The first flowering of Christianity
(mid-11th–early 13th century)
Kievan Rus’: the Greek legacy
The reign of Vladimir's son Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) heralded the golden age of Kievan Rus'. After its baptism in 988, it fostered the expansion of the Byzantine civilization throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. The Church was Greek in its practices, liturgy, and structures, and in the monastic model inaugurated by the monk Hilarion in 1051, at the Monastery of the Caves near Kiev. The first churches with cupolas were the Byzantine cathedrals of St. Sophia in Kiev (built around 1040) and Novgorod (1045), and this despite their large size. St. Sophia of Kiev was embellished with marble from the Marmara islands (Prokonnessos) and decorated with mosaics by artists from Constantinople. The first and most famous icons, such as the remarkable Virgin of Vladimir, were Byzantine; they paved the way for the gradual development of the Russian icon, and the Byzantine school of icon painting. The Ostromir Gospel (c. 1056–1057), the first dated Russian manuscript, adapted the dazzling Greek art of cloisonné enamel on gold, a technique that flourished from the late 11th century throughout Kievan Rus'. The luxurious two-handled chalice from Novgorod bears particularly eloquent witness to the influence of Byzantine art in all of Rus'.
Kievan Rus’ and the West
From the time of its conversion, Rus' opened to the West. Yaroslav the Wise married a Swedish princess, and contracted marriage alliances with Hungary, Poland, Saxony, and even France when his daughter Anne married the French King Henry I in 1051. Around 1080 in Kiev, the Psalter of Archbishop Egbert of Trier was enriched with new images in a style differing from that of Constantinople which showed signs of genuine independence. Excavations in Novgorod have yielded northern European coins dating from around the year one thousand. Precious artifacts from the Latin world circulated throughout Rus'. Indeed, after the division of Kievan Rus' into rival principalities, that of Vladimir-Suzdal appears to have found new sources of inspiration in Romanesque art in the late 12th century, especially in architectural decoration, leading to an unprecedented flourishing of monumental sculpture. The early 13th-century "Golden Gates" of Suzdal reflect the synthesis of Romanesque technique and Byzantine iconography in a remarkable and innovatory work.