The Southern ring of the Nizhny Novgorod Region includes some astonishing old towns that are famous all over Russia: Arzamas, Diveevo, Bolshoye Boldino.
Arzamas is one of the oldest towns in the Nizhny Novgorod district. According to the legend, it was founded by Tsar Ivan the Terrible during his march to Kazan in 1552.
The name “Arzamas” was coined from two words of the local Mordvin language: “Erzya”, which is the name of the local Mordvin tribe and “mazy”, meaning beautiful. So “Arzamas” can be translated as “the beautiful town of the Erzya tribe”. The town is actually located on the beautiful banks of the Tyosha River.
In the middle of the 18th century, ten large highways met in Arzamas, four of them were important at the state level. Trade and crafts development caused different types of business guilds to appear. They had trading houses and shops both in their hometown and at large country fairs. The Arzamas merchants paid for the construction of cathedrals and they completed them with beautiful decorations as well as donated an abundance of holy vessels to them.
The Transfiguration Cathedral (build in 1643), St Elijah Church (1746) and Palm Sunday Church (1717), Edessa Cathedral (18th century), The Nativity Church (constructed in 1852 by K.Ton’s design, the architect of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow) and other sacred places are monuments of the capital’s level. The Smolensky Cathedral in the Vyezdnoe village (1815) has “The Crucifixion” painted by the 17th century Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and a miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Smolensk. The Resurrection Church in the village of Kostylikha (1652) is a monument of federal significance.
The majestic five-domed Resurrection Cathedral has become the main adornment of the town. The academic and architect M.P. Korinfsky created the project. The rich altar icon in it was made in the classic style of the Lomakin brothers.
Next to the Resurrection Cathedral there is the St. Nicolas monastery, founded at the end of the 16th century. The Church of Our Lady with the icon “Assuage My Sorrows” completes Cathedral Square.
In the 19th century, there were more than 20 cathedrals and 4 monasteries in Arzamas. Because of the large number of churches and close liaisons with Moscow the town was known as “a little Moscow”.
At the beginning of the last century the first provincial art school opened in Arzamas. It was led by academic A.V. Stupin and fostered a whole generation of talented artists among them are V.G. Perov, V.E. Rayev, N. Rachkov, N.A. Koshelev and many others.
Arzamas was the where Maxim Gorky was exiled. The writer’s house was often visited by L.N. Andreyev, V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko and S.G. Skitalets. Later, Maxim Gorky opened the town’s first public library in this house. Today a memorial museum is located there.
Arzamas is the town where the famous children book’s writer Arkady Gaidar spent his early years. The local people have preserved memorable places related to his life: Gaidar’ Early Years Museum, his school, Literary Museum of A.P.Gaidar, a monument to Gaidar by the sculptor Yu.P. Struchkov.
The Balandiny family has been collecting antiques of the 18th-19th centuries for more than twenty years. Their activity gave birth to two private museums with rich collections of icons, porcelain, bronze, glass and copper lamps, ancient musical instruments and clocks.
In 2012, in the heart of the town, in the city hall building on Cathedral Square, the Museum of Russian patriarchy was opened. The building itself is an architectural monument of the second half of the 18th century. The exposition shows authentic pieces as well as replicas: more than a thousand exhibits in all. The exposition will be interesting for historians as well as much of the public, orthodox pilgrims and tourists.
Visitors are also welcome to visit theatres, exhibition halls, Stupin Art School Gallery, the Folk Arts and Crafts Center with more than 20 studios, concerts of the folk group “Golden Ornaments” or the “Zolotayushka” ensemble as well as many other attractions.
After a long walk around Arzamas, guests can take a break at the “Cameo” restaurant or the “Merchants’ Courtyard” café to try a goose dish prepared by an ancient Arzamas recipe.