Lecture 4: The Adaptation of Byzantine Tradition in Novgorod and Pskov (11th - 15th Cent.)

The lecture introduces the students to the gradual process of the adaptation of the Middle Byzantine tradition to the conditions of northwestern Rus’. Two major centers of northwestern Rus’, the commercial republics and city-states of Novgorod and Pskov, developed a distinct type of patronage: most of their churches were commissioned by merchants, bishops and chief administrators of the republics rather than the princes as in the other part of pre-Mongol Rus’ and later in the Grand Principality of Moscow. Novgorodian and Pskovian patrons had fewer resources to invite masters from Byzantium or the Central Europe and generally commissioned smaller structures, which however preserved recognizable Middle Byzantine cross-in-square plans. Local patronage resulted in the progressive vernacularization of the Byzantine architecture in Novgorod and even more so in Pskov. This process reflected in the de-regularization of plans, the reduction of height, the thickening of the walls, and the shortening of the span of vault and domes. At the same time Novgorod and Pskov developed their own traditions of masonry construction, which in the 16th century CE was mobilized by the grand princes of Moscow to built fortresses and churches both in Moscow and in its newly conquered territories.

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