Nowhere else in the whole land, in no city or principality of ancient Rus, was there such a close relationship between religious and secular government as in Novgorod. Here the Church became the wielder of greatest influence and power by siding with the boyars and merchants against the Prince, and cleverly supporting an active attitude towards the popular movements of the middle of twelfth century.

The office of the Archbishop of Novgorod was now no longer in the gift of the Metropolitan of Kiev. It became elective. The Archbishop was chosen by the Veche in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and then was sent to Kiev for formal ordination by the Metropolitan.

To be eligible for the office, the nominee did not have to hold any specific place in the church hierarchy. He, of course, was to belong to the clergy, but it seems to have been immaterial whether he was a monk or a common priest. Furthermore, the ranks of the clergy were open to almost anyone who might wish to join them - nor was there any difficulty about leaving them, should one so desire.

Secularization of the Novgorodian Church was a natural consequence of this state of affairs. The secular spirit made itself felt in icon painting: Novgorodian icons, or at least many of them, have a distinct flavour of folk art, and reflect the worldview of the people. In church life, one of the vivid examples of secularization was the creation, at the House of St. Sophia, of a court modelled in every respect on the princely household. The Lord Archbishop had his own majordomo and treasurer, his own butler, cup - bearers, mead - brewers, bailiffs and stewards, his own police, criers, and countless other officers. The Archbishop's own men - at - arms conducted independent military action. The Archbishop erected fortress walls and towers at his own expense. He financed and commanded a regiment of the city's force. He went hawking attended by a numerous retinue. He was a patron of the arts, and kept chroniclers who wrote the annals of the period.

With the shift in political power, Novgorod's palladion, always deeply venerated, grew in the minds of the Novgorodians into a veritable symbol of the city's independence. Starting to the wars, a Novgorodian would vow to lay down his life honourably for St. Sophia's, and would receive the Archbishop's blessing. St. Sophia's name was invoked in peace treaties and shouted in battles as a war - cry. And lastly, identified as it was with the idea of political independence, St. Sophia's was used as a political slogan.

The events of 1136 y. brought about serious changes in the organization of Novgorod's cultural life. Initiative in construction and the commissioning of art works passed, in great measure, to district and street householders' associations and such corporate bodies as the hundreds and the brotherhoods.

To turn to their advantage the system of the Veche rule, boyar landowners were obliged to spend large sums for feasts and gifts of all kinds, in order to secure adherents among the members of citizens' associations.

The Novgorodian organs of self - administration - the district and street associations, and the hundreds - corresponded, to some degree, to the contemporary trade and craft guilds and corporations of Western European towns. District and street head - officers were entitled to ratify, using the seals of their respective associations, important state documents. Street householders' associations whose members worked in the same craft owned collective property. The street priest's office was elective, like that of the Archbishop; not infrequently it would be filled by a person with no proper qualifications for conducting church service. (At the 1551 y. All - Russia Ecclesiastical Council in Moscow, known as the Hundred - Chapter Council, provisions were made against it).

From the middle of twelfth century through the next several centuries, all works of importance in the sphere of church building and decoration were executed by druzhinas or teams, mostly belonging to the Lord Archbishop's Court. Their members lived in the slobodas (areas exempt from the jurisdiction of the city authorities), some of which were situated in the neighbourhood of the Detinets citadel, and others in the environs of the city. They were known as the Lord Archbishop's "men" or "lads"; some were scribes who copied sacred books; others composed the teams of builders, icon painters, or fresco artists.