The St. George's (Yuriev) Monastery is usually cited as Russia's oldest monastery. It was used to be the most important in the medieval Novgorod Republic. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site named Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings.
According to legend, the monastery was founded in the 11th century by Yaroslav the Wise (whose Christian name was George), but the first historically-reliable reference to it is from the early 12th century when the main church the Church of St. George (Georgieveskii Church) was founded (in 1119) by Prince Vsevolod Mstislavich of Novgorod and Pskov and Hegumen (roughly equivalent to a western prior) Kyuriak (Kirik) and built by the master Peter.
By the first third of the 13th century the hegumen had been raised to the status of an archimandrite (roughly equivalent to an abbot, i.e., the head of an important monastery, although the comparison with western abbots is imprecise).
The monastery was an important source for historical information on medieval Novgorod, as part of the Novgorod First Chronicle (the Synodal text) was compiled in the monastery.
The Church of St. George is one of the largest in Novgorod and its immediate environs. It is a tall white-stone church with three silver domes, which is unusual for Russian churches which usually have five domes (the main dome representing Christ, the four smaller ones representing the evangelists). Some remnants of the medieval frescoes remain, but most of the church was repainted in 1902. Among the frescoes is a large Christ Pantokrator in the main dome, a full-length portrait of Novgorodian Archbishop Feoktist, and another full-length (although smaller) portrait of Prince Vsevolod Mstislavich on the southwestern pier.
The monastery also has the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in the northeastern corner of the monastery, with five blue domes and gold stars on it, built in the 18th century. The gateway into the monastery is crowned by a tall gold-domed tower which is visible from the city centre, including the Novgorod Kremlin two miles to the north.
The monastery was ravaged during the Soviet rule. Five of its six churches were destroyed by 1928; the monastery was closed in 1929. During the World War II, the buildings were occupied by the German and Spanish armed forces, and were seriously damaged. In 1991 the monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, and parts of it have been renovated since then. However the western part, including a church there, are still in ruins.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.