Izborsk fortress in Pskov region

Izborsk, part 2: Izborsk fortress

Originally Izborsk fortress stood in the place that is now called Truvor’s hill fort. However, in the XIV century it was moved to the Zherava hill, where strong walls and towers were soon erected.

When you come to Izborsk, you are overwhelmed by a strange feeling. It seems to be a Russian land from ancient times. But at the same time you can strongly feel the Baltic influence. It is a very interesting mixing of different cultures.

Izborsk history

Like any stronghold of the North-West of Russia, the history of Izborsk is connected with wars, sieges and repulsion of enemies’ attacks.

Izborsk, founded by the Krivites, is the same age as Smolensk and Polotsk. According to legend, it was founded by Sloven Gostomyslovich. The town was called Sloven. And his son, Izbor, renamed it in his honor. Under Princess Olga Izborsk became a suburb of Pskov and paid tribute to Kiev. Under the walls of Izborsk, the water trade route to Lake Chudskoe went through the Gorodishchenskoe and Malskoe lakes. Izboryans took part in many campaigns – against Byzantium, Bulgaria, and the Pechenegs.

At the beginning of the XIII century, after the disintegration of Kievan Rus, Izborsk became a fortress on the north-west borders of Novgorod Land. Its main enemy were the knights of the Livonian order. The construction of the present fortress on the Zheravy Mountain began in 1303-1330. Initially it was wooden, and only Lukovka (Kukovka) tower was made of stone. In the middle of XIV century Pskov posadnik Sheloga built stone walls and then towers. The fortress became an impregnable stronghold.

In 1510 Izborsk together with Pskov ceded to Moscow. In 1581 it was taken by the troops of Stefan Bathory, but after the signing of the peace treaty Izborsk became Russian again. In 1920-1940 Izborsk belonged to Estonia as a part of the Pechora region.

At the Izborsk fortress

We arrived in Izborsk on a rainy day.Despite this, however, there were quite a few tourists. Our minibus stopped at Pechorskaya street, where the ancient buildings and cobblestone sidewalk have been preserved. Before the houses is an ancient pitcher burial ground. Ancient pagan burial mounds of the mound type were called pity sites in the land of Novgorod. Scudelny were common graves.

Houses in Pechorskaya street: Museum “Izborsk”, Anisimov’s manor and “Izborsk-park”; crosses in front of the houses: “Scudelnya” grave mound The house of merchant Shvedov and buildings in Pechorskaya street

At the corner of the streets, in the shade of trees stands a modest monument to the Izborsk warriors who died during the Great Patriotic War.

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Monument to fallen soldiers of Izborsk.

Monument to fallen Isborian soldiers

Passing by stone houses with wooden tops in the traditional Pskov style.

Manor house of 1900, Izborsk

Manor house of 1900 – a dwelling house with a stone barn

And in front of us can see Izborsk fortress. The street ends at the fortress tower Temnushka. In former times there was a dungeon here. Hence the name.

Temnushka Tower, Izborsk fortress

Temnushka tower.

Church of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh and Nikandr of Pskov

On the square in front of the fortress, behind the church fence, a small church of St. Sergius of Radonezh and Nikandr of Pskov is hidden in the shade of trees. Originally the church, built around 1510, stood on the territory of the fortress itself. However, after a fire that destroyed it, it was decided to move the church outside the fortress walls. It is unknown when the present building was constructed. The official date is 1611. However, many researchers believe that not earlier than the middle of the XVIII century. Now there is a museum of petroglyphs.

Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh and Nikandr of Pskov, Izborsk

Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh and Nikandr of Pskov

Walking through the Izborsk fortress

St. Nikolsky Zahab and towers of the fortress

Approaching Nikolsky Zahab, a long and narrow passageway along the southern wall of the fortress. The enemies who broke through here were trapped and under fire from all sides.

St. Nikolskiy Zahab, Izborsk fortress

Nikolski Zahab.

And I can’t take my eyes off the fortress. Behind the walls of St. Nicholas Zahab you can see the domes of St. Nicholas Cathedral (remember, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker became the heavenly patron of Izborsk after Russia was baptized). In front of the walls – the fragments of the seventh, Flat Tower.

St. Nikolskiy Zakhab and St. Nikolskiy Cathedral St. Nikolskiy Cathedral Temnushka Tower St. Nikolskiy Zakhab

Finally, we enter Nikolski Zahab. People walk here in dense crowds.

The walls of the Izborsk fortress (Nikolsky zahab). The open fragments of the Ploskaya tower.

The domes of St. Nikolskiy Cathedral, seen behind the walls, resemble the helmets of Old Russian warriors. It cannot be otherwise.

St. Nicholas Cathedral The Ploskaya Tower

Sidewalk and secret passage to water.

And here we are on the territory of the fortress. Under your feet – a cobblestone sidewalk.

The road, Izborsk

The road .

There are steps down to the secret passage to the water.

Secret passage to water Secret passage to water

St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Approaching St. Nicholas Cathedral . It is a real warrior temple, which has survived many an attack. As befits a warrior, it is very laconic. A sign on the wall of the temple reads:

St. Nicholas Cathedral is a monument of architecture of the first half of the XIV century. In the XVII century was built a chapel instead of a wooden church from 1349. In 1849 attached bell tower.

Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take photos inside. The church is active, and many believers come here from all corners of the Pskov land.

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Duga, Nikolsky cathedral, Izborsk fortress


The Bell Tower

After visiting the temple we go to the Bell Tower . Until the end of the XIX century it was crowned with a bell tower, the bell of which informed about the danger. They say that it could be heard even in Pskov.

In the Bell Tower The Bell Tower

Southeast wall of Izborsk fortress and panorama of the surroundings

Then we climb the southeastern wall of the Izborsk fortress. Of course, it has been reconstructed. But the restorers were very attentive to their task.

Southeastern wall of the Izborsk fortress Nikolsky Cathedral

The wall approaches the corner Lukovka Tower, the oldest in the fortress. Later built walls bypassed the tower from outside, and thus it appeared inside. There used to be an arsenal and a powder cellar. Nowadays there is an observation deck on the top of the tower, which provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area.

Lukovka Tower and two carts Southeast wall of Izborsk fortress

From the wall you can see the ancient houses of Izborsk. How different they are from what we are used to!

Old houses in Izborsk Walls of the Izborsk fortress Bell tower of St. Nicholas cathedral Lukovka Tower Panorama of the neighborhood from the walls of the Izborsk fortress Two carts Panorama of Izborsk Northern wall of the Izborsk fortress and Talavskaya tower

On the eastern side of Nikolsky Cathedral there is a memorial cross, the inscription on which reads:

To all the leaders and warriors who were killed on the field of battle, who laid down their lives for their faith and our country, to all the Orthodox Christians who have passed away and have been buried in this fortress and city of Izborsk.

St. Nicholas Cathedral and the memorial cross in front of it Izborsk

Perhaps the most beautiful panoramas of the neighborhoods open from the eastern part of the fortress, where Lukovka Tower is located. To the north of the fortress lies the Gorodyshchenskoye lake, and behind it rise the hills. On this rainy day, everything is obscured by a haze, making the scenery seem harsher.

Panorama of Gorodishche Lake and Hills from the walls of Izborsk Fortress

Panorama of Gorodischensky lake and hills from the walls of Izborsk fortress

Talavskaya tower is the only square tower of Izborsk fortress. Originally because of its shape it was called Ploskusha. It was built later than the others – at the end of the XV or beginning of the XVI century. Its present name is associated with Talavski keys, and those – with the Tolov tribe, which had once lived in these places. Close to the Talav Tower is the Talav Zahab.

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A little away from Talavskaya Tower is the chapel of the Korsun icon of the Mother of God. It was built in 1929, during the “Estonian” period, in honor of the appearance of the miraculous Korsun icon of the Mother of God. The chapel stands on the site of the burial ground, where were buried Izboryans killed during the defense of the fortress in 1657.

Talavskaya tower and Chapel of Our Lady of Korsun, Izborsk

Talavskaya Tower and Chapel of Our Lady of Korsun

Vyshka Tower is the highest in the Izborsk fortress. Its height is 19 meters. It was used for the early detection of the enemy.

Vyshka tower, Talavskaya tower and northern wall of Izborsk fortress

Vyshka Tower, Talavskaya Tower and the northern wall of the Izborsk fortress

Lookout platform and cellars of Lukovka tower

I can’t get past the observation deck at Lukovka Tower.

In the Lukovka Tower Inside the Lukovka Tower

The views from the observation deck are really fantastic.

Panorama of Izborsk from Lukovka tower

Panorama of Izborsk from Lukovka Tower

Below, near Lukovka Tower are stones with the history of the Izborsk fortress and the Pskov land.

Stones, Izborsk fortress

Stones with the main events of Izborsk fortress and the land of Pskov

After coming down from the observation deck, I go down into the cellars of Lukovka.

The cellar of Lukovka tower Stairs to the cellar Raked stones in the cellar

The cellar is cold and damp. But what is a cellar without it? I go outside, where my companions are waiting for me. And through the hole in the wall we go outside of Izborsk fortress.

Passage in fortress wall, Izborsk

Passage in the fortress wall

At the foot of the Izborsk fortress

Going down from Zheravya mountain. Looking from here at the fortress walls and towers, you are amazed at their grandeur and power. At the base of the hill is a memorial cross. It was put in memory of the fallen defenders of Izborsk fortress in 1657, during the war between Russia and Poland and Lithuania.

Northern wall of Izborsk fortress and memorial cross Northern wall of Izborsk fortress and memorial cross Northern wall of Izborsk fortress and Talavskaya tower

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Stone barn, wooden fence…. And those rocky paths… It’s nice to walk and see!

Oh, yes – and so unlike our towns. One can feel the Baltic influence!

How interesting it was to look at familiar places with your eyes, Maria, very beautiful photos, I don’t know how to shoot like that, you manage to show even the smallest details.

Izborsk fortress – the remains of an ancient city in the Pskov region

Photo of views of Izborsk fortress

Photo of views of Izborsk fortress

Izborsk fortress was the foundation of the ancient city of Izborsk. For many centuries it protected Russia from enemy raids. Today, Izborsk fortress in the Pskov region is a part of the natural and historical complex and impresses all the guests of the city with its power and beauty. The fortress is one of the main attractions of Izborsk.


Externally, the fortress in Izborsk looks like an irregular triangle. Because of the ditches on the western side and steep slopes it is considered almost impregnable. For the erection of walls and towers local limestone tiles were used. Izborsk fortress is a powerful defense structure, which played an important role in the defense of the country from the Livonian invaders. The fortress consists of straight walls, seven towers and two zakhabs – fortification constructions, which in the Middle Ages protected the gates of the fortress. As a rule, it was a narrow long corridor organized between the outer gate of the fortress and the inner one leading inside.

The towers of the fortress

Lukovka Tower

Lukovka tower of the Izborsk fortress photo

The towers of Izborsk fortress are one of its main attractions. The first stone construction is Lukovka, which height reaches thirteen meters. It is the only tower, which is located inside the walls. The basement of the tower was used to store ammunition. In 2000 research was conducted on the tower, during which it was restored and the basement vault was reconstructed. Today the structure has four tiers – on the top there is an observation deck.

Riabinovka Tower

A photo of Ryabinovka tower of Izborsk fortress

The six-level cone-shaped tower is 16 meters high. Each tier had several loopholes, arranged in a fan pattern. There were two exits – to the ground level of the fortress and to the combat platform. The tower was named after a nearby rowan grove.

The Temnushka Tower

A photo of Temnushka tower in Izborsk

Its layout is similar to Riabinovka. It had the same six tiers and was 15 meters high. It had the best view of the space by the main gate. The tower was very dark, which gave it its name.

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Vyshka Tower

photo of Vyshka tower in Izborsk

The highest and most powerful tower of the fortress, which reaches a height of 19 meters. It used to be even bigger, because there used to be a wooden outbuilding on top for watchmen’s service. The tower had six tiers and a secret exit to the field.

Talavskaya Tower

Photo of Talavskaya tower in Izborsk

It was different from all the others by its design and was an irregular hexagon. There were five tiers and a wooden lancet. There were embrasures in a fan pattern inside. The walls of the building still bear traces of the breaches caused by stone bombs in the sixteenth century.

The Bell Tower

Photo of Bell Tower in Izborsk

It is located on a steep mountainside in the southern wall of the fortress. Nearby is the main gate and the entrance to the city. There used to be a two-span bell tower with a bell, but in the middle of the nineteenth century it was dismantled along with the upper tiers.

The Flat Tower

In the nineteenth century its ruins were clearly visible. But when the wall of St. Nicholas Zahab collapsed, the remains of the tower ended up under the resulting hill. The Flat Tower had been underground for more than a hundred years until its foundation was found during a survey conducted in 2001. Then the authentic steps and loopholes of the lower tier were found, as well as wooden structures of the well house.

St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Nicholas Cathedral in Izborsk fortress photo

The cathedral was built inside the Izborsk fortress at the main entrance. This construction was erected of flagstone. The central cube is crowned with one head on a powerful drum decorated with two ornamental belts. St. Nicholas Cathedral is active up to the present time. Earlier in it the prayers connected with significant events of the city were made.

Secret passage

A feature of Izborsk fortress is a secret passage to the water, built back in the early fourteenth century. It starts near the Bell Tower, runs through the southern slope of the mountain and leads to the Nikolskiy well – spring with spring water that exists even nowadays.

How to get there

Izborsk fortress walls photo

The easiest way to get to Izborsk Fortress is to start from Pskov, which is only thirty kilometers away. If you want to get there on your own, take a bus, but if you want to go by car, follow the highway E 77 Pskov-Riga. The exact address of the Izborsk fortress is in the Pskov region, Izborsk, 39 Pechorskaya street.

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