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Architectural Ensemble of the Yaroslav Courtyard (Dvorishche) and the Marketplace
Medieval Novgorod was divided into the Sophia and the Marketplace sides, which have been preserved to the present day. The Kremlin was the historical center of the Sophia side, while the Marketplace and the residence of Novgorodian princes, transferred here from the Rurik Gorodishche by Yaroslav the Wise in the 11th century, became the main point of the Marketplace side.
According to the testimony of the Swedish annalist Bilemark, none of the Northern courts could surpass the household of Yaroslav the Wise in opulence and splendour. Here Olaf, a king of Norway, took his refuge; it served as a political shelter for Edwin and Edward, children of an English king Edmund; here a Norwegian prince Herald was brought up.
The Marketplace started at the Great Bridge, which connected it with the Detinets. The banks were lined with a long chain of quays where vessels stood at berth. Shops in the Marketplace were lined in rows. In the 16th century there were 42 such rows trading in fish, bread, leather goods, silver items, icons, etc. Close by, foreign traders positioned their own markets - the Swedish market and the German market.
Veche Square lay between the princes' courtyard and the Marketplace. In 1478 it witnessed a grave event in Novgorod history when the great veche bell, the main symbol of Novgorod's sovereignty, was taken away to Moscow.
The importance of the Yaroslav Dvorishche and the Marketplace in the public life of the city required that it be constantly redecorated.
Nowadays this is one of the most beautiful places in Novgorod. Shady avenues, lilac bushes, lawns full of flower beds, a magnificent panorama of the River Volkhov and the Kremlin and, first of all, the ancient architectural monuments, attract thousands of tourists.
St. Nicolas Cathedral (1113)
The most ancient construction of the Yaroslav Dvorishche - St. Nicolas Cathedral - was erected in 1113 by order of Prince Mstislav Vladimirovich on his vow in memory of his miraculous healing and in honor of the victory at Bohr. Expelled from the Detinets and barred from entering St. Sophia Cathedral, the prince constructed his own five-domed church, no less majestic than the existing ones, which received the status of a court church. It was used to confine accused men and subject them to so-called tests of conscience and for vowing fidelity. The church also served as a refuge for renegades prosecuted by the veche.
The church survived 12 fires (from the first one in 1152, to the last fire, which occurred in 1703), for a long time remained in a dilapidated state and only in the beginning of the 19th century drew the attention of the authorities, who started to bring it back to order. However, by that time it had almost lost its initial shape, which had once been so startling in its expressiveness. A new era in the life of St. Nicholas Cathedral began just several years ago, when the cities of the New Hanseatic League, which incorporated Novgorod as well, decided to participate in financing the restoration work. This work will be completed in the nearest future
The cathedral was constructed in a peculiar architectural style resembling the style popular in the South of Russia, though it differs from southern churchs by the presence of five domes and its unusual height. The latter can be fully estimated only if we mentally remove the 8, 2 feets cultural layer. In spite of the fact that the modern shape of St. Nicholas Cathedral was deformed by annexes added to its northern and western sides in the 19th century, all its five domes have been restored, their original form reconstructed and the vaulted surface has been made anew, making its present appearance quite close to the initial one.
Like the majority of old Russian churches, St. Nicholas Cathedral was covered with frescos of which only few survived. Fragments of "The Last Judgment" and the adjoining composition "Sufferings of Job" are very expressive and reveal a close connection to the Kievan monumental tradition.
Church of Ioana-na-Opokakh (1127)
The Church of Ioana-na-Opokakh was part of the early 12th-century constructions belonging to Novgorod princes, which even now, after having been reconstructed, can impress the onlooker's imagination with its truly spectacular forms and size.
The church was founded in 1127 by Prince Vsevolod Mstislavovich to perpetuate his memory among descendents. He dedicated the church to Ioan (John the Baptist), the patron saint of the prince's son who had died at an early age. After the construction work was completed, the prince gave the church over to the guild of wax merchants by issuing a special charter according to which the guild received a number of important benefits.
The owners of the Church of Ioana-na-Opokakh held their own special merchants' court of justice, composed of three representatives from the upper boyar class and two merchants. The court was headed by the tysyatsky (commander of the tysyacha - a thousand warriors).
In 1453 the old church was disassembled and a new one, generally resembling its predecessor, was erected on the old foundation by order of Archbishop Euphemy II. In fact, this may even be regarded as the first attempt to restore an original church. In this case, the foundation of the new church had definitely political intentions of consolidating the ancient Novgorod traditions against the rising power of Moscow.
The church of Ioana-na-Opokakh coincides in its plan design and sizes with the Nikola-Dvorishchensky (St. Nicholas) Cathedral. The two cathedrals were probably also the same height. Part of the church which now lies under the ground, has not been studied yet.
Before the October revolution of 1917 this had been one of the richest churchs. The archival documents indicated huge quantities of silver utensils and precious oklady (icon frames), which were confiscated "for the benefit of the state" and then melted down.
Church of the Assumption on the Marketplace (1135)
This church is the last construction belonging to the Novgorodian princes. It was commissioned by Vsevolod Mstislavovich, who had been expelled from the city in 1136, and was followed by the builders' artel.
The church has another name, given to it by the common people of Novgorod, the Church of the Assumption on Kozia Borodka (Goat's beard) or "Koziy Brod." This name was given to the church because of the trade stalls for selling small horned cattle located nearby.
The church was repeatedly reconstructed and in 1458 the old church was demolished and a new one of the same proportions was erected in its place.
Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa Church on the Marketplace (1207)
Novgorod's trade and political connections with the largest Russian cities were reflected in different areas of art and culture, including architecture. The Church of Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa on the Marketplace, built using the money of "foreign" merchants (i.e. merchants engaged in foreign trade), is a vivid example of this. The present stone construction was put up here to replace the repeatedly restored wooden church.
Portals with a wide angle of view and an elaborate system of decorative niches give a special air of elegance to the external facades of the church. Some of the decorative elements such as the altar ledge of the eastern facade and the manner of facade finishing will be used by the Novgorod architects who will imitate them in decorating a modern church which will combine all features of Novgorod architecture of the 14th - 15th centuries.
Church of St. George on the Marketplace (1356)
At the northern border of the Marketplace the inhabitants of Lubyanitsa - a street which passed through the Marketplace - erected a stone church in the place of a wooden one and dedicated it to St. George the Warrior.
Only the lower parts of this construction have survived to the present day. The intricate multiple-tier composition of the existing church was created much later, at the turn of the 17th -18th centuries under the influence of the Naryshkin baroque style. At the same time, the church has managed to preserve simplicity in its ornamentation and in the outlines of decorative details.
At the present time the church will accommodate an exhibition devoted to every-day life of provincial Novgorod at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, which is being prepared now.
The Church of the Myrrh-Bearers (1510)
The Church of the Myrrh-Bearers opens another page in the history of Novgorod and its architecture. The designer of the church, Ivan Syrkov, was the progenitor of Moscow's largest merchant dynasty, which is repeatedly mentioned in the Moscow and Novgorod annals of the 16th century. The courtyard of the Syrkov family was obviously located close to the Yaroslav Dvorishche. A three-story stone church, of which two bottom floors were used as the commissioner's warehouses, was constructed nearby. The top floor accommodated three churches: the main ones and two side churches. In 1536 the Church of the Myrrh-Bearers housed the first heated church in the city, a phenomenon earlier known only in monastery churches.
The external appearance of the church is quite original. It combines the features of the typical Muscovite and Novgorodian architecture. The elaborate composition of the main church, the galleries and the canteen, as well as three high apses and some decorative elements indicate the peculiar taste of the customer, who was a former Muscovite. At the same time consider the massiveness of the building with its high central pediment and the belfry on the western facade. All these features are a trademark of the Novgorodian architectural school!
The Church of St. Procopius (1529)
The Church of St. Procopius with a "cellar" was constructed by Dmitry Ivanovich Syrkov a littler farther to the east of the Church of Myrrh-Bearers and is a miniature copy of the former. Though generally similar in style to monuments of Novgorod architecture of the 14th -15th centuries, the Church of St. Procopius acquired some typical features of the Moscow style, for example the carinate form of the pediments and small arches on the drum.
Complex of the Gostiny Dvor (17th century.)
To the northwest of St. Nicholas Cathedral, next to its Clock-Ringer, stands an ancient civic building. The center of the building is crowned with a tower that rises erect as high as its fifth story and houses a top octahedron room, crowned by a tented roof. Two passageway arches flank the sides of the tower with two cross-shaped chambers located over them. Researchers studying the building in the 19th century thought this building was either the veche tower or the "gridnitsa," or chambers of the prince's armed guard. Later archival research definitely proved that we are looking at the Vorotnaya (Gate) Tower of the Gostiny Dvor, constructed by Moscow architects S. Efimov and G. Vakhromeev.
The arches served as a entrance to the internal square yard.
The shops were located along the perimeter of the building, decorated in the 18th century by an arcade. The arcade has been partially preserved until the present day and is now one of the most picturesque elements of the Novgorod landscape.
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