The monastery of the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage is located in a picturesque place on the eastern shore of Lake Seliger. For many tourists, Seliger is associated with fishing and outdoor recreation. However, this monastery, as well as the sights of the city of Ostashkov, make Lake Seliger interesting for sightseeing tourism.
The monastery of the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage was founded on the place where in 1528 the Monk Nil settled in a hermit`s cell. He spent all his time in prayer and took a vow of “not lying down”. Nil even slept in an upright position, supporting himself with ropes. The Monk Nil died in 1555. In 1594, on the island of Stolbny during the reign of Tsar Boris Godunov, his disciples founded a monastery, which they called the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage.
The local veneration of St. Nil began in the 17th century, but the monastery remained small for a long time, and all the buildings were wooden. In the 18th century, stone temples began to be built on donations from parishioners in the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage.
From the buildings of the 18th century in the Nilo-Stolobensky monastery, only the hospital building has been preserved. All the magnificent temples and cell’s buildings in the style of classicism and Gothic, which we see now, were built in the 19th century. In 1820, the Nilo-Stolobensky Hermitage was visited by Emperor Alexander I. In the same year, the Orthodox Church of Russia canonized Nil Stolobensky.
In the center of the monastery is the Epiphany Cathedral. Its construction began in 1821, designed by architect Joseph Charleman. This project was originally intended to participate in a competition for the construction of St. Isaac`s Cathedral - the main church of St. Petersburg. Another project of the architect Auguste Montferrand won the competition in 1818.
As a result, the cathedral designed by Joseph Charleman was built in the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Hermitage. In the city of Rybinsk on the Volga River at the same time, the Transfiguration Cathedral was built. It was built according to the project of the architect Abraham Melnikov, who also participated in the competition for the construction of St. Isaac`s Cathedral, but took third place.
The Epiphany Cathedral on Seliger is a magnificent example of the classical style of Russian churches. The height of the bell tower reaches 50 meters, and the observation deck on the upper tier is at a height of 36 meters. You definitely need to climb here to see the beauty of Seliger. From the bell tower, its coastline and islands are similar to the north of Lake Ladoga, where the Ladoga Skerries National Park is located.
Near the altar of the Epiphany Monastery there is a shrine with the relics of St. Nil Stolobensky. When the Bolsheviks closed the Nilo-Stolobensky Monastery in 1927, his relics were transferred to the Ascension Cathedral in Ostashkov. From 1927 to 1990 on the territory of the monastery there were: a colony for minors, a camp of Polish prisoners of WWII, a hospital, again a colony, a camp site. In 1990, the monastery was returned to the church, and in 1995 the relics of Nil Stolobensky were again placed in the restored cathedral.
After visiting the cathedral, take a walk around the monastery. Many buildings are built in the classical style with elements of Gothic. They resemble the palaces of St. Petersburg. In addition to the Epiphany Cathedral, there are 4 other churches in the monastery. Near the pier is the gate church of Nil Stolobensky. The Church of Peter and Paul and the Church of All Saints are located in the courtyard of the monastery. In the farthest part of the island of Stolbny there is a picturesque Church of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord.
In 1858, a granite embankment with Bishop`s and Svetlitsky towers was built on the southern and eastern shores of Stolbny Island. It looks especially monumental in front of the Epiphany Cathedral. Such a granite embankment could decorate the central districts of Moscow or St. Petersburg.