Novgorod Kremlin (also Detinets) stands on the left bank of the Volkhov River about two miles north of where it empties out of Lake Ilmen. The compound was originally the site of a pagan burial ground upon which the first bishop of Novgorod, Ioakim Korsunianin built the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom upon his arrival in the area in 989 or so. Thus the compound was and remained largely an ecclesiastical site, although many Novgorodian boyars built their houses in the southern part of the Detinets.
The first reference to fortifications on the site dates to 1044, with additional construction taking place in 1116. These were probably earthen embankments topped by a wooden palisade, although stone towers and walls were built in 1302. Archbishop Vasily Kalika (1330–1352) rebuilt the stone wall along the eastern side of the Detinets in 1331-1335. The rest was completed in stone only in 1400. Part of Vasily's walls collapsed into the Volkhov River in 1437 and were rebuilt by Archbishop Evfimy II (1429–1458).