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Veliky Novgorod: the Relics of St. Sophia Cathedral
August 14, 2015 00:44


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 icon of Our Lady of the Sign most revered in Novgorod is kept in St. Sophia Cathedral.

According to legend, it has suffered from the siege of the city by Mstislav, the son of Andrei Bogolyubsky, between 1169 and 1170.

The icon was put on the wall, and someone of the besiegers aimed an arrow to it. In response to this action the Mother of God cast confusion to the Suzdal army and forced them to retreat from Novgorod. This is what the legend says, but in reality the double-sided removable icon was really created in XII century, and, if desired, it is really possible to discern a certain mark, similar to that caused by an arrow, on the face of the Mother of God.

Another relic is the carved stone cross of the Metropolitan Aleksii in the memory of the Battle of Kulikovo.

This is the only known work of art that was really created in honor of this victory, “without delay”. Some time ago the cross was embedded into the wall of the cathedral, but it was later torn out from there during the Great Patriotic War.

The third relic has appeared in the cathedral only recently: not only the Germans, but also the Spanish “Blue Division” stayed in Novgorod during the war.

Retreating from the city the Spanish took the cathedral cross with a sitting metallic dove that was knocked down by the Soviet missiles. According to legend, the dove sat down to the cross during the Novgorod bashing initiated by Ivan the Terrible, looked down, saw the horrible things happening and was no longer able to fly, turning into metal.

The traces of the cross were lost, and a copy was made during the cathedral restoration. In 2003 the cross was found in one of the military academies in Spain and was returned to Russia. Not to leave the Spaniards offended, the residents of Novgorod made another copy of the cross for them. And it was decided not to return the ancient cross to its place, but to put it in Sofia. This way the cross will be in safety. The most interesting historical monument is located not in Sofia, but in front of it – this is Magdeburg, Plock or Sigtuna Gates of the cathedral cast by the masters of the Holy Roman Empire.


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: St. Sophia Cathedral Veliky Novgorod    

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