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The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Ilyina Street (1374)
The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Ilyina Street is one of the greatest and most venerable in Novgorod. The history of its foundation goes deep into the past. Tradition has it that it was in this church that the greatest Novgorod relic - the "Virgin of Sign" icon - was preserved. According to legend this icon rescued Novgorod from the Suzdalian troops in 1169. In 1374 the wooden church was replaced with a stone one. The "ulitchane" (people residing on the street) financially supported the construction works, and the archbishop Alexy, accompanied with the clergy from St. Sophia Cathedral, delivered the ceremonial consecration. This gives us additional proof of the importance of this church in the life of the town of Novgorod.
The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior is a typical example of Novgorod architecture of the 14th century. The paintings, which have survived only in the form of separate fragments, represent the only monumental work of the great Byzantine artist Theophanes the Greek. It was commissioned by a boyar, Vassily Danilovich, and accomplished in 1378. The frescos adorning the cupola and the drums are well preserved and quite impressive - the colossal image of the Almighty, wrathfully gazing at the Earth, the archangels and seraphim guarding his throne, as well as the figures of ancestors and prophets.
The paintings of the Troitsky side-chapel (the private prayer house of the commissioner) are no less interesting. The central composition, the Old Testament Holy Trinity, is flanked by the "Service of Holy Fathers" and the "Holy Virgin of Sign-Embodiment."
The peculiarity of the Troitsky side-chapel paintings lies in the presence in the icons of righteous men, stolpniki and prelates along with official saints. Following the views of "holy fathers," the artist was convinced that his characters had been the real stronghold of the church, its foundation and its guardianss.
All frescos of the great master are distinguished by their severe spirituality. There is nothing maudlin or peaceful in them. The artist created the images of saints as superhuman beings, giving them feelings which are beyond the powers of ordinary men.
For many years the monumental painting of Our Savior's Church on Ilyin street was hidden below layers and layers of paint. Only the 20th century with its new methods and technologies of scientific restoration made it possible to reveal the hidden treasures.
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