Staraya Ladoga was the first seat of Rurik in 862, and, after Rurik moved the seat to Novgorod, remained in the Novgorod Lands. It controlled one of the most important waterways at the time, the Trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks, of which the Volkhov River was a part. The stone construction in Staraya Ladoga started either in 1114 or 1116, and in the second half of the 12th century seven or eight stone churches were built, of which only two have survived to our days.
The exact year of construction of St. George's Church is unknown, but the details of architecture and painting show that it was built between 1180 and 1200. It was first mentioned only in 1445. The church was rebuilt in the end of the 16th century, but only the exterior was slightly altered. By the end of the 17th century, the interior of the church badly needed to be renovated, and the renovation was made in 1683-1684. During this renovation, new windows were made, and many of the frescoes from the walls were lost. The restorations were also carried out in 1902, 1925-1928, 1952-1962, and in the 1970s - 1990s.
The architecture of the church is typical for Novgorod. The church is based on four pillars and has one dome and three apses. The church is small (the area of the floor is 72 square metres (780 sq ft) and slightly asymmetric with respect to the north-south direction). This is explained by the fact that the church was built inside an existing fortress, and the space was quite limited.
Frescoes were painted in the same year as the church was opened. This is one of the few examples of the 12th-century frescoes in Russia. In 1445, some of the frescoes were renovated, with the emphasis on the careful reproduction of the old ones. Most of the original frescoes were lost in the 17th century. Some of them were removed from the walls and left under the new floor. These were discovered in the 20th century and restored. In 1780, some of the old frescoes were discovered on the walls. In total, about 20% of the original frescoes survived.
The whole original painting can not be reconstructed, however, it is clear that the northern and the southern walls had five rows of images each. Nothing survived from the frescoes of the western and the eastern walls. The frescoes of the dome were almost left intact. They depict the Ascension of Jesus. Below, the Apostles and the Prophets are painted.
All frescoes were made in the same style. Most likely, they were made by a group of painters, two of whom were the principal ones. Sky blue, red, and yellow colours dominate. There are also some colour variations, including the usage of white colour, which are not typical for Eastern Orthodox frescoes of the time and only have some parallels with the Byzantine painting, which gives a hint that the painters were Greek.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.