Saint George Cathedral in Yuryev-Polsky is one of a dozen surviving white-stone churches which were built in Vladimir-Suzdal Principality in the northeastern Rus prior to the Mongol invasion. Constructed between 1230 and 1234, the cathedral was also the last of these churches to be built, completed just three years before the invasion. Unlike most of the other pre-Mongol Vladimir-Suzdal churches, the St. George Cathedral was not designated as the World Heritage site.
In 12th century, the political and cultural center of Rus slowly moved from Kiev to Vladimir. Yuryev-Polsky was founded by Yuri Dolgorukiy, prince of Rostov and Suzdal, in 1152. The name of the town derives from St. George (Russian Yuri is one of the versions of the name George). Yury Dolgorukiy also built the cathedral consecrated to St. George, which stood inside the fortress. It is presumed that the cathedral was similar to the Saint Saviour Cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalessky and to the Saint Boris and Saint Gleb Church in Kideksha, which survived to our days. Yuri's son, Andrey Bogolyubsky, moved the capital of the principality to Vladimir, and Yuryev-Polsky remained under the control of Vladimir princes until 1212.
In 1212, Yuryev-Polsky became a center of a separate principality and given to Sviatoslav, a son of Vsevolod the Big Nest. By 1230, the old cathedral was considered to be irreparable, and Prince Sviatoslav personally supervised the construction of the new Saint George Cathedral, which was completed in four years. The new cathedral was considered to be a masterpiece, and used as an example by the builders of the Assumption Cathedral, the first stone building in Moscow, in 1326. The exterior of the cathedral was covered by stone carvings. In 1252, Sviatoslav was buried in the cathedral.
In 1460s, the cathedral collapsed, which at the time was considered a national disaster. Vasili Yermolin was sent to Yuryev-Polsky to repair the building. He claimed to restore the cathedral in the original form, however, it became apparent later, that the new shape was far from the original, and some of the carvings lost their meaning. In 17th century, a tent-roof bell-tower was erected next to the cathedral, and in the beginning of 19th century, two new parts were appended to the building. In 20th century, all of them were demolished, and the cathedral stands now in the middle of a meadow, so that there are panoramic views from all sides. In Soviet times, it was turned into a museum.
The cathedral is and was originally built asymmetrically. Its main volume is a square supported by four columns in the middle. The columns are square in cross-section. The eastern side is an apse.
During the collapse in 15th century the northern wall survived the best. All other walls were partially destroyed (the southern wall suffered the most of all), and, in particular, much of the stone carving from the exterior of the cathedral was torn in pieces. Although at the time the exterior stone carving were considered to be out-of-fashion, Yermolin during the restoration works made attempts to put the stories together. In particular, he was able to put together two stones with the Holy Trinity image in the south portal. However, since there were panoramic images of the whole surface of the cathedral prior to the collapse, and many of the carved stones were destroyed, Yermolin was not able to identified all the stories, and put many stones in random order. Some of the stories were actually used for construction, and their carvings were buried inside the walls; other stones landed in neighboring farms. Some of the latter were later recovered by Pyotr Baranovsky during the Soviet times renovation. Currently, most of the original carvings have been reconstructed on paper.
The stone carvings of the St. George Cathedral combine human and animal forms, performed as reliefs, with floral ornamental motives, carried out in the fine carving techniques. This combination has been known in frescoes of Saint Boris and Saint Gleb Church in Kideksha and of the Nativity Cathedral in Suzdal, however, for the sculpture, the combination is unique for Rus. It is thought that the stone carvings were done by two groups of artists. One, consisting of 12 artists, was doing the reliefs, whereas another group of 18-24 was working on the floral ornaments.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.