Trips to Veliky Novgorod
The seven bus trips to Veliky Novgorod organized from September to November 2001 by Deputy Director Vladimir Yu. Matveyev as a part of the program of experience sharing between the Novgorod Kremlin Museum and the Hermitage Museum were great fun to the Hermitage people. The ancient city welcomed its guests with all its autumnal splendor. The simple yet majestic beauty of its white stone churches with their lofty domes and golden crosses looked especially impressive against the background of the bright blue sky and yellow and red foliage. During their one-day tour the Petersburgers visited the Yuryev Monastery (built in the 12th to the 19th centuries), Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Rural Wooden Architecture, Novgorod Kremlin, Yaroslav Court and Ancient Market.
The history of Veliky Novgorod spans over eleven centuries (according to chronicles, the city was founded in 859). One scents here, as Alexander Pushkin said, "deeds of bygone days, legends of great antiquity." The Novgorod Kremlin Museum's collection is the third largest in Russia.
In the medieval period Novgorod played a major role in the Russian affairs. It was from Novgorod that the Rurikid dynasty originated which later supplanted all other royal families of the numerous Russian kingdoms. Novgorod gained independence earlier than other European cities (1019) and became a rich aristocratic republic controlling a huge territory from the Gulf of Finland to the Ural and Middle Volga. The city was the stronghold of Russian enterpreneurship and became member of the Hansa (commercial union of North European polities). The widespread literacy of Novgorodians is attested to by the findings of documents on birch bark from the 11th-15th centuries (over 1000 such documents have been found so far). Novgorod had one of the best urban economies in Western Europe; its pavements are 200 years older than those in Paris and 500 years, in London. As early as the 12th century Novgorod had water supply and sewage systems.
One can not do without the words "old" or "ancient" when speaking about Novgorod's treasures. Novgorodian chronicles are the oldest in Russia (1077). The oldest Russian legal code, Russkaya Pravda, arose in Novgorod. Veliky Novgorod boasts the oldest medieval stone castle in Russia, the Novgorod Kremlin founded by King Yaroslav in 1044. The Kremlin encloses the oldest Russian stone church, the Sophia Cathedral (1045-1050), and the oldest civil construction of Novgorod, the Faceted Chamber (1433).
No other Russian city has such a variety of buildings encompassing 700 years. Opposite the Novgorod Kremlin, on the right bank of the river Volkhov, were situated the city's busiest districts, the Yaroslav Court and Ancient Market. They thronged with people from early morning till late night.
The Yaroslav Court got its name from the palace of Yaroslav the Wise that occupied this area in the first quarter of the 11th century when Yaroslav was the king of Novgorod. Alongside it was the veche square, the center of Novgorod's political life. The veche (parliament) debated vital issues of the life of the huge Novgorodian Republic and the city of Novgorod. Under the aristocratic republic, executive power was vested in the Council of Lords which included owners of largest estates ("500 golden girdles"). The Council was headed by the Archbishop of Novgorod who was the major landowner in the city.
Around the Yaroslav Court was the Market, the center of the city's commerce. In the middle of the 16th century, when the Market was at its highest point, it accommodated more than 1500 shops. Foreign commercial offices were also situated in the Market. In the 17th century the western portion of the Yaroslav Court was occupied by the stone Gostiny Dvor (arcaded shops). Nowadays there are only the arcade and the gate tower of the Gostiny Dvor with a couple of premises for shops.
Not far from Veliky Novgorod, on the Volkhov bank, is the revived Yuryev Monastery. It is for the first time mentioned in chronicles in the early 12th century in connection with the construction of the St George Cathedral in 1119. The existent buildings of the monastery mainly date back to the 17th-19th centuries. The monastery's revival in the 19th century was prompted by multimillion donations of Princess A.A. Orlova-Chesmenskaya. Around this time a beautiful garden was laid out in the monastery where in open air grew melons and other exotic fruit. In reminiscence of this garden, Turkestan roses were recently planted in this place; they have taken root and now blossom till late autumn.
Vitoslavlitsy is an open-air museum of rural wooden architecture adjacent to the Yuryev Monastery. The museum covers an area of 50 hectares; on three sides it is surrounded by Myachinskiye Lakes, on the fourth, Orlovskaya Dike. The museum is created in the form of a village of varying (unilateral, bilateral and free) planning which reflects the characteristic planning of Novgorod villages. Visitors can see the most interesting and typical monument of rural architecture such as ancient houses, churches, chapels, mills, barns or bathhouses. Traditional interiors including peasant household objects and instruments are reproduced in the authentic buildings. The exhibits represent the life of Novgorod peasantry of the 19th and early 20th centuries.