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Veliky Novgorod: St. Sophia Cathedral
August 22, 2015 22:01


St. Sophia Cathedral is the oldest of ancient cathedrals. “Where there is St. Sophia, there is Novgorod” – the residents of ancient Novgorod said.

St. Sophia in the Novgorod Kremlin (Detinets) has been the main cathedral of the city and Novgorod land for nearly one thousand years.

When the borders of Novgorod, stretching from Pskov to the White Sea, from Torzhok to the Urals, were attacked, the severe Novgorod residents took up arms to “stand up for St. Sophia”. According to Novgorod guides, their St. Sophia Cathedral is the best of all, everything started with it. Let’s specify: you cannot call the Novgorod Sophia the most ancient Russian cathedral, the oldest Orthodox cathedral, and even the oldest surviving Christian cathedral in Russia.

The first stone church of medieval Russia was, of course, the Church of the Tithes in Kiev (the end of X century). If we talk about the oldest surviving ancient cathedrals, the historians still argue what is more ancient – St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev or the Savior Cathedral in Chernigov; However, both of them, no doubt, were built before the Novgorod cathedral.

What about the oldest Christian churches on the territory of the Russian Federation, St. Sofia is surpassed by the cathedrals of the Caucasus - for example, Thaba-Yerdy in Ingushetia (presumably VIII century) or Alan cathedrals in Karachay-Cherkessia (no later than X century). But St. Sophia Cathedral can surely be called the oldest surviving ancient cathedral on the territory of modern Russia. So, there is not just a beautiful church on the banks of Volkhov, it is the tangible evidence of a thousand years of Russian history, powerful and expressive. You can look at it, come inside, touch it: thick, almost half-meter walls, built of local limestone, five large domes and the sixth dome above the staircase tower, three luxurious iconostases, many relics, tombs of Novgorod bishops and the venerated relics of saints under the ancient vaults.

The Novgorod Kremlin or Detinets is the citadel of Veliky Novgorod. It stands above the Volkhov River, above the low Trade Side. If you walk through the pedestrian bridge from the river, from the Trade Side, the Kremlin will slowly grow, becoming higher and more significant with every step. And if you approach the Kremlin park from the broad Sennaya Square, the fortress which is initially barely visible through the trees will suddenly appear as a whole, in all its glory and power. But the best look of the Novgorod Kremlin can be perceived from the water - if you sail along Volkhov from Ilmen Lake, the red brick walls and towers of the Kremlin can be seen already from the Gorodishche (ancient settlement, in comparison to which the fortress built in X century became known as Novgorod, which means “new city”).  Then you gradually begin to discern the details – loopholes of the towers, battlements of the walls, ancient and relatively new buildings. The chimes of the bells are carried by the water to tens of kilometers, strengthening the sense of timelessness.

In fact, Detinets is the Lord Novgorod the Great itself: the administrative, social and religious centre of the city. Mayor (Posadnik) was elected here; the squads of Aleksandr Nevsky went to fight the Swedes from here. The Kremlin walls protected the St. Sophia Cathedral and the main residence of the Archbishop of Novgorod in the Episcopal court. The eastern arch offers the view of the Yaroslav Court and the Antoniev Monastery, in clear weather you can also see the bell tower of the suburban Yuriev Monastery. You can enjoy the view of the entire city and its surroundings from the high watchtower that received its name “Kokui” at the beginning of XIX century.

Read more about Veliky Novgorod...


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Veliky Novgorod St. Sophia Cathedral    

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