Cathedral of St. Sophia, Novgorod

Velikiy Novgorod, Russia

Cathedral of St. Sophia, Novgorod

The Cathedral of St. Sophia (the Holy Wisdom of God) in Veliky Novgorod is the cathedral church of the Archbishop of Novgorod and the mother church of the Novgorodian Eparchy.

The 38-metre-high, five-domed, stone cathedral was built by Vladimir of Novgorod between 1045 and 1050 to replace an oaken cathedral also built by Bishop Joachim the Korsunian in the late tenth century (making it the oldest church building in Russia proper and, with the exception of the Arkhyz and Shoana churches, the oldest building of any kind still in use in the country). It was consecrated by Bishop Luka Zhidiata (1035–1060) on September 14, in 1050 or 1052, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. (A fresco just inside the south entrance depicts Sts. Constantine and Helena, who found the true cross in the fourth century; it is one of the oldest works of art in the cathedral and is thought to commemorate its dedication.) While it is commonly known as St. Sophia's, it is not named for any of the female saints of that name (i.e., Sophia of Rome or Sophia the Martyr); rather, the name comes from the Greek for wisdom (σοφία, from whence we get words like philosophia or philosophy—"the love of wisdom"), and thus Novgorod's cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God, in imitation of the Hagia Sophia cathedral of Constantinople. It replaced an even older wooden, 13-domed church built in or around 989 by Bishop Ioakim Korsunianin, the first bishop of Novgorod. The main, golden cupola, was gilded by Archbishop Ioann (1388–1415) in 1408. The sixth (and the largest) dome crowns a tower which leads to the upper galleries. In medieval times these were said to hold the Novgorodian treasury and there was a library there, said to have been started by Yaroslav the Wise. When the library was moved to the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy in 1859, it numbered more than 1,500 volumes, some dating back to the 13th century. The current archbishop, Lev (Nikolai L'vovich Tserpitskii), has reestablished a library there, in keeping with the ancient tradition. As of 2004, it housed some 5,000 volumes. A Sunday school is also held in the gallery.



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