Begun as a three-aisle hall church at about the same time as the town Ribnitz was founded, the oldest pre-Romanesque parts of the St. Mary's Church are located in the western outer wall of the building. Pilister corner strips, a rounded frieze and lanset windows are amongst other remanents of this first church.
In the 14th century, the church was enlarged by the addition of two bays, and decorated by the addition of peaked arch portals in the north of south of these. After a 1455 fire, the building was rebuilt with a pentagonal choir bay and a massive ornamental helm on the top of the spire. The Great fire of 1759 destroyed this ornamental helm, as well as the building's vaulting and medieval interior. Under instruction of the court masterbuilder Johann Jachim Busch of Ludwigsluster, the tower's roof and its interior was rebuilt in a Gothic style.
The centre aisle of the church was distinguished from this time on by a semi-circular barrel-shaped timber supports, the side-aisles by a flat wooden roof. Busch envisaged a pulpit alter, and after the pulpit was relocated into the church nave, the alter was completed with the addition of the Ludwigluster court painter J.H. Surlandt; the image is a copy of Annibale Carraci's 'The Burial of Christ'. The church's northern and southern side-chapels were never restored due to insufficient funds, with the foundations also removed. Between 1841 and 1843, Georg Adolph Demmler oversaw the addition of a latern to the of a Baroque-style tower crown, heighening the tower, which still offers a sightseeing platform to visitors. In the 1970s, the church was threatened by structural damage, losing once more much of its interior: the 1883 organ, built by Friese of Schwerin, was removed. After 1980, the church was renovated, the interior again altered and a winter church on the site added.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.