If travelers begin their journey along the Northern Ring of Nizhny Novgorod region, their itinerary will include such ancient Russian towns as Gorodets and Semyonov, Balakhna and Chkalovsk.
70 km away from Nizhny Novgorod, on the left bank of the Volga river, lies the most ancient town of the land, a “pearl” in the necklace of the local towns – Gorodets. The town was founded in 1152 by prince Yuri Dolgorukiy as a fortress, an “outpost” to protect the furthest lands of the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality from invasion.
A wooden fortress and a defensive earth mound that has survived since the 12th century has protected the Russian lands from devastation many times.
The founding of the Feodor Monastery became an important event in the town’s history. In 1263 returning from the Golden Horde St. Alexander Nevsky took the monastic vows under the name of Alexius and passed away. In the 90s, during archeological excavations, a prince helmet dating to the 13th century was found here. After St. Alexander Nevsky’s death his son Andrey became a Gorodets prince thus becoming famous as Andrey of Gorodets. In the 17th century the monastery chronicles “Kitezh annalist” were created.
In the 14th century even local silver coins were minted in Gorodets. In the 17th century the town became one of the Volga’s wooden shipbuilding centers.
In 1722 Peter the Great visited the shipyard, and Catherine the Great was present at Our Lady of St.Theodore Cathedral’s consecration. In the 17th century the town became a stronghold and an unspoken “capital” of Old Believers. The 19th century became the Golden Era for Gorodets. The town became a large trade, economic and shipbuilding center.
The magnificent past of the city is retained by the appearance of merchants’ stone houses, adorned with front porches with a lace of cast-iron sheds and splendid metal chimneys and drains. Wooden Gorodets houses which are decorated with wood carvings look like fairy-tale palaces.
The Gorodets area carefully upholds and promotes the traditions of folk arts and crafts. Here the traditions of Gorodets ornaments, golden embroidery, wood carving, honey ginger-breads, pottery, willow weaving, gingerbread mold carving are still alive. Gorodets is justly called the “Craftsmen Town”. Annually, every July, the festival of folk arts and crafts “The Fraternity of Folk Craftsmen” takes place here, and the second Saturday in September the Town Day celebration is held.
Modern Gorodets is also a “museum capital”. Since 2003 the regional festival “Nizhny Novgorod Museum Capital” takes place here every September. A “museum block” was opened to unite some of the museums that make a part of Gorodets historic and art complex. The building complex “Craftsmen Town” opened in 2009 and has become a part of the museum gallery in this ancient town as well as one of the most popular destinations.
The best known Gorodets museums are: “Craftsmen Town”, “Samovar Museum”, “Gingerbread Museum”, “Welfare Museum”, Local History Museum, Panina Memorial Estate and School Museum.