Sacred art of Russia - Yaroslavl and the cities of Russia’s Golden Ring

Prices from £2,590


16 Jun 2019 - 22 Jun 2019
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 19YARO
With: Dr Natalia Murray


Prices from £2,590
Single Supplement: £330
Deposit: £300

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The adoption of Christianity in Russia in 988 marked the beginning of the ancient Russian art. Throughout the 10th–17th centuries, this ancient Russian art sought to embody in itself the Christian faith and create ‘theology in colour’ by making images and the words inseparable from each other.

East of Moscow lies the land of small historical towns, ancient onion- domed churches and largely unspoilt countryside, often referred to as the ‘Golden Ring of Russia’. The area was largely bypassed by 20th-century modernisation – or destruction – and still feels almost rural. The diamonds in the ring are old Russian merchants’ towns in which golden-domed churches mingle with quaint wooden cottages and a serene river Volga dreamily meanders through flower-covered meadows and green hills. Our tour begins in Yaroslavl – a jewel in the Golden Ring – studded with onion domes like no other place in Russia. Our second base will be Suzdal, one of the most popular destinations on the Golden Ring and often described as an open-air museum, thanks to its unspoilt charm.

This new Art Pursuits Abroad tour breaks slightly from the conventional APA format; although the tour will be led by expert lecturer Dr Natalia Murray, most days will begin with a very special lecture given by an additional expert in mediaeval Russian art, followed by guided tours around towns and churches located along the Volga River. This is an exciting opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the history of a beautiful portion of this vast and fascinating country.

DAY 1:

Morning flight at c. 10.55am with British Airways from London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo. Transfer by private coach to Yaroslavl, our base for the first three nights of the tour, to check in to our hotel. After some time to settle in, we regroup for a welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant.

DAY 2:

A day in Yaroslavl to introduce us to some of the city’s most important sights. Our morning begins at the Sacristy of Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery, which was founded in the 12th century and was one of Russia’s richest and most fortified monasteries until the 1500s. Here, Dr Mikhail Kerbikov, deputy director of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery-Museum, will lead a lecture on ‘Treasures of the Russian Sacristies’. Afterwards, we will take in five great churches of Yaroslavl during a workshop led by Dr Natalia Mironova, ‘Reading 17th-century Russian frescoes’. In the afternoon, a river cruise to the picturesque Tolgskii Monastery is a relaxing way to round off the day’s activities.

DAY 3:

This morning we visit the Ceremonial Hall of the House of the Governor of Yaroslavl, where our morning lecture on the subject of ‘Decoding Russian icons’ will be given by the leading expert in Russian icons, keeper of icons and deputy director of the Yaroslavl Museum, Aleksey Fedorchuk. In the afternoon, we leave the city to visit the towns of Rostov Velikii, Borisogleb and Uglich. Rostov Velikii, on the banks of Lake Nero, is rich in ancient architecture, with many monuments dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. These include the impressive Assumption Cathedral and the Kremlin, which has eleven beautifully ornate towers and is home to several elaborately decorated churches and palaces. Uglich had been the seat of a small princedom from 1218 until 1328 when the local princes sold their rights to the great prince of Moscow. As a border town of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, it was burned several times by Lithuanians, Tatars, and the Grand Prince of Tver. Despite its chequered history, several handsome examples of old Russian architecture remain – particularly notable are the Alexeievsky monastery and the Assumption three-tented church (1628), both considered to be true gems of Russian mediaeval architecture. Return to Yaroslavl.

DAY 4:

We leave our hotel this morning for the Archbishop’s chambers, where we will enjoy a lecture by the head of the department of mediaeval Russian Art at the Yaroslavl Museum, Dr. Viktoria Gorshkova, on ‘Yaroslavl, Moscow and Kostroma – laboratories of the Russian style’. Bidding farewell to the city, we then begin the journey to Suzdal, our base for the rest of the tour. En route, we stop to enjoy lunch in a beautiful restaurant with picturesque views of the River Volga, and to visit the towns of Kostroma and Plyos. Kostroma, the ‘cradle of the Romanov dynasty’, is a 12th-century town on the banks of the River Volga where we will visit the Epiphany and St. Ipathy Monasteries, see the frescoes inside the Trinity Cathedral and wander around Susanina Square. Plyos, in the centre of the Golden Ring, is widely referred to as the pearl of the Volga and has long been famous for its serene atmosphere and 3km-long quay, dotted with one-story wooden and brick buildings with renovated facades on one side, and small boats and yachts scattered along the riverbank on the other. It is also home to the house- museum of Isaac Levitan, a prominent landscape painter of the 19th century. Continue to Suzdal and our hotel, for the first of three nights.

DAY 5:

A morning to explore charming Suzdal, the diamond in Russia’s Golden Ring. In 1864, local merchants failed to coerce the government into building the Trans- Siberian Railway through their town (instead it went through Vladimir, 35km away). As a result, Suzdal was bypassed not only by trains, but by the 20th century altogether, and retains its old-world charm – it is famous for its enchanting wooden houses, mediaeval churches and the Assumption Refractory and prison, built on the order of Catherine II, to house those who committed crimes against the church. In the afternoon, we visit Suzdal’s railway rival, Vladimir, one of the oldest Russian cities. Our visit will take in a tour of the impressive defensive fort built in 1108, the beautiful Assumption Cathedral with frescoes by the greatest of old Russian painters, Andrei Rublev, and the famous Golden Gate. Return to Suzdal.

DAY 6:

This morning’s lecture, ‘Discovery of the “Russian Style” in the 19th century’, is led by the reader at the Yaroslavl University, specialist in British-Russian artistic exchange, Dr. Viktor Kulikov. In the afternoon, we depart Suzdal to visit the most famous centres of Russian miniature painting on black lacquer boxes: Palekh, Mstera and Kholui. Icon-painters from the 17th century, Palekh masters gained world-wide recognition after the famous German writer Goethe discovered their works in 1814, and refined icons by Palekh masters became a source of Russian national pride. Although the practice was threatened by the Bolsheviks (who wanted to eradicate religion) following the October Revolution, in 1933 the Palekh Art School was founded and for the next sixty years the former icon-painters used the sacred language of icons to produce new Soviet images. Each of the villages we will visit have their own distinct style, which is fascinatingly reflected in their output of Russian miniature art. We return to Suzdal, where we will enjoy a farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant in the evening.

DAY 7:

After breakfast, we transfer to Moscow Sheremetyevo airport for our return flight with British Airways to London Heathrow, scheduled to arrive at c. 20.20.

Please note that at this stage the programme is still provisional. Although we aim at the greatest degree of accuracy from the outset, some details, especially the order of visits, may be subject to change.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

This tour involves a lot of walking, up and downhill, and sometimes on uneven ground or pavements; museum and site visits require prolonged periods of standing without the possibility of a rest. Coach journeys vary in length.

Please note that all our Study Tours involve a significant amount of standing and walking, often across uneven ground, over cobbled streets, or up and down steps and inclines. While we do not have an upper age limit for participants, we require you to have a level of fitness which does not spoil other participents' enjoyment of the holiday and you should be able to walk at a reasonable pace and / or stand for at least thirty minutes without aid or requiring a rest.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a particular tour is suitable for you, please ring us to check before placing your booking.


Twin/double share: £2590 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £330
Deposit: £300 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (economy class) with British Airways between London Heathrow and Moscow Sheremetyevo
  • In Yaroslavl three nights B&B in the four- star Park Inn by Radisson
  • In Suzdal, three nights B&B in the four-star Nikolaevsky Posad
  • Transfers and excursions by private coach
  • Two dinners and five lunch
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • Small group between 12 and 22 participants


  • Transport between home and London Heathrow
  • Travel insurance. We strongly advise you to be covered by adequate travel insurance

    British citizens and most other foreign nationals require a tourist visa. The current cost for UK nationals is around £100. This is not included in the price of the tour because you must arrange the visa yourself. Visa assistance is available for an additional fee, please call us for more details, or if you are unsure about the visa process.

Park Inn by Radisson Yaroslavl****

The Park Inn by Radisson in Yaroslavl is located with ease of access to thousands of years of history, with plentiful of options to explore the area's beautiful architecture or to venture into new landscapes. The contemporary hotel features brights comfortable rooms.


  • Free WiFi
  • Television
  • Hair dryer
  • Climate control
  • Safe
  • Telephone
  • Tea station (upon request)


The hotel's coffee shop and centrally located lobby bar offer refreshing beverages. The on-site restaurant offers guests a traditional Bavarian experience within the heart of Yaroslavl.

Nikolaevsky Posad****

This quirky ‘art hotel’ complex built in the style of a merchant’s estate is located in Suzdal, in the immediate vicinity of the city's main attractions. The complex is made up of comfortable two-storey cottages with all modern amenities built on the edge of a quiet city park.


  • WiFi
  • Television
  • Air conditioning
  • Minibar
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Hairdryer


At this hotel you will find an indoor pool, a well-equipped fitness centre and a sauna. Its restaurant serves gourmet meals and specializes in Russian delicacies.