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The city of churches

Veliky Novgorod is the oldest city in Russia with richest cultural legacy. Strolling through the streets seeped in history, you will see many centuries-old churches. The abundance of Russian Orthodox architecture attracts visitors from all over the world. One of the highlights is the Church of St Nikita the Martyr.


According to historical records, Novgorodian architects built the city’s first cathedral in 1378. Construction of a church dedicated to Nikita the Martyr began in 1555 on the site of the cathedral, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The church was consecrated in 1555.

The 17th century was marked by a ceremonial procession from St Sophia’s Cathedral to Veliky Novgorod on the Day of St Nikita the Martyr. The church fell into decline one hundred years later.

During its restoration, the vaults were replaced with wooden support structures. The renovated church was re-consecrated in 1813.

During the Soviet times and until the 1980s, the church was used as a chess club and a library. In 1999, the renovation of the exterior began. In 2010, the church was granted the status of a cultural heritage site of federal importance. Restoration has taken many years but when it is finally finished, the building will be transferred under the supervision of the Novgorod Church District.


The Church of St Nikita the Martyr has a complex structure that underwent many changes over the centuries. The church initially had five domes, six pillars and three naves. The present-day structure is smaller in size.

The design of the church was based on Moscow architectural traditions. It has a number of distinct features:

  • Asymmetry. The belfry is located in the southeastern section while the northwestern side is where the St Nicholas Annex is located.
  • There is one more annex below the belfry, dedicated to Theodosius, used to store bells.
  • The church has two entrances. The northern entrance leads to the ground floor and the southern entrance leads to the first floor, connected by a beautiful wide staircase.
  • The basement is adorned with ogee arches on apses and a cornice.
  • Wooden vaults with small domes were lost.

Points of interest

The church stands out among other Novgorod churches with its unique and complicated structure. The building underwent many changes, with more details added over time, eventually becoming a site of great historical value. It may be dilapidated today but just imagine Tsar Ivan IV attending services here with his family in the 16th century. The Church of St Nikita the Martyr is an object of Russian cultural heritage that deserves special care and respect.

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