There exists a legend according to which the Yuriev monastery was founded in 1030. That year, after the decisive victory over the Chud tribes, prince Yaroslav the Wise decided to commemorate this event by erecting churches in Novgorod and Kiev and founding the town of Yuriev (now Tartu, Estonia), dedicated to his heavenly patron, St. George (Yuri). The Novgorod church was constructed on the way to the prince's summer residence, which was located in the village of Rakomo on the shore of lake Ilmen. Later a monastery grew around it.
The earliest documentary mentions of the monastery date back to 1119, when prince Vsevolod Mstislavovich founded "a stone church in the name of St. George, and a master Pyotr worked on it." Across the river in the Gorodishche area St. George Cathedral and the Church of the Annunciation were erected in 1103.
The significance of St. George cathedral increased even more when it became the place for the prince's chronicle-writing, while the church itself was used as the burial grounds for Novgorod princes. Here the mother of Alexander Nevsky and his brother Dmitry Shemiaka were buried along with many others. The cathedral impresses even the modern visitor with its size (height - 105 feet), length - 85, width - 78), bold elongated proportions, the severely outlined tower and the dynamic three-dome composition as well as with the magnificence and opulence of the interior decor, including a splendidly ornate gallery. The cathedral was painted in the middle of the 12th century. In 1902 the old painting was "renewed," which in reality meant completely re-done. The original frescos can still be seen only at the window slants and in the upper part of the ladder tower, where a small church was organized in the old days. Visitors must ascend 93 steps and the colossal figures of saints, as if born by the light streaming from huge windows, will surround you, making you a participant in their liturgy.
The complex of the Yuriev monastery constructions seems grandiose to us now, though the restoration work has not been completed yet. The complex comprises the 52-meter belfry and five buildings: the Eastern, the Southern, the Archimandrite's and the Northern wing with a belfry towering over it, joined from the east by a church and the Krestovosdvizhensky cathedral (of the Exaltation of the Cross), constructed in 1823.
Novgorod the Great, Russia