The primary unique feature that makes Vladimir stand out among many other Russian cities is its name. The city bears the name of its founder the saint prince Vladimir (Svyatoslavich) co-equal with the Apostles. The essence of the Christianity consists of the doctrine of salvation of the immortal human soul. For this purpose the heart of every person should be penetrated by the Gospel.
At the beginning of the evangelical movement, the essential mission of preaching the Gospel was undertaken by the apostles. Later a number of saints, who gained recognition by converting people to Christianity, were bestowed with the title of the co-equal with the Apostles. As the saints, titled as the co-equal with the Apostles, are considered Constantine the Great, Roman emperor and his mother Helena, Saint Patrick of Ireland, Saint Nina from Georgia and some others. In Russia as co-equal with the Apostles glorified Vladimir the Great the Holy, who christianized the Russian people in 988.
The foundation of Vladimir by the Great Prince in 990 is linked with the spread of Christianity throughout all Russian lands. The city Vladimir initially was the pillar of Christianity for pagans. Vladimir could be the first city founded by Prince Vladimir after his conversion in Christianity.
Vladimir was built in the image and likeness of “The Earthly and Heavenly Jerusalem”. Jerusalem and Constantinople as well as Kiev had the Golden Gates. For this reason the main entrance to Vladimir might be initially intended to represent the continuation of ancient traditions firmly connected Vladimir with the Holy Land and Jerusalem, as well as to present the city as a successor to Kiev and Constantinople. Being manifested in the image of “The Earthly Jerusalem”, the major city of all cities, “The Heavenly Jerusalem” has always been and remains the archetype of the Christian cities. This idea applies to Vladimir as well. The high hills, spread over the areas outside the city wall of Vladimir, give the visitors an insight into the biblical topography and toponymy. The Golden Gates in Vladimir were reminiscent of the ones in Jerusalem, The Monastery of Ascension located to the southwest of the Golden Gates bore a resemblance to the Mount of Olives, which is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. The Spassky hill behind the Golden Gate resembles Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. The road, which since the XII century had led from the Golden Gate, resembles the road to Bethany, the place of the St. Lazarus tomb.
Moreover, Vladimir was built under the protection of the Blessed Mother. According to the legend, the first church erected by Vladimir the Great was devoted to the Dormition of the Theotokos. Since the beginning of times, Dormition Cathedrals have served to protect the historic legacy of towns. The first church in Vladimir had paved the way for the veneration of Vladimir Mother of God as the patron of all the earth.
Andrey Bogolyubsky, the successor of Vladimir the Great, had always considered himself and his land to be under the protection of the Holy Mother (Theotokos), the merciful patroness of all christians. He had every reason for that. It was the Holy Mother who showed him the way from Kiev to Vladimir in the middle of the XII century. Moreover, her miraculous spirit blessed Grand prince Andrei and accompanied him on his way.
All the cathedrals built by Andrey Bogolyubsky were devoted to the Holy Mother. He erected the majestic white-stone Cathedral of the Assumption on the site of the decayed wooden cathedral, which had been built by Vladimir the Great. In his Palace-temple complex Andrei Bogolyubsky had built the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The complex of the white-stoned Golden Gates is culminated with the Church of the Deposition of the Virgin's Robe. The Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God, built on the banks of the Nerl River was conceptually more important for Andrey Bogolyubsky. The special attitude of the Holy Mother to the Grand Prince Vladimir is highlighted by the very first Russian cathedral, dedicated to the Feast of the Intercession.
In Russia the miraculous icon of the Holy Mother, which accompanied Grand Prince Vladimir on his life path, was granted the name of “Vladimir Icon”. The tale “On the miracles of the Vladimir Holy Icon of the Mother of God” appeared under the Grand Prince` guidance and was one of the masterpieces of ancient Russian literature.
Another unique monument kept in Vladimir is the Bogolyubov Icon of the Mother of God. It was painted in the middle of the XII century at the request of Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky. The first work of Russian iconography conveys the image of the Holy Virgin just as she appeared to Prince in his vision. The Bogolyubov Icon of the Mother of God has been glorified by countless miracles, particularly by the role of the intercessor from such terrible pestilence as epidemics. Owning to the assiduity of museographers and restorers, the image of the ancient icon has been revived and preserved almost intact. The displaying conditions being provided, the image could be brought before the eyes of the audience.
Owing to the endeavors made by Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky under the protection of the Mother of God, a new political center of Rus was created, the cornerstone of the future Great Empire.
Founded by the co-equal with the Apostles Prince, the city Vladimir has always served as the greatest defender of Christianity and brought salvation to Christians. Vladimir is often called a God-saved city. For over a thousand years, it has been eternally kept under the protection of the Mother of God.
The start of the route should be prefaced by the introduction about Vladimir and the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, about its place in history of the Ancient Russia and Vladimir`s pretention to becoming “The third Rome”. According to the legend, in 990 the co-equal with the Apostles Prince Vladimir founded the city on bank of the Klyazma River and, “yclept it by his forename Vladimir” (The Hypatian Codex). Fleeing away from the pagan people, Saint Theodore the first Bishop of Rostov and Suzdal came to Vladimir in the end of the X century.
For a variety of reasons, cities and kingdoms were destroyed: under the conquerors` onslaught, because of the human`s Fall, the governors` political ambitions … Jerusalem and Rome, both fell. (Elder Philotheus (or Filofei) considered the Church division to be the final fall of Rome). Constantinople was hight New Rome, but it did not retain its primacy. Russia was ready to accept the great Christian mission and become the "third Rome", but Kiev was not destined to fulfill this either...
Owing to Andrei Bogolyubsky, the son of Yuri Dolgoruky, a descendant of the emperors of Byzantium, however, the pretention of Vladimir city to becoming the “third Rome” could well have embodied. “I want to renew this city as a metropolis. May this city be a great reign and head of all,” says Prince Andrei about Vladimir (Nikon Chronicle, 1160). It was necessary for the city to obtain the Metropolis status. In his bid to become “The Third Rome” Vladimir came up against numerous obstacles. However, at the end of the 13th - beginning of the 14th centuries, the city actually performed this function: Metropolitan Maxim moved the metropolitan see from Kiev to Vladimir.
Later, Moscow became the political center, with Vladimir losing its political prominence. On the other hand, Vladimir was spared from the bustle of the metropolitan city avoiding the matters which often became the reason of kingdom`s downfall. It was still considered to be the religious centre of Old Russia as well as the city "chosen by the Mother of God."