Around the City That Secured Russian Power for Thousands of Years

Pskov has a remarkable, colourful records of defending role of ancient Russian western borders. This north-western town lies close to Lake Peipus and the Baltic Sea, where the Pskov and Velikaya rivers merge. ekszer-elek

Settles appeared here in the fifth to six centuries and the earliest fortress had been established some time before. First time Pskov was mentioned in the chronicles in 903, in relation with the wedding of the future Prince of Kiev, Igor, and a local women called Olga (known as Saint Olga after canonization). Her grandson, the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev, at the end of the century declared Christianity as the official religion of the Kievan principality. gudu

Pskov followed the lead of Novgorod in its reputation method of government. Yet there were differences in outlook, shown perhaps most clearly in the Novgorod and Pskov schools of icon painting. A central full- or half-length image of a saint with scenes from the saint’s life painted in the borders in bright red and white colours was the favourite combinations for Novgorod icons. Pskov icons, in contrast, were generally asymmetrical, heavy in composition were more expressive and used intense, sombre colours – often darkish-green against yellow or golden backgrounds. Icons of the Pskov painting school are carefully preserved in Mirozhsky Monastery, Snetogorsky Nunnery and the Dormition Temple of Meletovo. hobbijaim

Pskov’s burghers gathered in the square outside the Trinity Cathedral. The huge, white-walled cathedral with silver domes, supported by powerful buttresses stands at the highest point of the headland. It was rebuilt in the seventeenth century and can be seen from far away. The princes, invited to govern Pskov, lived next to the cathedral in a powerful fortress. Its original wooden walls were replaced in the mid-thirteenth century by walls from thick stone slabs. Restored, they are still impressively threatening today, although over the centuries they have lost at least a third of original height. receptek

At the urging of Prince Dovmont, the bustling market town that grew up around the fortress was also encircled by stone walls in the mid-thirteenth century. When “Dovmont’s Town” expanded, another wall was built in the early fourteenth century, creating the so-called “Middle Town”. Pskov continued to grow and achieved full independence from Novgorod in 1348. The Middle Town wall was demolished in the fifteenth century and a fifth wall was built to defend the burghers. The city’s walls, 14.5 miles long, were reinforced and heightened in the 1570s, and have survived to the present. olcsobbszerviz

Almost 100 historical monuments of Pskov have been preserved, among them the city’s oldest monastery, St.Saviour, built in 1156 by Byzantine masters. Its white-plastered walls are surmounted by a single dome. Although the building and the original frescos have been heavily restored, the church stands as a monument to provincial Byzantine art. Other architectural monuments open to public are: – the twelfth century church of the Ivanovsky nunnery, burial place of the first Pskov duchesses, – the Snetogorsky Monastery, on the outskirt of the town, this church is painted with beautiful fourteenth century frescos, – Church of St.Nicolas (in Izborsk), a massive structure, with tall, colossally powerful towers and stone crosses on the top of the wall. Next to the main gates of this surviving citadel is a church, built close to the wall and being used as another fortified tower. The neighbouring tall bell tower acted as a lookout post; it was repaired in the late nineteenth century, – The Pskovo-Pechersky Orthodox Monastery. It began in the fifteenth century as a small community of Christians living in caves. In 1473 they founded a church and named it after the Church of the Dormition in Kiev Pechersk Monastery. Apart from the eighteenth century facade, it still remains unaltered. It is one of Russia’s oldest functioning monasteries up till now.

What gives Pskov architecture its remarkable character is its defensive border role. Churches like St.Basil’s on the Hill, St.Paul and St.Peter, and Archangel Michael are distinctive in their austere, square outlined, their thick, plain walls built to withstand attack, outbuildings and galleries are rare additions. The belfries are equally distinctive. From the late fifteenth century they were built as a separate, fortified towers on a high, solid foundation which provided a safe storage place, as in St.Nicholas on the Dry. A seventeenth century plan of Pskov shows 39 fortified towers. Each one of them has a small church as the defenders last refuge. A sixteenth century example of the latter, a corner of the fortress wall, has recently been restored.

In civil architecture defence was considered as the first necessity, too. The affluent merchants residences are similarly severe and powerful in appearance – each is a small fortress; thick expanses of stone walls, the widows protected by iron shutters; solid, broad columns support the weight of heavy floors and ceilings, and double iron doors. They have two or three floors with large drawing and living rooms on the first or second floor decorated with murals, chintzes and broad ornamental staircases. It is hard to find monuments of civil architecture of 17th century in Russia (most buildings were destroyed during German occupation in the World War II). A pretty big number of preserved merchant stone chambers of that time represented by the Pskov Romanov Hill Chambers. Not many Russian places have large and well preserved collection of civic buildings of 18th century which once belonged to the famous families such as: Pogankin, Rusinov, Podznoyev, Menshikov, Yamskoy, Gur’ev, Pechenko, Lapin, Postnikov, Trubinskoy and many more.

For many centuries, the city was a Western Russian outpost. Till 1700s, Pskov was involved in wars with the Livonian Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1240), the Livonian war between Russia and Poland (1581-1582), and the Swedish armies (1581-1703). In 1700s, Pskov started losing its popularity in external market and eventually became a typical provincial town. Pskov was occupied by Germany in the World War I, for nine months and here, in 1917, the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, abdicated. Only 6% of the Pskov buildings was left after three years of second German occupation during the World War II – a past that lives on in powerful old city wall and many historic buildings.

Many of Pskov’s old buildings have been preserved, among them the Mirozha Monastery (UNESCO world heritage site), the Church of Kosma and Damian, Trinity Cathedral, fortresses in Pechory, Porkhov and Opochka. Pskov National museum of History Architecture and Art is one of the most famous museums in north-west Russia. Along with architectural ancient monuments the museum incorporates the exclusive memorial museums of S. V. Kovalevskaya in Polibino, I. M. Vinogradov, Al. Altaeva (M. V. Yamschikova), Prince Gagarin’s Estate in Kholomki, the memorial estates of the great Russian composers, of Rimsky-Korsakov in Lyubensk and Vechasha, of M.P. Mussorgsky in Naumovo, and, known worldwide, the Pushkin Museum Reserve. The Pushkin Museum Reserve consists of three memorial estates where the poet lived: Mikhaylovskoye, Trigorskoye and Petrovskoye. At present the museum treasure consists of over 37.000 pictures, drawings, sculptures, photographs, books, icons which belonged to the poet. His grave is here, in the Svyatogorsky Monastery.


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