While spending almost four weeks in Saint Petersburg in June 2017, we made an excursion of two days to Veliky Novgorod (Великий Новгород). The main attraction is the Saint Sophia Cathedral with the Bronze Door from Magdeburg. But then there is much more to see: the Kreml with the State Museum, about 50 more churches and the gorgeous setting of Novgorod on the river Volkhov and the Ilmen Lake. Novgorod is at about 190km south of Saint Petersburg. This counts still as a suburban connection and we can buy a “suburban” (пригородный) ticket at the Moscow station – easy and without having to stand in line.
Source: Google Maps
Our suburban train or elektritschka leaves Saturday morning at 7:25. About two hours later we are in Novgorod. We have reserved a night in the Volkhov Hotel and receive a beautiful room on the fifth floor.
Ursula takes a great panorama foto of the Kreml wall (or Detinets).
Our first destination is the Saint Sophia Cathedral from the 11th century. It is the oldest Russian Cathedral modelled after the Hagia Sofia in Byzantium.
The Bronze Door is unique. It was produced in Magdeburg in 1153 and it is unclear, how this door travelled from Magedburg to Novgorod – perhaps, because Novgorod was trading with the Hanseatic League.
With my small guide “Die Bronzetür von Nowgorod” (Piper Bücherei 1963), we study the plates in detail. We particularly like the Ascension of Christ, as he is drifting upwards, away from this world.
Inside we are proud to find Constantin and his mother – forbidden to take fotos in this holy place.
Behind the Cathedral we take pictures of the belfry or bell tower.
It is a sunny Saturday and the Novgorodians love the beach life under the Kreml wall. They swim in the river Volkhov and I am not so sure, whether I would like to join them in that muddy water…
Across the river Volkhov, there is the former Tvorg (творг) or market place. Only the arcades are left as well as a few churches donated by merchants.
One example is the Paraskeva Pjatniza Church (Церков Параскевы Пятницы на Торгу) from the year 1207.
Above the Tvorg or market place, we find the Transfiguration Church (Церковь Спаса Преображения на Ильине улице) from 1374.
It contains frescoes by Teophanous the Greek from the 1370ies. He is one of the few icon painters known by name. His style is almost abstract and he gives perspective to his figures by adding white lines. One of his frescoes shows the Old Testament Trinity, when the three angels – “disguised” as vagabonds – ask for food. They are rejected, until they come to the house of Abraham and Sarah. I listen to a guide who tells the story to a family with a young boy – very kind, how he explains that these angels looked like vagabonds or бродяги – would you have invited them?
In the dome there is the Pantokrator of Teophanous.
And then we find three saints sitting on columns – I simply cannot imagine, how that works – sitting on a column day in and day out.
Next to the Transfiguration Church are the domes of the newer Snamensky Church from the 17. Jh.
Enough culture – we need a rest and book an hour on a boat. Along the river Volkhov the boat takes us to the Ilmen Lake. On the way we see the Juriev monastery that we will visit tomorrow.
The Ilmen Lake is very, very large. We cannot see the opposite shore line.
We have dinner in the Volkhov hotel on the fifth floor balcony. A great view and a good service. Then we sleep well in our luxury room to be ready for a sunny Sunday with more sightseeing in Novgorod.