October 01, 1998

Lord Novgorod the Great

Among Russia's many ancient cities, Novgorod is one of the greatest repositories of medieval art, with more than fifty surviving churches and monasteries extending from the eleventh through the seventeenth centuries. This distinction is all the more remarkable in view of the city's devastation during almost three years of fighting and occupation during the Second World War. The survival of most of its churches, when so much else was destroyed, must be acknowledged as miraculous. Yet Novgorod also experienced serious, irreplaceable losses.

Although Novgorod originally received its architectural forms from Byzantium via Kiev, the city rapidly developed an indigenous architectural style in churches commissioned by its princes during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as well as in the "commercial" and neighborhood churches of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Even with the surrender of its independence to Moscow in the late 1400s, Novgorod sustained a vital, creative tradition in its adaptation of a new, "Muscovite" style--a tradition that ceased only in the 1700s, as the city lost its strategic importance and sank into an almost total stagnation.


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