Powerful five-domed St Sofia’s Cathedral has a soaring interior smothered with beautiful 1680s frescoes. The astonishingly tall iconostasis is filled with darkly brooding saintly portraiture.

The massive stone cathedral was erected in just two years (1568–70) on the direct orders of Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan’s ruthlessness at Novgorod (where he sacked his own city and fried citizens alive in large pans made especially for the occasion) was known and feared throughout Russia. So the Vologda workers jumped to it. But haste, of course, makes waste. Local legend has it that Ivan, upon walking into St Sofia’s for the first time, was struck on the head by a tile that had been grouted to the ceiling without due care. Ivan stormed out, never to return, and the cathedral was consecrated only after the Terrible One’s death.