Sarskoye Gorodishche or Sarsky fort was a medieval fortified settlement. Major Varangian finds at Sarskoye date from ca. 800 onward, indicating that it was a major (perhaps the most important) trade station on the Volga trade route between Scandinavia and Baghdad. Traces of a bath, an iron foundery, a potter's workshop and a jeweller's shop were encountered. There were two hoards of early 9th-century dirhams. Another deposit was detected in the vicinity: it contained dirhams inscribed with Runic signs, interpreted as a thanksgiving to Thor.
Side by side with this evidence of a Scandinavian presence, the native Merya element is strong. For instance, there are numerous beaver symbols made of clay: the beaver was a sacred animal for the Finns. Although cremations were encountered, inhumation is predominant. Like the Slavs and Varangians at Gnezdovo, the Merya and the Norsemen seem to have peacefully co-existed in the 9th and 10th centuries. The settlement appears to have escaped the violent clashes of the Norsemen with the indigenous population, so characteristic of the Ladoga region.
Excavations on the site begun by Count Aleksey Uvarov in 1854 revealed a number of superb Varangian objects comparable to the sites in Scandinavia, notably a Carolingian sword with the inscription 'Lun fecit'. Excavations have been undertaken intermittently since that period by many persons, including Nicholas Roerich in 1903. In his diary, Roerich complained that the site had been reduced drastically by road builders.
After Soviet archaeologists resumed excavations, they rejected the traditional attribution of the site to the Norsemen, proclaiming it the largest centre (perhaps the capital) of the Merya, a Finnic tribe which inhabited the region prior to the arrival of the Slavs. According to the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, the Merya township goes back to the 6th century, but its fortifications were constructed by the Slavs in the 10th century. The settlement suffered a decline in the late 10th century but seems to have endured until the 13th century, when it is first mentioned in a major chronicle as 'Sarskoe Gorodishche'.References:
The Church of St Donatus name refers to Donatus of Zadar, who began construction on this church in the 9th century and ended it on the northeastern part of the Roman forum. It is the largest Pre-Romanesque building in Croatia.
The beginning of the building of the church was placed to the second half of the 8th century, and it is supposed to have been completed in the 9th century. The Zadar bishop and diplomat Donat (8th and 9th centuries) is credited with the building of the church. He led the representations of the Dalmatian cities to Constantinople and Charles the Great, which is why this church bears slight resemblance to Charlemagne"s court chapels, especially the one in Aachen, and also to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. It belongs to the Pre-Romanesque architectural period.
The circular church, formerly domed, is 27 m high and is characterised by simplicity and technical primitivism.