The origin of Novgorod seems to be rooted in the Viking trade in Russia. Known as the Rus or Varangians, their commerce eventually led to settlement. According to legend, a Rus chieftain named Rurik established a settlement nearby. Eventually Novgorod would grow and become the capital of the Rus. Rurik was succeeded by Oleg, who was said to come from Novgorod. Oleg conquered Kiev and established it as his capital. While Novgorod no longer dominated the Rus, it would still be their second largest city and was ruled by a prince. As the Principality of Kiev began to disintegrate in the second half of the 11th century, the Novgorod boyars dismissed their prince and began to dominate the government, establishing what some have called the Novgorod Republic. Unlike much of the rest of Russia, the Mongols never conquered Novgorod. Instead it expanded north and east, becoming the most dominant Russian state until the ascendance of Moscow.
It has a large number of UNESCO world heritage monuments, which shows the transmission of Christianity in Russia. Theophanes the Greek (c. 1340 – c. 1410), the teacher of Andrei Rublev, was active in Novgorod. Born in Constantinople, he is one of the strongest links between Novgorod and Constantinople.
The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Novgorod is the oldest church in the city. It was founded by St. Vladimir between 1045 and 1050. It is 38 meters high, has five-domed and is made of stone. It has a fresco of Saints Constantine and Helena, possibly dating to its dedication. Of course, it followed the lead of Kiev and named the church after Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
The Yuriev Monastery, dedicated to St. George, is about 5 km south of Novgorod. It was the most important monastery of the Novgorod Republic. According to legend, it was establish in 1030, though historical records first refer to it in the 12th century, which records the establishment of St. George's Cathedral in 1119. It has three domes, which is the defining feature of a princely church.
The Antoniev Monastery, dedicated to St. Anthony, lies north of Novgorod. It rivaled Yuriev Monastery as the most important monastery in Novgorod. Its katholikon, the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady, was a completed in 1122. The church is quite different from typical churches in Novgorod of this period. It was originally made of brick which contrasts with other regional churches of the 12th century, which were initially built with wood and were rebuilt in brick afterwards. Like St. George’s Cathedral, it has three domes - the defining feature of a princely church. There are some frescoes from the Medieval Era still extant, most notably in the apse, but most are from the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries and are in some disrepair.
Other buildings in and around Novgorod include St. Nicholas Cathedral in Yaroslav's Court, which was founded in the early 12th century. The Saviour Church on Nereditsa, dating to 1198, is located around 1.5 km south of Novgorod. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Sinichya Gora located just outside of the old city dates back to 1192. The Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Peryn, located 6 km south of Novgorod, dates to the 1220s. In addition, there is the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior, which has frescos painted by Theophanes the Greek. While the current structure dates to 1374, a church has stood on this spot since the 12th century