Yuryev Monastery (there are also options Yuryev-Georgievsky Monastery, St. Yuryev Monastery and Yuryevsky Monastery) is a monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the Great Martyr George. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Russia. In the Middle Ages, the spiritual center of the Novgorod Republic and the richest spiritual feudal lord.
It is located on the southern outskirts of Veliky Novgorod on the banks of the Volkhov River (10 Yuryevskoye Highway, 202 km from St. Petersburg). Until 1918, it had the status of a first-class monastery. The monastic community was restored in 1995.
It is an object of cultural heritage and federal significance.
According to legend, it was founded in 1030 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Yaroslav Vladimirovich, in holy baptism, bore the name George; in Russian, the latter usually had the form “Yuri,” from which the name of the monastery came. The first chronicle mention refers to 1119. The monastery’s buildings were originally made of wood, like its collegiate church of St. George. In 1119, by order of Prince Mstislav the Great, Master Peter, the first Russian architect, whose name is called Chronicles, designed a stone temple – St. George’s Cathedral.
In the 12th – early 13th centuries, representatives of the Novgorod nobility were buried in the monastery. Six stone sarcophagi belonging to them were discovered by an expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2019.
The walls of the Yuriev Monastery were first mentioned in the annals of 1333.
In the XII-XIII centuries, the monastery became the state monastery of the Novgorod Republic, and the head of the monastery – the Novgorod archimandrite – became the head of the city magistrates. By the end of the 15th century, the Yuriev Monastery was among the wealthiest monasteries.
After the monastic estates were secularized in the 1770s, the monastery lost much of its possessions and fell into disrepair.
During the Great Patriotic War, German and Spanish military units and units of Baltic collaborators, in particular, a battalion of the Lithuanian Wehrmacht police, were stationed here. During these years, the buildings of the monastery were seriously damaged.
After the war and until the end of the 1980s, people lived on the monastery’s territory. It housed a post office, a technical school, a museum, a grocery store and an art salon.
On December 25, 1991, the complex of buildings of the monastery was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Novgorod diocese. In 1995, a monastic community was established.
Divine services are celebrated in four temples of the monastery: St. George, Holy Cross and Spassky Cathedrals, the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God.
Georgievsky Cathedral of St. George’s Monastery
The cathedral’s construction, which became the main temple of the Yuriev Monastery, began in 1119. The initiator of the construction was Grand Duke Mstislav I Vladimirovich. From the Novgorod Chronicle, the name of the cathedral builder is known – the master Peter, who allegedly also built the Nikolo-Dvorishchensky Cathedral and the Church of the Annunciation on Gorodische. This is the first of the famous names of ancient Russian master builders. The construction of the cathedral lasted 11 years. On July 12, 1130, he was consecrated in the name of George the Victorious by Novgorod Bishop John.
Georgievsky Cathedral of St. George’s Monastery
The cathedral became the tomb of the monastery’s abbots, some Russian princes and Novgorod posadniks. In 1198, Izyaslav and Rostislav, the sons of the Novgorod prince Yaroslav Vladimirovich, were buried in it. In 1203, Novgorod posadnik Miroshka Nesdinich, who received tonsure in the monastery, was buried there. In 1233 – Prince Fyodor Yaroslavich, the elder brother of Alexander Nevsky, was buried in it. In 1224, his mother, Theodosia Mstislavna (Ephrosyne in monasticism), was buried in it. Lastly, in 1453 – Dmitry Yuryevich Shemyaka was buried in it.
Holy Cross Cathedral
The temple in honor of the Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord is on the northeast corner of the monastery. The cathedral was built in 1823 under Archimandrite Photius on the remains of an unnamed church that burned down in 1810. The church was constructed in 1761.
It has five blue domes with 208 eight-pointed stars. After the closing of the monastery by the Bolsheviks, the temple eventually lost its wall painting and currently does not have one. The interior walls are painted white. In the Soviet years, the cathedral housed a museum, a post office, and a warehouse, and in 1990-91 an art gallery of local artists. In the summer of 2004, the five domes and crosses’ wooden frames and metal cladding were replaced. The cathedral has a heating system and is used for regular services both in summer and winter.
It is located to the northwest of St. George’s Cathedral. From the north and south, the wings of the Archimandrite Corps closely adjoin it.
In 1763, a stone church of Alexander Nevsky and his brother Fyodor was built a few meters to the west of St. George’s Cathedral. In 1823, this church burned down during a strong fire. The Cathedral of the Savior was built in 1823-1824 on the foundations of the old church, using old masonry. The customer of the temple is the archimandrite of the monastery Ioanniky I. The customer of the temple is Archimandrite Photius.
The monument is an ordinary building of the XIX century, solved in the form of provincial classicism.
In the Spassky Cathedral of the St. Yuriev Monastery, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the festive divine service on Christmas night 2017.
It is a four-tiered building 52 m high. It was erected in 1838-1841 by the architect Sokolov according to the project of Carlo Rossi. The construction was conducted after the death of Archimandrite Photius and financed by Countess Anna Orlova. The bell tower has a noticeable disproportion of parts. A legend tells this: Nicholas I crossed out the middle tier from the project so that the building would not exceed the height of Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin.
Previously, a clock was located on the bell tower (in the round niche of the upper tier). The time was beaten by 17 bells associated with them (third tier). 15 more bells hung below. The largest monastery bell, “The Burning Bush,” weighed 2,100 pounds (33.6 tons). The second largest – “Cross” – weighed 1140 pounds (18.2 tons). In the winter of 2002-2003, mobile antennas were installed on the upper tier of the bell tower. The last major restoration took place in 2009.
Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Burning Bush”
The monastery often suffered from fires. By order of Archimandrite Photius, this church was founded in 1828 in honor of this icon, which is considered a protector from fires in Orthodoxy. It is possible to enter the church only through the corridor of the “Southern” building, bypassing the monks’ cells. The church has heating but is currently used for services only on holidays and for monks’ prayers. Unlike pilgrims, tourists are not allowed to enter this part of the monastery.
Church of the Archangel Michael
It is located in the southeastern tower of the monastery fence. The tower was built in 1760. The church was built in 1831 under Archimandrite Photius. In 1934, it was dismantled for building materials. The shape of the building was restored in the 1950s. In 2010-2013, the drum and dome of the temple were restored.