for rich collections of ancient icons, decorative and applied arts, riches of the Faceted Chamber.