continued from № 47
Curriculum Links of Language Studies with Other Subjects
Развитие межпредметных связей:
изучение английского языка и мировой
художественной культуры в 10–11-х классах
RUSSIAN ART OF THE MIDDLE AGES THE CATHEDRAL
OF SAINT SOPHIA IN NOVGOROD THE GREAT
The uprising of Novgorod in 1136 brought an end to its dependence on Kiev. Prince
Vsyevolod Mstislavich, who ruled Novgorod as Kiev’s protйgй was forced out of the city
and all power was concentrated in the “Veche” – a popular assembly controlled by the
boyars. From this time on all major city office positions were filled by election,
including the one of the “posadnik” – the mayor of Novgorod and the “Tysyatskii”
– the commander of its militia. Even the archbishop of Novgorod had to be chosen by the
Veche, usually by balloting from three announced candidates. Vsyevolod died in 1138 and
those who succeeded him on Novgorod’s throne became a figurehead until “Gosudar’
Velikii Novgorod,” the title of the new republic, turned into a sort of a democratic
city-state. Though elected by the Veche, some of the archbishops, whom the Novgorodians
called “Vladyka”, were very powerful and not always mindful of the interests of the
boyars. Besides, they controlled the state’s treasuries and all properties that belonged
to the prince and exercised the role of chief of state. Among their duties were relations
with foreign states. The newly gained independence from Kiev permitted Novgorod to turn
towards the West and establish cultural contacts and important trade relations. It did not
take long before Novgorod became one of the most important trade centers of Eastern
Europe. With this came prosperity and of course great steps forward in the arts.
Novgorodian pagans gave the strongest resistance to attempts to convert them to
Christianity. Many lost their lives when in 991 they tried to prevent a Greek bishop from
establishing his seat in Novgorod. This strong opposition was due largely to the Meria, a
Finnish tribe that, together with the Slavs, lived in Novgorod and its vicinity. Unable to
preserve their national identity, they merged with the Russians and in the 13th century
completely lost their individuality. The center of religious life and various ceremonies
were performed on the main square of Novgorod’s Kremlin, also called “Detinets”.
Within its walls the Novgorodians had their heathen temple, totem poles of their gods and
the cemetery. It was most probably in this square that one of the first Veche sessions
took place in 859. It decided to invite the Varangian Prince Riurik to protect and govern
It was also in the Kremlin that the first church was built to replace the temple. It was
made of wood and built in 989 by the first bishop of Novgorod, Ioakim. We do not know if
this was the same little wooden church of Saint Sophia that burned to the ground in 1045.
To replace it Novgorod’s Prince Vladimir, son of Yaroslav the Wise, in the same year
laid down the foundations for a new stone cathedral of the same name that was completed in
1052, or just fifteen years after Kiev received its Saint Sophia. It is not surprising
that they originally looked alike and that they received the same name. Most probably, the
builders of both cathedrals belonged to the same school, if they were not the same people,
also a possibility, though some art students prefer to conclude that Novgorodians learned
their architectural knowledge and iconography not from Constantinople but from the
Armenians and Georgians. Their speculation was based on a legend that says that the first
Christian preachers who came to Novgorod had “never seen Kiev nor Constantinople,” and
consequently, must be Christians from the Caucasus region. Similar explanation was given
for the early Novgorodian architecture’s differences from the Byzantine style. However,
more reliable sources confirm that it was not before the beginning of the 12th century
that Novgorod started to ignore Byzantine forms and to create its own. By that time its
masters had learned stone building techniques and successfully adapted them to the
construction methods of their native wooden churches. They also had to take into
consideration the specific climatic conditions of northern Russia, which differ so much
from the snow-free winters in Constantinople. Because of severe colds and heavy snows, the
Novgorodians had to make the roofs of their churches steep and the windows narrow. The
large and rather flat Byzantine domes had to be changed so that they could resist the
burdens of the snow more easily.
Through centuries Russian builders contributed to the formation of what was to become a
typically Russian silhouette of their churches. Their imagination produced a great variety
of tent-shaped or bulbous forms that made roofs the most decorative part in their
architecture. This was further enriched with decorative details that they borrowed from
the west when Novgorod established closer trade relations with her European neighbors.
Central and northern Europe was much closer to Novgorod than the distant Byzantium and the
Near East and this geographical presence could not but reflect on Novgorod’s
architecture. The product of their ambition became known as the Novgorod School of Art.
The early known major contributors to its architecture were the “Posadnik” (mayor) of
Novgorod Miloneg, and masters Korov Yakovlevich and Peter, whose family name was unknown.
The churches they built were smaller and simpler than those in Kiev and they were closer
to the ground and more heavy-set. Outside they were barely decorated. Their cupolas
resembled ancient Russian princely helmets, as we can see from old icons and frescoes, and
this detail became very distinctive of the Novgorod churches. Novgorod was not overrun nor
destroyed by the Tatars and the cultural life of the city and its region continued to
develop along traditional lines. It lost its prestige when Moscow emerged as the center of
the newly formed all-Russian national government. But before this happened Novgorod
masters gained experience and achieved a specific style in church architecture
characterized, by addition of a single cupola, only one apse for the altar (often square),
very few windows, semi-circular vaults, pilasters and by certain other minor details. It
is considered that this style was best demonstrated in the small Spaso-Preobrazhensky
cathedral built in about1374.
The Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Novgorod, though enlarged in the 12th century and
restored several times since, has preserved most of its original structures. Here again we
see that the Cathedral was built in the form of a Greek cross with six piers of cruciform
section. At that time the Cathedral had a nave and four aisles; the two outside aisles did
not end in apses. Then early in the 12th century two additional aisles were added, one on
each side. At this time, the cathedral received on the western side, a parvis (Papert) and
a staircase tower leading to the gallery on the second floor. The central part of the
gallery faces the altar and was used by the prince and his family, often accompanied by
domestic and foreign dignitaries attending the church service. The rear of the gallery had
rooms that housed the library of the cathedral, and it was here that the Novgorod’s
Chronicle (9th – 16th centuries) was written and kept. We have no information whether
the gallery was also directly connected to the palace, a feature that existed in several
other locations. The cathedral has six cupolas instead of the usual five. Four smaller
cupolas surround the large central one and on the southwestern side is the sixth on the
top of the staircase tower. This disposition gave the edifice an interesting and
asymmetrical appearance. The central cupola preserved the form of an ancient Russian
helmet and is the only one that is gilded. It carries a large cross with a dove on it. The
legend says that the dove was there to protect Novgorod and its people, who believed that
its disappearance from the cross would bring destruction to the city and to them. All
other cupolas received a slightly onion-shaped form when they were restored in the 16th
century. Unevenly cut limestone, which was found north of Novgorod, was used for the
construction of the cathedral. Nature lightly colored it, and its pastel shades of pale
grey, blue, yellow, green and purple must have noticeably increased the beauty and
softened the stern look of this very little-decorated, almost windowless, austere, but
also original and remarkable Russian architectural monument of the 11th century. There are
only two others in Russia that date from the same period, which can match its magnitude:
the cathedrals of Saint Sophia in Kiev and in Polotsk. This is the legacy of churches
named after Saint Sophia.
The interior of Novgorod’s Saint Sophia and the decoration of its walls underwent
several changes and restorations during its long history. At the end of the 17th century
the floor of the cathedral was raised and its windows enlarged. The floor was again raised
in the 1830-s making it over four feet higher than the original. At this time its roof was
also changed to four-sloped. Despite this, the cathedral preserved most of its original
silhouette. From the Chronicle we learn that the walls of the cathedral remained bare for
about half a century and that the first frescoes were painted in the beginning of the 12th
century. No reason was given for this unusual delay. Then we see that the job was finally
completed and the walls entirely covered with frescoes only in the middle of the 12th
century. Unfortunately only few fragments still remain. The frescoes were repainted
several times, but in most cases repeating the same lines and colors thus preserving the
same subject. Important frescoes of the early 12th century were discovered when the
cathedral was renovated for the final time at the end of the last century. Of the greatest
value was the image of the Christ Pantocrator (Спас Вседержитель) and
beneath him the figures of four archangels, all in the central cupola, and further beneath
them in the drum there are eight prophets, one on each space between the windows.
In 1941 during the war, twice a shell, seriously damaging the image of Christ, hit the
central cupola. What was left of it was completely destroyed later because nobody tried to
repair the holes and protect the remaining frescoes from being washed off by rain. When
the Soviet archaeologists and restorers came to the cathedral in 1945, they found nothing
left of the Pantocrator; and only two archangels and three prophets remained well
preserved. The monumental style and the classical simplicity characterize the way the
prophets were painted and testify that the work was done by Byzantine iconographers. Of
interest are also fragments of the frescoes in the so-called Martiriev Parvis on the south
side, which were discovered in 1947 and cleaned in 1955. Here we recognize the Byzantine
Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen in their regal garments, then the composition
“Deisus” with the Savior, his mother and saints on his sides. Both are a fine work of
the Byzantine art school of the early 12th century.
One of the Icons in the Cathedral
Most other frescoes, or better to say their small fragments, belong to
the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Many of them were retouched or entirely repainted in
the beginning and at the end of the 19th century, when the cathedral underwent partial
restoration. The cathedral has two very old portals: The so-called “Sigtuna” portal at
the main entrance on the west side, and the “Korsun” portal at the entrance to the
chapel of the Nativity of the Virgin located on the south-east side. The name of the first
portal comes from the ancient Swedish capital Sigtuna from where, according to the legend,
the army of Novgorod took the portal after defeating the Swedes. The portal consists of
two massive oak leaves, each adorned with 13 high-relief bronze panels, laminated with
gold and silver. They relate events from the Bible.
Most historians agree that Magdeburg artists of whom a certain Requinus, who lived in the
middle of the 12th century, appears to be the most important made the portal. The Korsun
portal most probably dates from the 11th century. It was also made of bronze panels, which
show only crosses, decorated with floral ornamentation. Similar ornamentation is engraved
on the bronze frames around the panels. The portal is most probably the work of Byzantine
artists and the legend says that the Grand Duke Vladimir brought it to Novgorod from
Korsun after he had been converted there to the Christian faith. The cathedral contained
many old icons (there were about seventy in its iconostasis alone) and remarkable old
church decorative objects, some of great artistic value. Russian princes and tsars were
indeed generous in their gifts to churches, and the Cathedral of Novgorod was often
favored. The existing archbishop’s throne dates from 1560.When Ivan the Terrible learned
that there was not one in the cathedral for the tsar; he ordered that a throne for himself
be made and installed during his expedition to Novgorod in 1572. Both thrones are fine
pieces of woodcarving. In 1600 Boris Godunov donated to the cathedral an enormous church
chandelier of over four tons with a large double-headed eagle on the top. These are just a
few of hundreds of objects that lavishly decorated the interior of the cathedral.
The services held in it on important holidays must have been a fascinating experience. In
1929, all its valuables were confiscated and the cathedral was declared a historical
museum. Many valuable items were removed and the cathedral was locked up and left to
deteriorate. The war and the German army did further damage and pillaging. They even took
the gilded roof of the main cupola. After the war Soviet authorities restored the building
and the roof, and archaeologists often came to do more excavation. They went through
everything, including the tombs of the founder of the cathedral, Prince Vladimir
Yaroslavich (1020–1052), of Prince Mstislav Rostislavich the Brave (? – 1180) and of
some fifty tombs of Novgorod’s bishops and archbishops who were all buried there.
I. Study the vocabulary.
VOCABULARY (borrowed words or loanwords):
Ксенонимы языковые единицы,
обозначающие элементы внешних культур, например,
лорд, килт, пудинг – в русском языке или boyar, Cossack
– в английском языке.
Read the loanwords, find some more loanwords in the text above and try to give them
Veche people’s assembly in Novgorod the Great
Boyar a member of the old nobility of Russia
Posadnik the Mayor of Novgorod
Tysyatskii the commander of militia in Novgorod the Great
VOCABULARY (words linked with architecture):
cupola a dome, especially one covering a circular or
polygonal area (купол)
apse a vaulted semicircular or polygonal recess in a building,
esp. at the end of the choir of a church (апсида)
vault an arched structure, usually made of stone, concrete or
bricks, forming a ceiling or roof over a room, hall or any other construction (свод)
pilaster a shallow rectangular feature projecting from a wall,
having a capital and base and usually imitating the form of a column (пилястр)
pier a portion of wall between doors, windows, etc
aisle any of the longitudinal divisions of a church or the like
(боковой неф, проход)
BI a vacant enclosed area in front of a church (паперть,
например, стоять на паперти, т.е. просить
II. Read the text.
the most fascinating archaeological findings in Russia has been the discovery of hundreds
of “birchbark documents” (messages written on the bark of birch trees with a sharp
stylus) that were created from the 11th to the 15th century.
The birchbark documents of Novgorod are a major source of information about life in
Medieval Novgorod because they are not the writings of church theologians or political
leaders, but rather, personal messages, love letters, shopping lists, and so on. One of
the most fascinating items is a collection of children’s drawings.
Children’s drawings in the Middle Ages?! Even if such things were created, how could
they have survived to the present day? After all, paints, magic markers, and crayons were
not yet in use, paper was far too valuable of a commodity to waste on children. In the
Dark Ages most of the products of childhood inspiration probably were expressed on the
ephemeral canvas of dirt or sand.
But birchbark was a different story. The bark was widely available (although there are
indications that excessive use of the medium caused a decline in the local birch
population) and easily cultivated. Anyone could use it. When one was finished with the
message, it was simply thrown into the mud, where the presence of water and clay created
an unusually bacteria-free environment, which preserved the documents. So, we have the
ideal medium: cheap, easy to come by, and (thanks to unique geology) preserved for
hundreds of years.
A. Choose the correct item according to the text:
1. Birchbark documents are…
a. made of paper.
b. made of clay.
c. made of bark that covers birches.
2. The Dark Ages were called dark because…
a. there was no electricity in that period of time.
b. science, technology and education developed slowly.
c. there was very little sunshine.
3. An ephemeral canvas of dirt or sand is…
a. a dirty piece of light cloth.
b. an old painting of a great artist.
c. any spare piece of land the children could find.
Keys: 1. c; 2. b; 3. c
B. Complete the following sentences according to the text:
1. Birchbark documents were written with ________.
2. Birchbark documents were rather personal messages than
3. __________ was too valuable of a commodity to waste on children.
4. The local birch population has declined because of _________________.
5. ____________________ helped to preserve the documents.
Keys: 1. a sharp stylus; 2. the writings or church theologians or political
leaders; 3. Paper; 4. excessive use a birchbark; 5. A bacteria-free environment
III. Read the text and answer the questions below.
The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Faith, Hope, and Love, and Their
During the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Hadrian, a widow of Italian ancestry
called Sophia, whose name means wisdom, lived in Rome. She was a Christian. This wise
gentle woman, while living in honorable wedlock, bore three daughters, whom she named
after the three great virtues. The first was named Faith, the second Hope, and the third
Soon after the birth of her three daughters, Sophia was widowed. She reared her three
daughters in a manner befitting a wise mother. As they matured, they increased in virtue,
and they learned well the holy books of the prophets and the apostles. They became
accustomed to listening to the words of their teachers and earnestly occupied themselves
with spiritual reading, prayer, and household chores. Moreover, they submitted themselves
in all things to their holy mother, who was filled with divine wisdom.
Word spread throughout Rome of the wisdom and beauty of the three sisters, as well as
their faith. They glorified Christ, showing disdain for idols openly. All these things
reached the Emperor, who immediately sent his servants to bring the virgins before him.
When the servants arrived at Sophia’s house, they told the woman that she was to come,
together with her daughters, to the Emperor. Realizing the purpose of this summons, they
arose to pray and said, “O Almighty God, do with us according to Thy holy will, and
forsake us not, but rather grant us Thy holy aid, that our hearts be not frightened by the
proud tormentor, that we be not terrified by his fearful tortures nor terrorized by bitter
death, and that nothing might separate us from Thee, our God.”
After praying and
bowing down before God, all four martyrs, the mother and her daughters, took one another
by the hand and went forth, frequently looking up to the heavens, committing themselves
with sighs and silent prayers to the help of Him, “who commanded us to fear not them,
which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul”. When they arrived at the
Emperor’s palace, they crossed themselves with the sign of the Cross and said, “Help
us, O God our Savior, for the sake of the glory of Thy holy name!”
They were then led before the Emperor, who sat proudly upon his throne. He questioned
the mother as to their lineage, names, and faith. Having heard Sophia’s truthful
answers, he sent all four martyrs to a certain noblewoman named Palladia, whom he charged
to watch over them and to present them on the third day to be judged.
Staying in Palladia’s house, Sophia had sufficient time to instruct her children and
explain to them the meaning of martyrdom. She confirmed them in the faith day and night,
teaching them with words inspired by God.
Having listened to their mother’s words, the daughters were stricken in heart, and
they rejoiced in spirit, waiting the time of their martyrdom as though it were the hour of
When the third day had come, the saints were brought to judgment before the impious
Emperor. Thinking that they were but young maidens who could easily be brought to obey his
deceptive words, he began to speak to them thus, “I see, children, that you are fair,
and I feel pity for your youth. I advise you as a father to worship the gods who rule the
universe. If you obey me and do what I command, then I shall call you my own children”.
The holy virgins answered the persecutor as though with a single voice, saying, “God,
Who dwells in heaven, is our Father, Who takes care for our life and has mercy on our
souls. His love we desire, and we wish to be called His true children. We keep His
commandments, and we spit on your gods. Your threats do not frighten us, for we wish to
suffer and bear bitter torments for the sake of our sweet God, Jesus Christ.”
The wicked persecutor commanded that the saints be tortured and executed. Their mother
Saint Sophia did not cease praying to God for her daughters, that He grant them patience
to the end. She sat by their grave, praying to God for three days, after which she slept
the sleep of death and was buried by the faithful people of Rome together with her
daughters. Thus Sophia finished her course, having brought as a gift to the Trinity her
three virtuous daughters, Faith, Hope, and Love.
1. What are the Christian virtues mentioned in the text?
2. What were Sophia’s daughters occupied with?
3. Did the four martyrs know what was awaiting them in the Emperor’s
4. What did Sophia do before the Emperor’s judgment?
5. What was the Emperor’s plan? Did he succeed in its implementation?
Perfective Verb Forms
We use the Perfective “-ing” form to say that something happened before a certain
Having heard Sophia’s truthful answers, he sent all four martyrs to a certain noblewoman
Having listened to their mother’s words, the daughters were stricken in heart.
IV. Rephrase the following sentences as in the example.
The Emperor heard Sophia’s truthful answers. Then he sent the martyrs to Palladia.
– Having heard Sophia’s truthful words, the Emperor sent the martyrs to Palladia.
1. The girls listened to the words of their teachers. After that they
increased in virtue.
2. The girls learned well the books of the apostles. Then they became
devoted to spiritual reading.
3. The servants arrived at Sophia’s house. Then they told the woman to
go to the palace.
4. Sophia brought as gift to the Trinity her three virtuous daughters.
Then she died.
1. Having listened to the words of their teachers, the girls
increased in virtue.
2. Having learned well the books of the apostles, the girls became
devoted to spiritual reading.
3. Having arrived at Sophia’s house, the servants told the woman to go
4. Having brought as a gift to the Trinity her three virtuous daughters,
Saint Sophia died.
V. Note the following examples and complete the table with adjectives used with
“the” as nouns.
Saint Sophia was buried by some faithful people of Rome together with her daughters.
(a specific group of faithful people, not all of them)
All the faithful should read about the passion of the holy martyrs Faith, Hope, and Love,
and their Mother, Sophia. (faithful people in general, all of them)
When we talk about one person we say: a/the faithful man, e.g.
A faithful man should read about the holy martyrs. (any faithful man)
The faithful woman was praying to God for her daughters. (the above mentioned
A Specific Group
People in General,
All of One Group
a/the dead man
a rich man
a weak man
Submitted by Irina Ishkhneli, School No. 1738, Moscow
to be continued