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Main page / Museums and sightseeing in Veliky Novgorod / St Anthony's Monastery, 12th c.
St Anthony's Monastery
Antonovo, Veliky Novgorod, 173020

+7 (816 2) 77 37 38
+7 921 730 93 92
+7 (816 2) 77 37 70


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58.53916700, 31.28944400
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You can get St. Anthony monastery on buses №2, 5, 8A to the bus stop "Antonovo".

Bus fare - 30 roubles. Bus schedule is here

According to the legend, the monastery was founded by St. Anthony of Rome who made a miraculous journey around Europe in three days and finally arrived in Novgorod on a floating stone. This stone is still there, kept on the porch of the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady (1117). The stone is believed to be healing. The altar of the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady presents fragments of the 12th century frescoes. Depicted in complex postures the figures are all in a very true-to-life manner. There is an inscription “Pyotr” above the figure of a man in a caftan (fabric coat); it is believed to be the name of the architect who has built the church. Concerts of chamber choir music are held here. A well-preserved 16th – 17th century iconostasis is displayed in the exhibition “Russian Icon of 11th – 19th centuries in the Collection of Novgorod State Museum” in the Kremlin. 

St. Anthony monastery is one of the most picturesque places in Novgorod. According to the legend, it was founded in 1106 by Anthony the Roman. The legend - like all the other ones about monasteries and convents - is incredible and beautiful. Born in 1067 in Rome, Anthony was a wealthy man. At the age of 18 he became a monk and put all his gold and silver into a barrel and threw it in the sea. 20 years later he went to a rock to pray for the salvation of Orthodoxy. One day there was a big storm, and the rock, Anthony was praying on, dropped into the sea. After two days of drifting, right on the day of celebration of Nativity of Our Lady, Anthony found himself in Novgorod, and the monastery was founded on the very place he climbed ashore. Later, fishermen fished out the barrel with Anthony's treasure. There was enough money to buy land and build a stone church.

Indeed, for the first time the exact date of the foundation of the stone cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady is given in the chronicle of 1117. Due to the plan and mutual decision, it was a typical monastery of that time: the cathedral has got four internal pillars, with a narthex, a staircase tower and three domes. However, T-shaped eight-sided pillars were used instead of heavy cross-like columns which is quite significant for the small church interior; a staircase tower isn’t rectangular but round, choir gallery isn’t stone but wooden. All this adds peculiarity to the temple.

The monumental frescos appeared in 1125, three years after the completion of the construction works, and are considered the most significant in size and peculiar in style ensemble of Novgorodian frescos of the 12th c. The most impressive are the Annunciation scene and half-figures of the four healers - Frol, Lavr, Kir and Ioann, situated on the back sides of the eastern pair. All images are large, coordinated to architectural division. The coloring is based on a combination of pure bright colours. The painting in the Cathedral of Nativity of our Lady causes lots of disputes even now: some researchers attribute its style to the influence of the Roman school, and others trace it to the Byzantian tradition, forming its own art style.

The real history of the monastery is quite typical for the Middle Ages - it burned down and was rebuilt several times; in 1570 its Prior Gelasiy and all monks were put to death by the sword during oprichnina oppression; and in 1611 it was ravaged by the Swedes.

Today the monastery complex includes (besides The Nativity Cathedral with its later annexes) the monastery wall with travel arches, the Prior and Treasury housings (XVII-XIX centuries), the Church of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (XVI c.).

Read more about St. Anthony the Roman and the monastery

How often do the students of Novgorod State University, being late for lectures at the Humanitarian institute, ask the one and the only question: why it’s situated so far from the bus stop? Every day they run by this beautiful white cathedral, looking at their watch, and never notice the building at all. After classes they hurry somewhere and just have got no time to be surprised neither by the beauty and mystery of the place, where the buildings of the University are located, nor by rapidity of time that bears everything and never gets older. And they’re hardly ever interested why this urban area is called Anthonovo and what stories these ancient walls have witnessed…

St. Anthony monastery (now considered one of the most valuable old Russian architectural monuments) was founded in the XII c. and is concerned with saint Anthony the Roman who ‘by agency of Providence’ in three days sailed on a stone from ‘the Roman countries’ to Novgorod: “…he traveled along the warm sea, from there to the Neva river and from the Neva to the New lake, and from the New lake up the Volkhov river, against rapids right to the new Town”. This took place in 1106. Soon, right where the stone reached the bank, the saint founded the monastery in honour of Holy Mother who accompanied him during his sailing.

Biography of St. Anthony the Roman says that Anthony chose the way of self-sacrifice in at the age of 18. After his parents’ death he gave most of his heritage to the poor and the rest of gold, silver and precious bottles he pitched in a barrel and threw in the sea.

First he settled in mountains with the monks that were hiding from papal persecution. Then Anthony went to the rock that stood by the sea to “be on that stone… for a year and a couple of months” (one of the prayer feats called stylition). Once there was such a strong wind that waves tore off the stone Anthony was standing on (according to the legend Anthony was grasping at grass, that is why he is often painted with a bunch of grass), and carried him to the Neva and through the Ladoga lake to the Volkhov. In three days Anthony found himself in an unknown and far Novgorod land. The stone entered the firth of the Volkhov river near the village Volkhovskoe, 3 versts from Novgorod. This event is certified in novgorodian annals.

In the morning saint Anthony was found by the village inhabitants. They looked in surprise at the stranger who didn’t dare to leave the stone that became his home and stronghold from storms. Not knowing Russian he answered all questions bowing. For three days the saint prayed on the stone and begged the God to tell hem what country he was in. Then he went to Novgorod and by agency of Providence he met a foreign smith who spoke Latin, Greek and Russian. He told St. Anthony where he was. He was surprised to hear that he was in Novgorod the Great, where the St. Sophia was, and his stone wasn’t in the Tiber waters, but in the Volkhov that is about half a year journey from Rome, while he thought his trip in the sea took only three days. Together they entered the cathedral where the priest Nikita served, and the heart of the stranger who was persecuted because of ancestors’ faith in his homecountry, filled with joy when he saw the beauty of the orthodox service that was so poor in the West. Having left the temple Anthony returned to his stone. The inhabitants came to him to get blessings. Thus the saint learnt Russian.

Anthony opened the secret of his appearance to the Novgorodian archbishop Nikita. The priest advised him to build a monastery right on the place where the stone was brought by the sea. First there was a small wooden church in honour of Nativity of our Lady, and later a monastery was founded nearby. Thus according to the legend St. Anthony monastery appeared in Novgorod nine centuries ago. But that isn’t the end of the legend.

A year after these events St. Anthony met fishermen that were sad because of a bad catch. The saint asked them to fish around again and promised to give them bullion under the condition that he will give Holy Virgin Theotokos everything they catch. The fishermen cast nets and when they pulled them back among fish there was a barrel that Anthony threw in the sea in Italy. The fishermen didn’t want to give the barrel back. So the debaters asked a mayor to judge them. St. Anthony named all the things that were inside the barrel and got it back. He built a big stone temple and a monastery on this money.

St. Anthony died on August 3, 1147 and was buried in the monastery. The stone the saint sailed on is situated in the rabbet under the fresco with the image of St. Nikita. One can see the mark of Anthony’s right barefoot. They say that the stone is healing, especially a toothache.

The temple of Nativity of our Lady was founded in 1117, finished in two years and painted in 1125. The cathedral falls into the princely building type. Despite later annexes surrounding the cathedral from 3 sides and some changes, in general it keeps its original forms. The cathedral is a little elongated from west to east. There is a round tower in the north-west corner. On the top of the building there are three domes. The hip roof is of later origin. The first covering was composite. The church facades have no ornaments. Only the top of the dome drum is decorated with simple arch ornament.

The architectural forms of the cathedral are close to those of the St. Nicholas and St. George cathedrals. Many researches consider that all these three monuments were built by one master master, whose talent can be clearly seen in St. George cathedral.

The temple arches are sustained by six columns, in the eastern side there is a bema (fenced off from the inner space of the temple by a high iconostasis) - inner sanctum of every church. There were resonators under arches inside the temple to improve acoustic capabilities. Usually they were crocks built into walls so that only neck parts were outside.

The cathedral was a tomb for Novgorodian boyars, archbishops, voivodes and others. The first-rate Novgorodian boyars brothers Alfanovs, torn by people during disorder of 1609, are buried there. Michael Tatishev, prince Vasiliy Ivanovich Odoevskiy who died in 1612, stol’nik Saltikov killed in a fight near Rugodivo in 1700, stol’nik Streshnev, Choglokovs, Olsufevs, Knyajnins and others.

There is also the XVI c. church of the Presentation of Jesus with a refectory, XVII c. treasury cells and the XVIII c. library on the monastery territory.

On October 30, 1740 the Theological seminary was solemnly opened in the monastery. After it was closed in 1918 the Novgorod practice Institute of national education was situated there. And then Novgorod state pedagogical institute. Since 1993 there is the Humanitarian institute of the Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University.

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