Guarding the north-west boundaries of the country, Pskov was an important medieval trading post and centre of Russian Orthodox culture. Besides a rich heritage of literature, architecture, fresco and easel painting, it was also the centre of the Pskov school of icon-painting. Although the school enjoyed its golden age in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it still retained its own unique features after Pskov was annexed by Muscovy in 1510.

First mentioned in the tenth century, Pskov is one of the oldest towns in Russia. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it was part of the principality of Novgorod and, ecclesiastically, fell under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Novgorod. Lying on the western borders of Rus, the city was often overrun by the Teutonic Knights active in the Baltic lands from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries.

Pskov was not as rich as Novgorod and was never part of the magnificent culture of Kievan Rus. The city developed on its own, as a local centre, reflecting the specific features of life in north-west Russia. The people of Pskov were very selective in what they borrowed from the prevailing artistic traditions, often displaying an unexpected and innovative approach.

Like Novgorod, the town of Pskov was very much shaped by the natural landscape. The main role in the urban panorama was played by the River Velikaya, which crosses the city from south to north. The most important part of the town lay on the eastern bank of the river. As a result, the entrances to all the churches, which were always in the western facade, faced the river.

This situation is the direct opposite of what happened in Novgorod, where the heart of the city developed on the western bank of the River Volkhov. As in Novgorod, the local kremlin stood on a high hill, dominating the surrounding landscape. This circumstance played an even greater role in Pskov, where the River Pskov winds round the citadel and falls into the River Velikaya at the foot of the hill.

The river panoramas to the north and south of the Pskov Kremlin are dominated by two cloisters – the Mirozhsky and Snetogorsky Monasteries. The former was founded in the middle of the twelfth century, while the latter dates from the late thirteenth century. As in Novgorod in the early twelfth century, these abbeys did not develop out of the ascetic life of a hermit, but were founded by a rich ktetor. The two cloisters remained the most important monasteries in Pskov until the city was conquered by Muscovy in 1510.

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