Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery is located 130 kilometers to the north of Vologda on the shore of Lakes Siverskoye. This monastery features the Russia`s strongest fortifications, as well as the largest territory surrounded by the fortified walls.
The monastery was founded in 1397 by two monks, Cyril and Saint Ferapont, who have come from Moscow. Later, Saint Ferapont left and 20 kilometers from Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery founded his own monastery, named after him St. Ferapontov Monastery. Ferapontov Monastery is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, thanks to the paintings of Dionysus, which survived to our time in the excellent condition.
Saint Cyril, a disciple of Saint Sergius of Radonez, was close to the boyar family of Velyaminov. He was the archimandrite of the Simonov Monastery, but in the age of 60 he resigned from his position at the rich Moscow monastery. As he wrote in his biography, he was induced to this by the vision of the Blessed Virgin who told him «to go to the north, to the White Lake, and found there a cloister where he could be saved».
As fate would have it, Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery was involved in the state affairs. In 1446 Dmitry Shemyaka carried out the coup d`état and imprisoned the tsar Vasily II in Vologda, forcing him to kiss the cross and swear that he would never return to the throne. The archimandrite of Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery released him from his oath, making it possible for him to return to the throne. Later, Vasily II generously rewarded the monastery making it one of the most prosperous monasteries in Russia.
Another event, which was important for Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, took place in 1528. Having come there on pilgrimage the tsar Vasily II prayed for the heir, and after that the son was born to him who subsequently became the tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. After that Ivan the Terrible came there on pilgrimage four times and supported the monastery. And so the wealth of the monastery reached the unparalleled height, and by its scale the monastery was inferior only to the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra and Solovetsky Monastery.
Already in the time of Ivan the Terrible the monastery became one of the most important fortresses in Russia, and it had even been rumored that the State treasury was kept there. That’s why in the Time of Troubles at the beginning of the 17 century it was Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery that the Polish-Lithuanian armies attempted to thrice capture, but always unsuccessfully.
The strong walls, which made Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery one of the main fortresses in Russia, were erected in the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich during 1654-1680. It has been thought that after the Salt Riot the tsar decided to build an impregnable fortress where he could hide in case of popular unrest. And after that the monastery became the largest fortress in Russia.
Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery is divided into three parts: Old Town, New Town and Ostrog. The main attractions of Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery are at the Old Town – they are the Assumption cathedral (1497) and St. Cyril of Beloozero`s church where the relics of the monastery`s founder are kept. When visiting Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery you must have a boat ride on Lake Siverskoye to see the strong walls of the monastery.