The Golden Ring
Golden Ring of Russia unites ancient cities of Central Russia that have preserved monuments of Russian history and culture, as well as handicrafts centers.These ancient towns, which also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history. The towns have been called “open-air museums” and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia’s onion domes.
On August 19, 2017 in Yaroslavl heads of administrations of eight main cities have signed the contract on creation of “The union of the cities of the Golden Ring of Russia”.
The Golden Ring major cities:
Sergiev Posad: The city is located in the Moscow region, 72 km away from Moscow. The district has more than 250 monuments, including more than 50 active churches. Its history goes back to the Trinity Monastery, founded by Sergius of Radonezh. In the late 14th century, the first settlements appeared around the monastery. In the early 18th century, they merged into a commercial and industrial village (“posad”), and on March 22, 1782 Catherine II named it after its founder. In 1919 Sergiev Posad was granted city status. From 1930 to 1991, it was called Zagorsk in honor of the revolutionary leader V.M. Zagorski, and in 1991 it regained its historical name – Sergiev Posad. The Trinity Monastery had many lands, which contributed to the development of trade and crafts.Here were manufactured crosses, candlesticks, icons, but the most popular was the Sergius toy. It was here that Sergius of Radonezh blessed Dmitry Donskoy before the Battle of Kulikovo, and Andrei Rublev created a world-famous icon of the “Trinity.” In 1422, St. Sergius of Radonezh passed away and was canonized. The white stone Trinity Cathedral was constructed on his coffin.During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the monastery was turned into a strong fortress that withstood the 16-month siege of the Polish-Lithuanian invaders. In 1689, during the Archers’ Riot in Moscow, Tsar Peter hid behind the walls of the monastery. In 1744 Empress Elizabeth conferred the honorary title of Lavra monastery, which meant a superior role of the monastery over other ecclesiastical bodies. At this time the monastery possessed 214,000 acres and over 106 thousand serfs in 15 provinces and 45 cities. From 1919 to 1946, the Trinity Monastery was closed. In 1933, the ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The monastery houses the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary. The monastery facilities are an open-air museum.
Today the Lavra is an active monastery, the spiritual center of Orthodox Russia. The monastery complex includes 45 buildings and monuments. The main gate of the monastery is the Sacred Gate with the Church of John the Baptist. Behind it there is the biggest building – the main cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. From the northwest, a small tent adheres to the cathedral – it is the Godunov shrine. It contains the remains of Tsar Boris, his wife Maria, son Theodore and daughter Xenia. Since the 17th century, Russian metropolitans started being buried there. Next to the Cathedral is the church in honor of C. Descent. Spirit on the Apostles. The internal paintings of the Trinity Cathedral were made by Andrei Rublev and Daniil Cherny. In the 17th century, due to the poor condition, the frescoes were replaced with new ones. The iconostasis survived, consisting of 40 15th-century icons by Rublev. In 1930, the famous icon “Trinity” was placed in the Tretyakov Gallery, and replaced by a copy. Near the Holy Trinity Cathedral, in Metropolitan Chambers, the Patriarch’s residence is located.
The most ancient churches in Sergiev Posad are the church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin and Martyr Paraskeva church, built in 1547 on the site of a wooden parish church.
Peter and Paul Church, also known as Church in honor of the Resurrection Temple Renovation, is located to the north of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in the former Kokueva settlement.
Local attractions also include the Ascension, Assumption and St. Elijah Churches, built in the second half of the 18th century.
Pereslavl: Pereslavl-Zalessky is located between Moscow and Yaroslavl on the shores of Lake Pleshcheeva, where the river Trubezh flows into it. It is 130 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Pereslavl-Zalessky was founded in 1152 by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky. Pereslavl principality was established in 1179. The city survived the invasion of the Mongols (between the mid-13th century and the early 15th century) and the Polish-Lithuanian invaders (1611–1612). Pereslavl was en route from Moscow to Arkhangelsk and was of great importance in trade with Western Europe. Pereslavl principality attached to Moscow strongly influenced its struggle for the unification of feudal Russia. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible the Pereslavl region became a stronghold of Oprichnina, and the city became a fortress. In 1688-1693 Peter the Great built his famous “fun flotilla” on Lake Pleshcheyevo that marked the beginning of the creation of the Russian navy.
The architectural gem of Pereslavl is the Transfiguration Cathedral of the 12th century – the earliest of the white stone monuments of Northeast Russia. In the second half of the 12th century the cathedral was painted with frescoes “The Last Judgment” and “The Virgin on the Throne”. The main temple icon of the Transfiguration is now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The Transfiguration Cathedral is the only of the first five white stone temples of the North-Eastern Russia that has remained to the present day.
One of the most ancient monasteries is Nikitinsky monastery in the name of Nikita of Constantinople. It is believed to have been founded earlier than the town of Pereslavl. This temple is bigger than any church of the 16th century. The impressive walls and towers of the monastery helped to guard the approaches to the town from the north and resisted the Polish-Lithuanian siege in the 17th century. It is a functioning monastery.
At the other end of town is located the acting Holy Trinity Danilov Monastery, founded in 1508. The church was consecrated in honor of monk Daniel, who has assisted with his prayers to the birth of Ivan the Terrible’s son.
Rostov: Rostov the Great is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Nero, 53 km from Yaroslavl and 202 km from Moscow. It is one of the oldest cities in Russia. Rostov was founded on land that belonged to the Finno-Ugric tribe Meria. First mentioned in the year 862 as an already important settlement, by the 10th century Rostov became the capital city of one of the most prominent Russian principalities. It was incorporated into Muscovy in 1474. In 907 and 911, the city soldiers participated in campaigns against Constantinople led by Prince Oleg. And in 991 its inhabitants were baptized. It is in Rostov that the first bishoprics was established, and in 991, the first Cathedral of the Assumption was built. Rostov Kremlin, Spaso-Jacob and Abraham Epiphany monasteries, the buildings of the former Archbishop’s house, city stone and wooden buildings of the 18-20th centuries, as well as the location of the city itself in a picturesque lake basin makes Rostov a real gem of the Golden Ring, one of the major centers of tourism and pilgrimage. Today Rostov has 323 architectural monuments, about 100 of them are of federal significance.
The main attraction of the city of Rostov Veliky – Rostov Kremlin (House of Bishops) built in the 17th century – is of world importance. Kremlin served as the residence of bishops of Rostov – Yaroslavl diocese, so it was called the Metropolitan or Bishop Court Kremlin. It is separated from the city by high walls with eleven towers.
Among the main attractions of the city of Rostov Veliky there are numerous monasteries and churches. The oldest monastery in northeastern Russia is Epiphany Abraham’s Monastery, founded in the 11th century by Reverend Abraham. Here in 1553-1554, after the capture of Kazan at the behest of Ivan the Terrible, was built Epiphany Cathedral.
In Spaso-Yakovlevsky monastery, founded in the 14th century by St. James, are the only relics of the only saint of the18th century – St. Demetrius of Rostov.
Apart from the monuments of religious architecture, you can also see the only partially preserved 17th century stable yard in Russia, the Shopping Arcade – Mytny Dvor and Gostiny Dvor. It is also interesting to see the gymnasium building, constructed for the money of merchant Kekin.
The famous Rostov chimes played on the Rostov bell tower are recognized as a part of world culture.
Yaroslavl: The city of Yaroslavl was founded in 1010 and is the oldest city on the Volga river. On the territory of its historic center are located 140 monuments, so it’s historical and architectural ensemble is recognized as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in Russia. The Transfiguration Cathedral of the Transfiguration Monastery, built in the beginning of the 16th century, Is the oldest of the preserved buildings in the city. At the end of the 18th century, the monastery became the residence of the Archbishops of Yaroslavl and Rostov.
The Church of Elijah the Prophet is a gem of the ancient architecture and is also famous for its frescoes and interior decoration.
Yaroslavl churches: church ensemble Church of the Nativity (17th century), Epiphany Church (17th century), Church of St. Nicholas Nadeina, Church of St. Nicholas Chopped, a rare monument of palace architecture Metropolitan Chamber, Peter and Paul Church (18th century), Ensemble Church of Candlemas (19century) and others, the city’s towers Arsenal (Volga).
The massive fifteen-headed John the Baptist church is a monument of world importance, which dazzles you with luxury and abundance of tiles, brick patterns and murals.
On the Volga shore, within the city, the white stone Tolgsky Monastery is located. In addition to the notable landmarks in the territory of the ensemble it has a unique cedar garden (founded in the second half of the 17th century).
Kostroma: Of the eight cities of the Golden Ring Kostroma is the most distant from Moscow, and perhaps the most underrated. Kostroma does not reveal all immediately. Meanwhile it has everything: ancient history, rich in events and monuments, the thoroughness of an old merchant town, standing on a large river, and even the glory of big jewelry center of the European part of Russia.
Volga clearly dominates in the urban space. Kostroma embankment is noticeable and well maintained. Behind the Volga stands the impregnable Ipatiev Monastery – the “cradle of the Romanov dynasty”. Kostroma preserved most of its historic center. An extensive shopping arcade, church courts, a very high fire tower, a museum of wooden architecture stand near modern shops, restaurants and hotels.
Streets layout in Kostroma is quite unusual: they fan outwards from the Volga River. According to the legend, Catherine II have ordered court architects to design an urban plan for Kostroma but none of the projects satisfied her. Then one of the architects who had been trying to do the plan, asked for her opinion on what the city should be like. Catherine opened her fan she was holding and said, “Well, for example like this.”
Beside sightseeing, in Kostroma you can work out at the local equestrian racecourse, have a boat trip in summer or a dog sled ride in winter and even fly a helicopter shuttle (Kostroma – Kineshma – Redridge – Nezhitino – Yuryevets). From Kostroma you can reach Nerekhta (an outdoor city museum), Zavrazhye (birthplace of Pavel Florensky, Arseny and Andrei Tarkovsky) or Galich (the oldest city in the Kostroma region).
Ivanovo: Ivanovo is a small, picturesque town situated on the river Uvod. It is 275 km away from Moscow. Its most prominent attractions are the Schudrov tent, the wooden church of the Assumption and the Museum of Ivanovo chintz. For the first time, the settlement was mentioned in ancient books in 1561. According to historians, Ivan the Terrible gave the village to the relatives of his second wife, princes Cherkassky, natives of the North Caucasus. It is believed that the village had a church or chapel of St. John the Baptist. Therefore, the village got the name Ivanovo. According to another version, the village was named after its founder or first inhabitant Ivan.
In the 19th century, Ivanovo became the largest center of light industry in Europe. The majority of employees in light industry were women, so it is called the city of brides. The path of the legendary regiment “Normandie-Niemen” has begun here. The Ivanovo factories made significant contribution during the war, making clothing for the army.
The historical center of Ivanovo consists of 19 – early 20th century buildings, mostly former merchants’ houses. The constructivism buildings of Ivanovo are also interesting (1930s), as well as industrial architecture of the 19th century, and numerous monuments of the Soviet era.
Attractions of Ivanovo
Schudrov tent – the oldest brick building.
Interesting quaint houses: House-ship, House-Horseshoe.
The largest museums in the city are Burylin Ivanovo Regional Museum, Ivanovo Art Museum, Ivanovo chintz museum.
Suzdal: Suzdal is a city-reserve, situated on the river Kamenka, a tributary of the River Nerl, 26 km north of Vladimir.
In the chronicles it was first mentioned in 1024. At the turn of the 11-12th centuries in the bend of the river Kamenka was built a fortress city – the Kremlin. On the west side, the river was its natural barrier, and on the east side, a moat was dug. Embankments were arranged, wooden walls and towers were built. In the 11-12th centuries, a Cathedral was built in Kremlin in honor of the Assumption of the Mother of God. During the reign of Yuri Dolgoruky, it was the center of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. In 1157 the capital was moved to Vladimir, so the principality got the name of Vladimir-Suzdal. Since the mid-13th century, Suzdal became the capital of the independent Suzdal principality. Tatar-Mongol invasion led to recession of the principality. In the 14th century the city was the capital of Suzdal-Nizhny Novgorod principality. Later it joined the Moscow principality, remaining though a cultural and religious center of Russia. All existing architectural ensembles were constructed, including the structure of the ancient Kremlin, Pokrovsky and Saviour Evfimev monasteries. Parish churches were built in the city. In the 16th century the Kremlin had 15 towers, and in its territory there were a stone cathedral and seven wooden churches. The city had 11 monasteries with 27 temples, as well as 14 wooden churches. 400 homes accounted for almost 50 temples. That is, every 8 homes accounted for one church.
The Suzdal Kremlin is the core of the city, it preserved the ramparts and ditches, several churches and the Archbishop’s Chambers of the 15-18th centuries with the ancient Church of the Nativity of the Virgin. According to legend Alexander’s Monastery was founded by Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of the 13th century.
Saviour Monastery of St Euthymius was founded in the middle of the 14th century as a fortress to protect the city.
Pokrovsky Monastery was founded in the middle of the 14th century. For a while it served as an exile place for tsarinas and women of noble boyar families. In the 16-17th centuries it was one of Russia’s largest monasteries.
Deposition Cathedral, founded in 1207, is located on the Kamenka River in the center of Suzdal. Stone buildings appeared in the monastery in the 16th century.
Vasilevsky monastery with buildings of the 17th century. According to the legend, Prince Vladimir baptized the inhabitants of Suzdal on today’s site of the monastery cathedral.
Vladimir: The historical city of Vladimir, the ancient capital of the North-Eastern Russia is one of the largest tourist centers of European Russia. Located mainly on the left bank of the Klyaz’ma River, 176 km east of Moscow.
The city is known for the architectural monuments of Vladimir-Suzdal school:
Golden Gate of castle (1158-64, rebuilt in the 17-18th centuries) is a white stone triumphal arch with a gate church above, white stone cathedrals: the five-domed Assumption Cathedral (second half of the 12th century), with preserved fragments of frescoes of 12-13th centuries, and the frescoes of 1408 by Andrey Rublev and Daniil Cherny; one-domed Demetrius Cathedral (end of the 12th century.) with remarkably rich decorative carvings on the facades. Both Cathedrals are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
As for 19th century monuments there is the pseudo-Catholic Church of St. Rosary. 239 18-19th century buildings in the city are under the protection of the state.
Depending on the point of view, this list of the Golden Ring cities may include Alexandrov, Bogoljubovo, Gorohovets, Gus-Khrustalny, Dmitrov, Kaljazin, Kideksha, Moscow, Murom, Myshkin, Palekh, Ples, Rybinsk, Tutaev, Uglich, Yuriev-Polish, Shua and other cities and towns.
Thanks to Yuri Bychkov, a Soviet writer who created in the late 60’s a series of the same name essays, these cities are called cities of the Golden Ring. They belong to six regions: the Moscow, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Tver and Yaroslavl regions.
Travel along the Golden Ring to see and experience the living history, admire the strict forms and ornaments of the ancient Russian architecture , feel the antiquity of the white stone masonry or the warmth of centenarian oaks laid in logs; to taste Russian dishes prepared in the traditional way, watch or even participate in historical reconstructions, wander through Levitan’s Ples, see numerous museums and workshops of traditional crafts, listen to church chants and folk songs that may not be heard anywhere else…