The Novgorodian jewelry craft bloomed in the first half of the 12th century. The craftsmen mastered all the most complicated techniques, such as soldering, casting, minting. Gold earrings, made by granulation and filigree, are good examples. There are two gold-plated silver ‘kratiers’ (cruets), made by masters Flor-Bratilo and Kosta-Konstantin, which are presented at the exhibition. Cruets are made in Byzantine style, narrowing to the bottom and having a round pallet. Its specific feature is ears, made in shape of a grape-vine. There are figures of the saints minted on the rounded edges, and the natural ornament on the sharp ones. At the top of the cups, there is a lettering, which contains a quote, said by Jesus Christ at the Lord’s Supper: ‘For this is my blood of the new testament’, and at the bottom of the cups - names of the customers who ordered these cups. Later, the craftsmen started making the communion cups for the sacramental wine, because they were more convenient for taking communions. These cups are exhibited at the ‘The golden treasury of Veliky Novgorod’ as well.
Among the churchware, there was not any item without symbolic meaning. So, the Zion was the model of the global Christian sanctuary – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The sacramental bread was consecrated there. There were several Zions in the St. Sophia Cathedral. The minor one, the oldest, was brought from the Byzantine Empire. It is heavily disrupted, and it has the reminiscences of the day, when Vsevolod, the Prince of Polotsk, invaded Novgorod and took away the sacred relic. Later, the Novgorodians returned it back. Heavily disrupted, without doors, with broken cut glass, it is still an example of the high mastery of Byzantine craftsmen.
The Novgorodians were talented followers of the Byzantines. As a proof of that, there is the Big Zion, made by local craftsmen in the first half of the 12th century. It is made as a silver temple with the columns, carrying the sphere dome with pictures of the Jesus, the Holy Mother, archangels and the Saint Basil the Great. Basil the Great is the Saint, lived in the 4th century, who shorted the divine service to 4 hours. The fact, that his image is engraved on the Zion, allows the scientists to make a conclusion, that the Zion was ordered by the archbishop Niphont of Novgorod, who considered the Saint Basil to be his patron. The Zion is called ‘Big’ for a reason, its size is impressive. For better explanation, let’s make a trip to the past and imagine ourselves as Novgorodians at the divine service. An iconostasis was invented only in the 15th century, and there was no visual ‘barrier’ between parishioners and the sacred alter, and everyone, who was taking part in the service, no matter how far he or she was standing, was able to see the Zion, emotionally anticipating the moment of reunion with Jesus Christ – the Holy Communion.
Let’s take a more attentive look at this masterpiece of silversmith. There are 12 apostles, depicted in pairs, at the doors of the Zion. The plastics of their clothing and fabulous knowledge of anatomy are amazing! The masterpiece is elegant and ascetic, it has a rightful place in the arts of those times and, according to the scientists, its level of treatment is comparable with monumental works of a pictorial art and iconography, masterpieces of goldwork and the book-miniature.
There are some works of European masters at the exhibition. We don’t know, how they got into Novgorod, but, without a doubt, they are yet another reminder of importance of a large Medieval port, by which the new ideas and influences came to Russia. So, there is a Byzantine bone chest, which was in the sacristy of St. Sophia cathedral for a long time, plates with the Limoges enamel, which had previously used as covers of the New Testaments, but in the Antoniev Monastery, where they got into, they became independent items, memorials of the international affairs of the monastery.
And how did a pectoral holy picture with Spanish Saint James the Great (the pilgrimage to his hallows still continues nowadays) of the 15th century make it into Novgorod? By the way, Russian word ‘palomnik’ was only used regarding people who made a trip to Jerusalem. They usually brought a branch of a palm tree with them, so the word derived from this fact.
The Novgorodian craftsmen had greatly succeeded in cloisonné enamel technique. On the tiny gold holy picture (2,5 cm length) Saint George is depicted. It is hard to imagine, but the artist was able to make such a detailed picture, so that you can see the enamel of 3 different colors at the boots of the Saint.
One of the best items at the exhibition is the panagiarion of 1435. The panagiarion was designed to carry over the communion bread for the cathedral to the chamber of archbishop. It was created mostly at the same time with the construction of the Faceted Chamber by the Germans. Its design was influenced by the Western Europe: the plates for bread at the top of the panagirion are carried by the angles, looking similarly with the Atlantes. There are a lot of other details, which came from the Western Europe, but the most important part of the panagiarion, the plates for bread, were created according to the examples of the traditional Russian Orthodox iconography, among them we can mention famous Rublev’s ‘The Trinity’, and the Novgorodian icon ‘Our Lady of the Sign’, which is now in the St. Sophia Cathedral.
One of the staffs, presented on the exhibition, belonged to Pimen, archbishop of Novgorod. The parts of the staff are connected by the cut-glass apples. The staff is ornamented with fine carving, shallow light-and-shade of it is followed by light dark ornament. Transparent stone and slipping ornament of metal create an impression of magic light beams, emanating from the hands of archbishop. This staff is a reminiscence of the oprichny slaughter by the order of Ivan the Terrible, which happened during the notorious feast in the honor of the Tsar, who made a visit to Novgorod. The staff fell off the hands of Pimen during the slaughter, and one of its cut-glass apples broke. Later it was replaced, but the faceted apple, unlike the other rounded ones, refracts the light in a different way, as it is trying to remind us of those horrible events.
So, here’s a little review of a tiny part of the exhibition. It looks like as if the reminiscences of the most important historical events have concentrated in these creations. They reflect the connection between Novgorod and Europe, they help to learn how times and lifestyles have been changing.