The small monastery of Optina Desert is on the outskirts of the city of Kozelsk in Tula Region. The religious significance of this monastery is very high both for Russian Orthodox Church and the people of Russia.

The monastery can`t be compared with Troitse-Sergiev Lavra or Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent, as they received their high religious status for the services of the great Russian saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov. In the 19th century at the Optina Desert there existed the tradition of eldership, which attracted the pilgrims from all over Russia.

For about a hundred years at the Optina Desert over a dozen elders lived, who received and taught people coming to them. The elder is a monk having a gift of spiritual vision and instruction: «This is the greatest gift given to a human by the God. Besides the physical eyes, they also have the spiritual ones, before which the human soul opens up. Before a human can think, before even the thought occurred to him, they see it with their spiritual eyes, and even see the cause of the thought.

Writers, Russian emperors and common people came to the elders of the Optina Desert. Fedor Dostoevsky said that visiting Optina Desert had a significant religious influence on him, and it was after that he wrote his novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, where the prototype of the elder Zosima was the elder Ambrose from the Optina Desert. Lev Tolstoy also visited the Optina Desert many times. After his visit to the monastery he wrote the story ‘The Father Sergius’.

Elder Leonid (Lev Nagolkin) was the founder of the religious school of eldership at the Optina Desert. The great elders of the Optina Desert the St.Makarius and St.Ambrose were his disciples. The elder Ambrose (1812-1891) spread his spiritual influence over the entire Russia.

In the Soviet time, in 1923, the monastery was closed. The second renewal of the monastery took place in 1987, when it was returned to the church and monks settled there again. The monastery is on the bank of the Zhisdra River near the ancient pine wood.

The square building of the monastery was surrounded by the high wall in the 18th century. Cathedral of the Entry of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple is in the center of the monastery, and near it a three-tier belfry is located. On different sides of the cathedral the Church of the Blessed Virgin of Kazan, the Church of the Blessed Virgin of Vladimir and the Church of the Blessed Virgin of Egypt are located.

When planning a tour to the Monastery of Optina Desert one should understand that it will be a pilgrimage. Common tourists won`t have the adequate impression of the tour.

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The Optina Hermitage (Optina Pustyn) monastery as viewed from the side of Kozelsk
Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan and a bell tower at the Optina Monastery
Cathedral of the Entry of the Most Holy Virgin into the Temple is the main church of the Optina Monastery
Church of St. Mary of Egypt and St. Anne at the Optina Monastery
One can see all Optina staretses (elder monks) on the vaults of the gate church
Optina Monastery is surrounded by a dense pine wood
Optina Monastery is divided in two parts – monastery itself, it is open for visiting and Ambrose Hermitage, which is closed for visiting
Saint Gate is the main entrance to the monastery. Now it is on the west side and formerly it was on the side of the Zhisdra River
Church of the Transfiguration of Christ at Optina Monastery
Bell tower of the Optina Monastery in Kaluga region
Graves of two kinswomen of Lev Tolstoi at the Optina Monastery
Main entrance to Ambrose Hermitage located 500 meters from the Optina Monastery
Ambrose Spring near the entrance to the hermitage of the same name (Ambrose Hermitage)
Path connecting the Optina Monastery and Ambrose Hermitage is lined with pines
Graveyard of the Optina Monastery
Small bell tower at the Optina Monastery
Tomb of the monk who wrote verses about the Optina Monastery
Brethren`s buildings of the Optina Monastery
Main street of the Optina Monastery
Chapel of the Resurrection where the graves of the monks Basil, Trophimus and Therapont who were killed during the Easter vigil in 1993
Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir
Graveyard of the Optina Monastery
Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan at the Optina Monastery