Yuryev-Polsky was founded by Yuri Dolgoruky in 1152. First part of its name derives from Yuri's patron saint, St. George. The second part is derived from the word polsky meaning "in the fields" (see Opolye for details). This specification was needed in order to distinguish the town from the earlier established fortress of Yuryev (nowadays Tartu), at the time located in the woods in what is now Estonia.
Upon Vsevolod III's death in 1212, the town was assigned to one of his youngest sons, Sviatoslav. It was that prince who personally designed the town's chief landmark, the Cathedral of St. George (1230–1234). It is the latest pre-Mongol construction in Russia, unprecedented in abundance of stone sculptures, and also the model for first stone churches in the Moscow Kremlin. In the 1460s, the cathedral's dome collapsed, thus burying most of unique sculptures which had adorned the cathedral walls. The collapsed roof was sloppily restored by a well-known Muscovite artisan, Vasili Yermolin, in 1471.
The great Battle of Lipitsa was fought near the town in 1216. In 1238, Yuriev was sacked by the Mongols. A century later, it was incorporated into Muscovy. The chief monument of the Muscovite period is the walled Monastery of Archangel Michael, originally founded in the 13th century and containing Юрьев-Польский.jpg. Several miles from Yuryev, on the bank of the Yakhroma River, stands the Kosmin Cloister, whose structures are typical for the mid-17th century.