Roots of Russian Orthodox Christianity
In the year of 988, Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich baptized all of Russia according to the Byzantine rites. Pagan idols were thrown into rivers and lakes and Christian churches were erected on the old sites of pagan worship. In 1045-1050 Novgorod erected the magnificent St. Sophia Cathedral; the cathedral is a functioning place of worship to this day. It is the oldest church within Russia's contemporary borders. Novgorod's religious and civic life and this ancient city's very spiritual essence have been integrally connected with the cathedral for almost ten centuries.
In the Middle Ages, Novgorod was gradually surrounded by a tight ring of monasteries and convents. Representatives of these monastic communities often held important ecumenical positions throughout the Russian lands, including Moscow. Benevolent deeds of some monastic founding fathers lead to their canonization into sainthood.
During the 15th century, the power of Novgorod's rulers took on a new character, spreading into every sphere of the city's life. The archbishop became the factual head of the oligarchic republic of the boyars (noblemen). Novgorod of that time resembled the Vatican City: the city's civic life became subject to the spiritual authority. But unlike in the Vatican City, Novgorod's archbishop became the sole ruler of an enormous territory, equal to the combined size of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, or to the size of the state of Texas. Only Moscow's victory over Novgorod ended the reign of this very independent republic, forcing it to become part of the centralized Russian State.
Novgorod as a sacred Land
These days pilgrims from all over the world are inspired to visit Novgorod Land to worship the sacred objects. Thus, there is a miracle-working icon "Our Lady of the Sign" (12th c.) - a Russian national relic - kept in the Cathedral of St. Sophia the Wisdom of God, icon of Mary the Virgin "Iverskaya" (of Iberia), kept in Iversky Sviatoozersky Monastery of Our Lady in Valday, icon of Our Lady "Starorusskaya", the protectress of the town of Staraya Russa of St. George Church in Staraya Russa.
A number of saints of Russian Orthodoxy have turned into holy at Novgorod Land, the medieval centre of Russian spirituality. Thus, they are Novgorod archbishop Ioakim Korsunjanin, Novgorod prince Vladimir Yaroslavovich (son of Yaroslav), Sts. Anthony the Roman and Varlaam Khoutynsky the Miracle-workers, the fools of Christ Nicholas Kochanov, saintly Iakov Borovichesky (of the town of Borovichi), Michael Klopsky Novgorodsky, St. Savva Vishersky Novgorodsky (of the town of Vishera in Novgorod region). There are 120 saints in total.
Cloisters of Novgorod Eparchy
Cloisters have always been essential virtue for the Russian State. Being always the places where pious coenobites have been praying days and nights from of old, the monasteries and convents keep attracting people who have left their onerous burdens in the world to communicate with the eternal that consoles the desolate in grief, gives hope to the hopeless, supports the believers and cheers up the soul, pining for belief.
For centuries cloisters have been integral in life of Novgorodians. These days it is possible to speak on the monasteries and convents of Novgorod Land that have been revived. Thus, in Veliky Novgorod, there is St. Varlaam Convent of the Transfiguration of Our Savior in the village of Khoutyn, St. Nicholas Convent in the village of Vyazhishchi, St. George Monastery. In Valday there is Iversky Svyatoozersky Monastery of Our Lady.
Pilgrim services of Russia and foreign countries develop and arrange trips to Novgorod region. Thus, 6-day trip includes visiting the major sights of Veliky Novgorod, Valday and Staraya Russa: Night divine service in St. Sophia Cathedral (Veliky Novgorod), Peryn Skete of the Nativity of Our Lady, St. George Monastery, St. Varlaam Convent of the Transfiguration of Our Savior in the village of Khoutyn, St. Nicholas Convent in the village of Vyazhishchi, churches and temples presenting the miracle-working icon of Mary the Virgin "Starorusskaya" in Staraya Russa, House-museum of F. Dostoevsky, Museum of Bells and Iberian Monastery in Valday.
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