The legend has it that St. George monastery was founded in 1030 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise. He was christened as George (Yury, George), and after victorious campaign against the people of chud' he founded the city of Yuriev and built cathedrals in Novgorod and Kiev in the name and to the glory of his heavenly patron. The St. George cathedral in Novgorod was built on the route from the city to the country-side residence of the prince in the Rakomo village, on the shore of the Ilmen Lake. Around the cathedral a monastery of the same name was founded.
We know from the period documents that the name of the chief mason, who built the cathedral, was Pyotr. This is a rather unusual situation, because, as a rule, the constructors and artists remained unknown to the future generations.
St. George cathedral had a special status of a burial-vault for the members of the prince family. Mother and brother of Prince Alexander Nevsky also lie here. Another function of the cathedral was that the prince's chronicles were written here. Even nowadays the cathedral impresses with its size (32 meters high, 26 meters long and 24 meters wide), severe boldness of the proportions, dynamic three-dome composition, and magnificent and ostentatious interior. In 1902, the authentic 12th c. frescos were repainted in a completely new style. Only few old murals survived, including gigantic figures of the saints in the upper part of the staircase tower.
St. George monastery was one of the richest property owners. Apart from extensive lands, it owned workshops, salt-works, hunting-grounds, fishing-trades, smaller monasteries, thousands of peasants, and other means of income. The monks even had their shops in the Marketplace! In the first half of the 19th c., Countess A.Orlova-Chesmenskaya, the «spiritual daughter» of the current Father-superior Fotiy, donated much money to be used to restore the old constructions and build some new ones. That was the time of the monastery's second rise.
Even today the complex of St. George monastery seems grand; it includes the belfry 52 meters high, and five corpuses: Eastern (with prison cells), Southern (with the church of Our Lady of the «Burning Bush»), Archimandrite's (with the cathedral of Our Saviour, under which both Archbishop Fotiy and Countess Orlova-Chesmenskaya were buried), Northern and the cathedral of the Rising of the Cross (1823).