The Nereditsa Church once stood unrivalled among the medieval churches of Europe for the exceptionally good condition of its frescoes, which had survived almost intact. Its walls were painted from top to bottom with a variety of subjects forming a harmonious picture of the universe as viewed by the medieval mind. This painted decoration was executed mainly by Russian artists, though in places motifs of Armenian and Romanesque origin could be seen. Study of the inscriptions shows most of them to have been in Russian; even the few Greek ones contained errors characteristic of Russian speakers, which no foreigner could have made. Moreover, some of the words were written in the form they had in the Novgorodian dialect. The very choice of subjects, whether secular or religious, and certain details of their interpretation, speak of the artists' devotion to the cause of Novgorod, and reveal their social sympathies.
The frescoes of the Nereditsa Church were executed with a truly astonishing mastery. Seeking visual forms to express the universal and the timeless, eleventh - and twelfth - century artists selected from the real world only such elements as might be invested with a symbolic significance, and might serve as an outward sign fraught with sacred mystery. This approach was felt in the presentation of human figures in Nereditsa paintings, where they play a leading role - obvious both from their large size and from the fact that they are assigned the central positions. The saints were generally shown in full face, each figure standing by itself, with the gaze directed straight at the viewer, and the gestures so little suggestive of movement as to seem frozen. The absence of any concrete setting added to the impression that those were incorporeal beings inhabiting an abstract, ideal world. Landscape backgrounds were, if at all, barely indicated. In a word, the frescoes were painted in the monumental style typical of contemporary Byzantine art.
The literature of Novgorod in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries showed the same tendencies as the art of the period. True, town chronicles were written in a highly laconic, "monumental" style. Their language included, however, certain colloquialisms and terms of speech used in business intercourse. Much attention was given to local information: fires, natural calamities, the weather, and episodes of political strife were faithfully recorded. Highly typical in this respect are the records of the street priest Herman Voyata - who, curiously enough, entered in his chronicle events of his own life.