Veliky Novgorod, Russia

The birthplace of Russia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, Veliky Novgorod is the only place where you can discover the full array of those emotional experiences that are so dear and important to every citizen of Russia: the richness of Russia's soul, the unbreakable bond with the great and glorious past of the country. It is the only place where you can touch the living history more ancient than any other place in Russia, and see for yourself "from whence the Russian land came to be": its Orthodox beliefs and practices, literacy, democracy, and statehood.

Veliky Novgorod is famous for its notable repository of architectural monuments, murals and collections of Russian icon-painting and applied art. Nowadays, the visitors to Veliky Novgorod can enjoy a tour of the unique complex of structures dating from the 11th to the 17th centuries. The main landmark is the Kremlin (Detinets) which was first mentioned in the Chronicles of 1044. Originally it consisted only of the Bishop's Court. In the early 12th century the territory of the citadel was extended, but the Kremlin began to be used as a military fortification only at the beginning of the 14th century when it attained contemporary dimensions and stone walls were erected instead of wooden ones. In the late 14th century ramparts were built around the entire city, with wooden walls and stone towers over them. The walls and towers have acquired present-day appearance at the end of the 15th century.

St. Sophia Cathedral

The St. Sophia Cathedral in the Novgorod Kremlin is the most ancient church of Russia. In 989, soon after the baptism of Russia, a wooden church perfectly built and decorated with 13 domes, and consecrated, like the main Orthodox Church in Constantinople, to God Father and His Creative Wisdom Sophia. The unusual church produced an indelible impression upon Yaroslav-the-Wise. On becoming the grand prince, he erected the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev crowning it with 13 domes too. In 1045, Yaroslav's son Vladimir redesigned the St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. This five-domed version of the Novgorod cathedral has survived to the present day and has largely shaped the traditional Russian five-dome church design.

The cathedral has acquired its present-day appearance in 1900, after a large restoration. The famous cathedral has retained its early iconostasis with icons of the 14th to 17th centuries, frescoes of the 11th and 12th centuries as well as objects of Byzantine and Western European art. In 1991 the cathedral has been returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. From that time a remarkable national relic of the Russians, the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, can be seen there.