Yaroslavl, yet another UNESCO site, was our next stop after exploring Goritsy on my Russian travels. Yaroslavl is called the jewel of the Golden Ring (that’s a group of historic cities northeast of Moscow that have played an important part in Russian history). It is noteworthy for being one of the oldest cities in Russia and the largest we visited on our river cruise with Volga Dream.
Prince Yaroslavl the Wise is said to have killed a bear with his poleaxe and pacified the pagans to establish this town. Because it’s situated at the junction of 2 large rivers (Kotorsol and Volga) it has always been a major centre for trade and it has been one of the largest industrial cities. Despite that, it has managed to retain its beauty with beautiful parks and well deserves its nickname as “Russian Florence”.
So many vibrant layers of history and culture make Yaroslavl a great destination for a time travel through the centuries in Russia. There’s just so much to post about from this UNESCO World Heritage Site and à place that is also the birthplace of the first Russian theatre.
Monastery of the Transfiguration
But first the bell tower of UNESCO site Transfiguration Monastery that provides stunning views across Yaroslavl. It’s worth going up the viewpoint if you have time but
The Transfiguration Monastery is one of the most ancient structures in the city and was erected in 13th-century. It is notable because it was one of the favourite monasteries of Ivan the Terrible and was turned into a museum 150 years ago. There are six churches open to the public on the territory that has been created to resemble 18th-century regional architecture.
At the side of the Transfiguration Monastery we were privileged to hear Orthodox bell ringing, an art form in Russia. So here I had the privilege of hearing the bell ringer give us a demonstration. In Orthodox bell ringing all the ropes are gathered at one point, where the bell-ringer stands. Some ropes are played by hand and the bigger ropes are played by foot. The major part of the ropes are not actually pulled, but rather pressed to make a clapper strike the side of its bell.
Church of Elijah the Prophet
Next up it was off to the breathtaking Church of St. Ilya the Prophet in Yaroslavl, built in the 17th century. It was built from 1647 to 1650 by the Skripin brothers who were wealthy fur traders. Inside, the frescoes and icons paintings inside honestly left me speechless you can see below.
If the outside wasn’t breathtaking alone, prepare to be transfixed by the beautiful frescoes inside the Church of St. Ilya the Prophet. Just a wonderful, overwhelming amount of frescoes painted continuously on the walls and over the ceiling. Even the window wells have images around them! And for everything else it’s gilded in gold it’s simply magnificent.
Most of the frescoes images tell the life story of Elijah, but interestingly enough, the artist has also inserted scenes of everyday Russian peasant life into some of the frescoes.
For me, this memorable visit was akin to my emotions visiting the interior to the Church on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg that was also so magnificently decorated with frescoes. I just hope some of my photos and videos do it justice! If you want to compare it to Church on the Blood you can see my post all about St Petersburg here.
If you’re getting a bit overwhelmed with churches head to the beautiful Governor’s House, that is also an art museum, where you can enjoy a musical quartet and dancers in 19th century period costume who will invite you to see around the stunning house and dance with them, a reminder perhaps of the part Yaroslavl plays in the novel “War and Peace”.
Housed in the 18th Century Governor’s mansion, Yaroslavl’s art museum also has an extremely impressive collection of 18th to 20th Century Russian paintings that spread out across many palatial style rooms of this beautiful building.
In the main ballroom that is also home to portraits of prominent Russian nobility such as Catherine the Great and the Empress Elizabeth as well as masterpieces by Aivazovsky and Makovsky and stunning period furniture. This was one of the most special moments for me and I still feel like I’ve been transported to a Jane Austen novel! This period is my
Church of the Assumption
We ended our day in Yaroslavl at the picturesque Strelka Park that was built as part of Yaroslavl’s 1000 year celebrations in 2010 and is beautifully maintained. And here again was a symbol I noticed throughout my time here: the symbol of a bear who was often wielding an
The story for this one is that as Prince Yaroslav was sailing down the Volga River he noticed a tribe had settled on a plateau where the Volga met the Kotorsol River. The Prince immediately recognised the trading potential here and set out to take the land from the tribe. The tribe had a bear that they considered sacred and to be their secret defense weapon. They released the ferocious bear on Prince Yaroslavl the second he came ashore.
A battle between man and bear ensued, although the bear fell when the Prince struck it over the head with his axe. With their idol now dead, the tribe didn’t put up further fight for their land and the new Christian city of Yaroslavl was founded. And thus the bear has served as the symbol of the city ever since
My time in Yaroslavl was simply a dream. From the awe-inspiring churches and frescoes to the most special dance performance. I’ll truly never forget my time here.
I really hope you’re enjoying all my Russian travels with Volga Dream. If you’re catching up, the first stop was the magnificent St. Petersburg. then we set sail for the charming Svirstroy, then the otherworldy Kizhi Island, next up it was Goritsy and finally here in Yaroslavl.