The Abalak Znamenski Monastery is 20 kilometers to the east from Tobolsk. The monastery is located on the high bank of the Irtysh river in Abalak village.
It was established by St. Barlaam in 1783. But important events occurred in that place a hundred years before. A small Tatar town Abalak was located there. And during the expeditions of Yermak, which finally resulted in the annexation of Siberia to Russia, two key battles took place near today Tobolsk and then Abalak town. Since the time of the last battle there was a large cemetery near Abalak.
In 1636 a local widow Maria who lived at that cemetery had a dream of the Abalak Icon of Our Lady of the Sign. On the icon the Mother of God was depicted with the upheld hands, with the infant Jesus in the center. The images of Nicholas the Wonderworker and Mary of Egypt were at the sides of the Holy Virgin. The icon itself was painted by archdeacon Matthew in 1637.
The icon was soon recognized to be miracle-making and became very venerable in Siberia. Unfortunately, the icon of 1637 didn’t survive to our days, but one of its copies, which is also considered to be miracle-making, is now stored at the Abalak monastery. There were made many copies of the icon, all of which are equally considered to be miracle-making, especially among the military. One of the miracle-making copies is in Semipalatinsk.
The first Orthodox temple, the Transfiguration church, was built in Abalak at the end of 16 century. But in 1636 in Abalak there was built a new wooden church where the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign by archdeacon Matthew was moved. The church was burnt already in 1680. And three years later, in 1683, by the order of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, there began the construction of the stone Znamenski cathedral. Its construction began about the same time as that of the Sophia Cathedral of the Tobolsk Kremlin. These were two first stone churches in Siberia.
The Znamenski cathedral acquired its today look after it was included in the complex of the Abalak monastery. Its 5 domes were replaced by one big dome and inside the cathedral a 7-row iconostasis was installed.
Apart from the Znamenski cathedral, the monastery complex includes the Church of Nicholas the Wonderworker (1748-1750) and the Church of Mary of Egypt with a bell tower (1752-1759). These churches and the other monastery buildings were surrounded by a fortified wall.