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:
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.