The compound was originally the site of a pagan burial ground upon which the first bishop of Novgorod, [[Ioakim Korsunianin]] built the [[Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod|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.<ref>S. V. Troianovskii, "O nekotorikh rezul'tatakh raskopok v Novgorodskom kremle v 1992-1996 gg.," ''Novgorod i novgorodskaia zemlia, istoriia i arkheologiia'', No. 12, (1998): 58-70.</ref>
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.