The Spaso-Preobrazhenskiy Cloister is the best start for touring Yaroslavl. Its history dates back to the 12th century. It was built with the sole purpose of defending Yaroslavl frontiers and ways to the Kremlin and suburbs. In the meantime, thanks to the enlightening activities of ruling princes Vsevolod Big Nest and his son Konstantin, the first northern-eastern school was opened in the monastery which was instrumental for enlarging of the collection of Slavic and Greek manuscripts that eventually became enormous in size. By 1764, the cloister was one of 16 biggest monasteries that had about 14,000 bonds. Also, there were a great number of mills on its territory, the cloister owned fisheries and was involved in trade transactions. In the 16th century the tall and thick stone walls of the cloister were the reason why the state treasury was moved there. In 1612 Minin and Pojarskiy’s headquarters were located in the monastery for Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma and other towns militia. It is symbolic that the inside vaults of the Holy Gate was decorated with apocalyptic scenes with dragons, monsters, angels and horsemen. The central building of the cloister, the Spaso-Prebrajenskiy Cathedral became a tomb not only for princes but also for rich townspeople. Another interesting fact is that the relics of Saint Princes Fedor Chorny and his sons David and Konstantin’s bodies are here. Yaroslavians have always considered them the town patrons. A 16th century campanile can be seen in the eastern part of the cloister central square. It has a church in its ground layer which has an interesting iconostasis with icons painted directly on the wall. It also has an observation platform which boasts a great view on the town and the domes of the cloister. The superior’s residence and refectory are also located there. The cell building situated nearby is interesting as it was built using the best techniques of the time. For example, there are built-in wardrobes and stairs, windows in the stairs and halls, and each cell has a porch.
There is a church with a similar name outside of the monastery. The tall building of 1693-1694 attracts attention with lots of tiles. They go down, decorate the walls and aisles. One of them has a repeating pattern. Others (in vertical rows) feature closed drawings. The inside of the church is no less interesting. All the murals can be divided into eight layers. Scenes of miraculous healing, Christ’s argument with Pharisees, Bible parables and other can be seen there. For the time being, this church is a museum and is open for all tourists.
On the eastern side of Bogoyavlenskaya Square stands the Znamenskaya or Vasilyevskaya Tower built in 1658 after the fiercest fire that destroyed the town. Nearly all old wooden buildings perished: 29 churches, three monasteries, about 15 hundred dwelling houses and shops, arcades, bridges. Stone buildings started to be built a decade later. However, only two buildings survived: the Znamenskaya and Voljskaya Towers.
Another architecture monument is situated at Sovetskaya Street — Elijah the Prophet Church. It was built in the middle of the 17th century at the expense of the richest fur buyers brothers Anikey and Nifantey Skripin. Their unheard-of wealth made even tsar Alexey Mihaylovich reckon with them. When the Skripins together with the townspeople were fighting against the influence of the Spasskiy Cloister, the tsar took their side and deprived the cloister of all its lands and gave the honest rebels part of the Divine Chasuble as a sign of his benevolence.
Elijah the Prophet temple consists of the church, a side-chapel, a bell tower and a gallery. The inside decorations of the building is a treasury of arts. The numerous murals were ordered by Ulita Makarova, the widow of Nifantey Skripin. They were painted by a team of 15 people headed by Guriy Nikitin and Sila Savin. Unlike other temples, these murals have never been repainted but only washed. They are mainly dedicated to the life of
Elijah the Prophet and his disciple Elisha. It is notable that the murals feature only domestic life which makes it possible to see now what people in Russia lived like in the 17th century. For example, one of the murals depicts harvest. This work can be classified as a break-through as it was not allowed to illustrate peasants’ work on the walls of rich temples. In this respect, Guriy Nikitin surpassed all of his colleagues of that time.
Nikola Nayedin’s Church is the first stone temple in Yaroslavl built in 1622. It is located on the corner of Narodny and Volkov lanes. The name of this church comes from two names: the first part was taken from Saint Nicholas and the second from Tsar’s Guest Yepifaniy Sveteshnikov who ordered the temple (this title was given to the most privileged merchants). The temple became a home church for Yepifaniy: here divine services were held for him and his family and close people. Also the church became the tomb for the rich merchant who is buried in the ground floor of the building along with his family. An interesting feature of Sveteshnikov’s tomb is its antimonastery murals which appeared as a result of the merchant struggle against the Spasskiy Cloister which tried to annex all the lands of the town. The first 15-picture plot tells about a youth who found gold. Monks kill the innocent youth after he showed them were the treasure is buried. Another plot is Ioann Lestvichnik’s visions. Artists painted a ladder. Monks are trying to climb up the ladder but devils pull them down to hell.
Another church is located nearby. It was also built at the expense of rich merchants — brothers Akindin and Guriy Nazaryev. The location of the temple was chosen next to the estate of patrons. The construction took a long time because of lack of funding. A decade later, Guriy’s sons who owned rich fisheries and supplied red fish and caviar to the capital finally opened it. The outside of the building changed drastically though: the temple was made bigger and got additions. It is notable that Guriy’s sons ordered to decorate the temple with color tiles like in the Orient where they often traveled. As a result, glazed tiles that later became a special feature of Yaroslavl, had been used for the church decoration for the first time. A tiled frieze with the names of the church patrons is also unique. It should be noted that it was not customary at that time.
Another unique church worth visiting was devoted to John the Baptist. It is situated up the Kotorosl river. Its main feature is the master dome which reminds a concave bowl. This building made in 1671 through 1687 is considered to be capping the Yaroslavl architecture school due to nearly all existing church styles that can be seen in it. It is possible to see both color tiles and forged gates as well as murals. By the way, the latter were painted by Dmitriy Plehanov’s team and represent virtually all Bible history from the Creation till the fall of Jericho. Another unique mural can be found at the lower layer of the southern and northern walls. It is a twelve month calendar which features all orthodox saints. And an unusual for that time grass ornamental pattern decorates every part of the temple from benches up to the iconostasis.
When sailing down the Kotorosl river or driving at the direction of Uglich, it is possible to see other temples, for example churches of Nikita the Martyr, Dmitriy Solunskiy, Petr Mitropolit, Nikola Mokry, Tihvin Icon of the Lady, Vladimir Icon of the Lady and others. By the way, there is a monastery in this area named Tolgskiy. It is located 4 miles from the downtown. As a church legend has it, it was founded by bishop Trifon at the place where he had a vision of the Tolgskay Icon of the Lady. Now this icon is kept at the Yaroslavl Art Museum and every year on the 21st of August it is taken to its home cloister. Nowadays we can see the cloister rebuilt which is a result of a fire that destroyed all the early buildings. The reconstruction was funded by Ivan the Terrible who is said to get cured of a leg disease there. The oldest building appeared here in 1625. It was the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross. Later a church dedicated to the Lady’s First Entrance to a Temple was built. It is the tomb of Saint Ignatiy Bryanchaninov now.
Fans of arts and music ought to visit a few museums. The first one is a private property and is named the Museum of Music and Time, located at 33A Voljska Naberejna Street. Tourists can see a collection of bells here ranging from small desk bells to church bells with fishing bells, door bells and others in-between. Also ancient clocks, musical instruments, chairs, arm-chairs, mirrors, gramophones and other things can be seen there. Another museum located at the same street represents collections of paintings and medals. Finally, there is the Yaroslavl history museum.
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