The name Volotovo is first mentioned when the church was being built. One is always interested in history of names that came from ancient days and meaning of the word Volotovo is examined by few generations of scientists. People are always childishly curious when figuring out the meaning of names!
According to one hypothesis, the name Volotovo descends from mythological giants, elders. That's how they were called in ancient chronographs and spiritual poems. According to the legend, that makes basis of this version, the elders were buried here since the great Gostomysl who offered to call the prince from the outside in times of political disputes in 9th century – thus Rurik appeared in Russian history… There was a mound near the church until 19th century where wise old man was buried and who, according to one legend, was Rurik's grandfather…
According to another version, the name of the place, where nowadays a small church-masterpiece stands out, descends from another mythological creature. It is suggested, that the place got its name in honour of the pagan God Volos. Indeed, places were often named after the God which idol stood in the area. It was in times of paganism. A striking example of this – the name Peryn survived to the present day. In times of Orthodoxy in Rus churches were built in "unclean", bad places and where the pagan idols had stood: thus the area was consecrated, being transformed with prayer of the faithfuls when the Holy Spirit came down.
But there is the third version that, like two others, has right to exist and also has some proofs. Once Chud – Finno-Ugric tribe, along with Slavs, Krivichs and Meryas that lived there since the time of the formation of future Veliky Novgorod – was called like that.
With an abundance of legends and hypotheses, every of which is more beautiful and attractive than another, scientists tend cling to the simplest version. According to them, the name comes from the name of a man who lived here long before the construction of the temple. Volot. So the name was preserved through centuries, becoming part of the church's name!
Other legends are connected with this church. On July 19, 2002, a team of restorers laid temple's walls (and the principle of restoration – usage of 14th century's bricks taken from debris as far as it possible). One of the restorers took a brick in his hands and wanted to put it in appropriate place but something stopped him: restorer saw a pattern. They were not manufacturers' stamps, scrawled on the brick, nor animal foot stamped on it, as there was often in the architecture of ancient Rus, but the boat with three warriors were depicted on the brick surface, having an area of 29 to 14.5 cm. The whole story is shown in a small space. Symbolically, the brick was found on anniversary – 650 years passed from the date when the church was built. Restorers, who successfully started a work, considered it as a good sign: a blessing from above, a piece of history, coming to us through the centuries. What is shown in the brick?
3 warriors, dressed in battle armor (two heads are topped with pointed helmets with waving plumes), swim to the unknown distance. Who is the author of this drawing? Judging by the confident, clear lines, talented and expressive composition of characters' images, a man who was good at drawing. Most likely, an artist or an architect, who built this temple by order of Archbishop Moses in 1352.
Who are these people in the boat, sailing into the distance? Maybe they are legendary characters or real warriors that the artist knew? What story did he tell us? If the artist wanted to depict some legendary persons on the brick they could be the leader of Rus's tribe Rurik and his brothers: Sineus and Truvor. This version is not so unbelievable, remembering the fact that the grave mound of Gostomysl, that called brothers, was not far from here. And if it is so, brick-message of the 14th century preserves the memory of the origins of Rus, of those who, according to one version, in the 9th century brought her a name that survived to the present day, and so precious for us, for people of the 21st century. Then this boat, that came to us from ancient days, can be considered as a symbol of cradle of the Russian state and this founding – touch with origins and Eternity.
Historians analyzed the details of the plot-message. Most likely, they are not Vikings, who are depicted on it, but Novgorodians-ushkuiniks – warriors, that went far beyond the sea in those days to conquer and explore new lands, in order to call them later a part of the great Novgorod land. But even if the version of the Varangian, shown on the brick, is unsubstantiated, it corresponds to the temple, which is close to its original appearance after restoration works, by its beauty and poetry.
According to the legend, the construction of the church is associated with the plague that first struck Pskov, and then the other Russian lands. Novgorod was one of them. People of Pskov called Archbishop Basil from Novgorod to serve a public prayer and he died on the way back, having fulfilled his mission. Then his successor, the newly elected Archbishop Moses, now venerated as a saint, trusting in God's help, built Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. It is not the only temple in Russia that is constructed as a plea for help in a time of great tribulation. And this is the testimony of the height of Novgorodians' spirit. Known for his many spiritual exploits, Archbishop Moses, when he died, was buried by his follower and disciple Archbishop Alexius. The first Novgorod chronicle preserves the memory that Alexius with his own hands made a grave for his teacher. It is said that, before his death, Moses gave Alexius his plan of fresco ensemble for this little church, painting of which began a few months after the death of Moses.
It happens often: to learn new things, to discover the treasures of this world, it is not necessary to travel "around the world". It turns out, that it is quite simple to get acquainted with the world masterpiece, especially if you live in such land as Novgorod. Church is unique not only for architecture; icons, partially preserved and exhibited in the Novgorod museum; frescoes whose fragments are restored; it is also unique for its legends, which are like snow, circling around this little church - a model of the universe, as it was understood by our ancestors.
You can get to the church by many buses that go by Moscow route from the Central Bus Station. You should get off a bus just after the first small bridge. Having the road crossed and heading for the silver dome, go to the church by asphalt road. The church is open every day from 10 a.m. to 16 p.m., except Monday and Tuesday.