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Orthodox monasteries in Russia

On the website Geomerid you can read two reviews devoted to Orthodox monasteries and churches in Russia. This review "Monasteries of Russia" describes monasteries whose value is more cultural or historical. Many of them are related to important events that took place in Russia.

Another review on the site Geomerid called "Pilgrimage in Russia". It also describes the monasteries of Russia, but they have more spiritual value. There are relics of the most revered Orthodox saints or the most revered icons. Thousands of pilgrims come to worship them every year.

Editorial Geometrid have prepared a special overview of the most important monasteries in Russia:

1. Novodevichy Monastery (Moscow)
2. Ferapontov Monastery (Vologda)
3. Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (Vologda)
7. New Jerusalem Monastery (Moscow)
8. Ipatievsky Monastery (Kostroma)
9. Ganina Pit (Yekaterinburg)
10. Novospassky Monastery (Moscow)
11. St. Nicholas Monastery (Verkhoturye)
12. Kostomarovsky Monastery (Voronezh)
13. Abalaksky Znamensky Monastery (Tyumen)
14. Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery (Moscow)
15. Smolny Monastery (St. Petersburg)
16. Belogorsky Monastery (Perm)

Follow the hyperlinks to read in detail about each monastery and see a large number of photos

Novodevichy Monastery (Moscow)

Novodevichy Holy Virgin Mary Smolensky Monastery is located in the center of Moscow. In 2004, it was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as one of the outstanding architectural monuments. It was closely connected with the political, cultural and religious life of Russia for 5 centuries. The monastery is one of the most beautiful monuments of the “Moscow Baroque” architectural style.

Novodevichy Monastery was built in 1524 on the bank of the Moskva River. It is dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Holy Virgin Mary, and was built by Prince Vasily III in honor of the return of the city of Smolensk to the Russian state in 1514. Before that, the Russian city of Smolensk was under the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Principality for about a hundred years.

Since its foundation, the Novodevichy Monastery was intended for the life of nuns who were members of the royal family. The nuns of this monastery were relatives of tsars Ivan the Terrible, Fyodor I and Boris Godunov.

In the Novodevichy Monastery, Boris Godunov was called to the kingdom. During his reign, the monastery received the status of a court. In 1591, powerful walls were built here. So it became like a fortress. The walls and towers have remained to this day.

In the 17th century, the monastery became not only a place where royalty lived as nuns, but also a prison. After the Archers revolt in 1689, Tsarina Sophia, the sister of Tsar Peter I, was forcibly cut into a nun and imprisoned in a monastery.

Ferapontov Monastery (Vologda)

Ferapontov Belozersky Holy Mary Nativity Monastery is located 120 kilometers north of Vologda. This monastery of Russia was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 2000. Ferapontov Monastery was founded in 1397 by the Monk Ferapont, who came to this region from Moscow with Kirill Belozersky. Together they founded the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery on the shore of Lake Siversky.

Right away, Ferapont left Kirill and founded his own monastery 20 kilometers from the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. Over time, the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery became the largest fortress in Russia, and the Ferapontov Monastery became an outstanding monument of ancient Russian painting.

The first stone Nativity Cathedral in the Ferapontov Monastery was built in 1490. In 1502, the most famous Russian icon painter Dionysius and his artel were invited here to paint the Nativity Cathedral. In just 34 days from August 6 to September 8, they painted the entire temple from the floor to the dome. The total area of the frescoes of Dionysius is 600 m2.

After the Church of the Savior on Nereditsa was destroyed in Veliky Novgorod during the World War II, the Ferapontov Monastery remained the only monument of ancient Russian painting of this scale in Russia.

Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (Vologda)

Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (Kirillov Monastery) is located 130 kilometers north of Vologda. Next to it (20 kilometers) is the Ferapontov Monastery. The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery has the most powerful fortified walls in Russia, as well as the largest territory surrounded by fortress walls.

The monastery was founded in 1397 by two monks, Kirill and Ferapont, who came here from Moscow. St. Kirill was a disciple of Sergius of Radonezh. He was the abbot of the Moscow Simonovsky monastery, but at the age of 60 decided to give up life in a rich Moscow monastery. He had a vision of the Mother of God, who told him to go north to Belozero (White Lake) and establish a monastery there.

Almost immediately after the foundation of the Kirillov monastery was involved in the political events of the country. In 1446, Dmitry Shemyaka made a state coup and imprisoned Tsar Vasily II in Vologda. He forced Tsar Basil to kiss the cross and renounce the throne. The abbot of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery removed this oath of kissing the cross from him, which allowed Vasily returning to the throne. Subsequently, Basil II generously thanked the monastery, which made it one of the richest monasteries in Russia.

In 1528, Tsar Vasily II was in the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery on a pilgrimage and prayed for the gift of an heir. After that, he had a son, who later became Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. After that, Ivan the Terrible came here four times on a pilgrimage. Already under Ivan the Terrible, the monastery became one of the most important fortresses in Russia, and it was even rumored that it kept the state treasury. During the Polish Interventions, detachments of Poles and Lithuanians stormed the walls of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, but without success.

Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich in the period 1654-1680 decided to build even more powerful walls around the monastery. The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery became the main fortress of Russia. After the Salt Riot in Moscow, the tsar decided to build an impregnable fortress where he could take refuge in case of popular unrest.

Alexander Nevsky Lavra (St. Petersburg)

The Holy Trinity Alexander Nevsky Lavra is located in St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva River. In 1710, 7 years after the foundation of St. Petersburg, Peter I ordered the construction of a monastery at the confluence of the small Black River with the Neva.

On this place in July 15, 1240, the Battle of the Neva took place. Prince Alexander, later named Alexander Nevsky, defeated the Swedish forces led by Jarl Birger. As a result of this battle, the expansion of the Swedes into Russian lands was stopped.

Since this place was historically associated with Alexander Nevsky, in 1723 Peter I ordered to move his relics to the new monastery on the Neva, which became known as the Holy Trinity Alexander Nevsky.

On December 18, 1797, Emperor Paul I gave it the title of “Lavra”. This is the highest status of the monastery, which in Russia, had the only Trinity-Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad. The Lavra is also often called the Pskov-Pechersk Monastery, but this monastery does not have the official status of a Lavra.

The monastery was designed by Domenico Trezzini, the first architect of St. Petersburg, who built the Peter and Paul Cathedral and other famous buildings in the city. In order to connect the Alexander Nevsky Lavra with the center of St. Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt was built, which became the main transport artery of the city.

The main temple of the Lavra is the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was built in 1776 and is one of the largest cathedrals in St. Petersburg. The cathedral houses the relics of St. Alexander Nevsky, who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547. He is the patron saint of St. Petersburg. During the construction of the temple, a piece of the relics of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called, the heavenly patron of the Russian Orthodox Church, was placed in a silver ark in temple’s foundation.

In the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, you also have to visit the necropolis. At the entrance to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra there are two necropolises: Lazarevsky (the oldest necropolis in St. Petersburg) and the Necropolis of Masters of Arts. Until 1937, it was called Tikhvin. More than a hundred of the most famous artists are buried here, including Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Borodin, Karamzin, Rimsky-Korsakov and many others.


Solovetsky Monastery (White Sea)

Solovetsky Transfiguration Monastery is located on remote islands in the White Sea. This monastery of Russia was one of the first to be included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1992.

Solovetsky Monastery was founded in 1430 by two monks Savvaty and Herman, who sailed to the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea on an ordinary boat. Having received the royal charter "for the eternal possession of the Solovetsky Islands", the monastery developed rapidly. By the 18th century, it had become one of the largest landowners in Russia.

In the 16th century, the Solovetsky Monastery was surrounded by powerful walls with watchtowers made of giant blocks of stone. So the appearance of the monastery was formed, which became known as the Solovetsky Kremlin. For the construction of the walls and towers of the Solovetsky Kremlin, stone blocks weighing from 5 to 8 tons were used. The weight of some blocks at the base of the towers reaches 20 tons.

On the territory of the Solovetsky Kremlin belongs to the largest monasteries in Russia, and is second only to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. The construction of stone temples inside the Solovetsky Kremlin began in the 16th century. In 1554, the huge Transfiguration Cathedral was founded. Its height reaches 40 meters, and the thickness of the walls is 5 meters.

The Solovetsky Monastery is not only the Solovetsky Kremlin. On the main island, as well as on small islands nearby, there are several monastic skits that you have to visit: the Ascension Skit on Sekirnaya Mountain, the Botanical Garden in the Makaryevskaya Hermitage, the Savvatievsky skit, the Isakievsky skit, the Andreevsky skit on the Big Zayatsky Island.

In 1937, one of the most high-security prison of the NKVD was opened in the Solovetsky Monastery. Tens of thousands of prisoners were held here, several thousand of them were killed. The Solovetsky camp would later be called the "Russian Calvary".


Valaam Monastery (Lake Ladoga)

Valaam Transfiguration Monastery is located on the largest island in Lake Ladoga. There is a legend that the Valaam Island was visited by the Apostle Andrew the First-Called during his wanderings through the lands of Slavic tribes. He installed a cross on the island and blessed the creation of a monastery here.

Valaam Monastery was founded in 1407 by monks Sergius and Herman, but for several centuries there was a continuous struggle between Russia and Sweden for these lands. Due to frequent attacks by the Swedes, the monastery fell into disrepair by the 18th century.

As a result of the Northern War of 1700-1721, Tsar Peter I was able to significantly push the border to the west, and the Valaam Monastery was revived. Over time, it became one of the spiritual centers of Russia.

The Transfiguration Cathedral stands on Mount Tabor above the Monastery Bay. It is surrounded by cell buildings. In the 19th century, the abbot of the monastery became Damaskin. Under him, the monastery reached its heyday. There was a tradition of Holy Elders, which attracted thousands of pilgrims to Valaam. The main shrine of the monastery is the miraculous Valaam icon of the Holy Virgin Mary, painted in 1878 by the monk of the monastery Alipiy.

The territory of Valaam Island is 30 km2. In addition to the main building of the monastery, dozens of monastic skits are scattered throughout the island. At the entrance to the monastery bay is the St. Nicholas Skit. Gethsemane Skit is located on the Mount of Olives. Next to it there is a viewing point, which offers a very beautiful view of the bay. The Resurrection Skit is located on the site where, according to legend, the Apostle Andrew the First-Called installed the cross.

The town of Sortavala is the closest town to the island of Valaam. From here to Valaam go fast ships "Meteors", which cover a distance of 42 kilometers in 50 minutes. There are also many private boat owners who can arrange excursions to the Valaam Monastery.

New Jerusalem Monastery (Moscow)

The New Jerusalem Monastery is located 50 kilometers west of Moscow. In the center of the monastery stands the huge Resurrection Cathedral, which is built in the Russian architectural style, but at the same time is an exact copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The idea of building a Russian church that would be an exact copy of the main Christian shrine belongs to Patriarch Nikon. It was built in 1656. Patriarch Nikon had a great influence on Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and participated in the state affairs. In 1650, he made a large-scale reform of the church. Those who did not accept this reform were called Old Believers.

The main space of the Resurrection Cathedral is the Rotunda. Under its dome is Edicule with the Cave of the Holy Sepulchre. In this cathedral there is a Calvary, and the Stone of Anointing, and the underground church of Constantine and Elena. Around the iconostasis of the cathedral is a gallery with various chapels dedicated to the Saints.

All the places around the New Jerusalem Monastery under Patriarch Nikon received biblical names. The hill where main construction began was named Zion. The surrounding hills were the Tabor and Olivet Mountains. The Istra River was renamed the Jordan. The monastery itself was built as a powerful fortress. Next to the monastery, a large Museum complex "New Jerusalem" was built in 2015. There is also a museum of wooden architecture.

Ipatievsky Monastery (Kostroma)

Holy Trinity Ipatievsky Monastery in Kostroma is called "The Cradle of the House of Romanov". The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for more than 300 years. On the porch of the Romanov Boyars' Chambers in the Ipatiev Monastery in 1613, Mikhail Romanov was proclaimed tsar. This event determined the entire course of further development of Russia for several centuries.

In 1598, the childless Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich, the son of Ivan the Terrible, died. He was the last of the royal dynasty of Rurikovich, who ruled in Russia from 862, for 736 years. After the death of Fyodor Ivanovich, Boris Godunov became tsar for a short period. But then the intervention of Polish and Swedish troops started. Boris Godunov and his children were killed, and a decade of Troubled Time began. It was a war of all against all, which led to the ruin of Russia and the rejection of a significant part of its lands.

The proclamation of Mikhail Romanov as tsar in the Ipatiev Monastery united the Russian lands. Michael's mother, the nun Martha blessed her son in the Kingdom of the Fedor’s Holy Virgin Mary icon. According to legend, the icon was painted by the Evangelist Luke. This icon is one of the most revered in Russian Orthodoxy. Now it is kept in the Epiphany-Anastasia Monastery in Kostroma.

The main church of the monastery - the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (1650-1652) has well-preserved paintings of the 17th century. Also in the monastery there are a church of Chrysanthus and Darius (1860) and the Belfry (1432).
In the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars, you can see how Michael and his mother Martha lived before being elected to the kingdom. There are interesting museums inside the monastery. Near the Ipatievsky Monastery there is a Museum of Wooden Architecture "Kostroma Sloboda".

Ganina Pit Monastery (Yekaterinburg)

Ganina Pit Monastery is located on the northern outskirts of Yekaterinburg. It is one of the places associated with the tragic events of the murder of the royal Romanov family on July 16, 1918 in the house of Ipatiev in Yekaterinburg. The first tsar, Mikhail Romanov, was called to the throne in the Ipatiev Monastery in 1613, and the last Romanovs were killed 300 years later in a house that belonged to the industrialist Ipatiev.

Ganina Pit is a mine that belonged to the industrialist Gabriel, whom everyone called "Gania". His mine was called "Ganina Pit". By the early 20th century, the mine was depleted and abandoned. After the murder of the royal family and their servants, the Bolsheviks initially wanted to throw them into one of the deepest mines of the Ganina Pit. However, the truck carrying the bodies got stuck on the road. Their bodies were buried near the road in the middle of the Ganina Pit mine. In 1991, they were found and buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

The murdered members of the royal family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as "Royal Passion Bearers" in 2000. On the site of the Ganina Pit mine, where their remains were found, the Monastery of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers was founded. In a dense pine forest, several wooden churches in the Russian style were built.

Novospassky Monastery (Moscow)

Novospassky Monastery is located on the bank of the Moskva River, in the south-east of the capital. It was founded in the 13th century, and is considered the oldest monastery in Moscow. Located above the river on the Krutitsky hill, it has very powerful defensive fortifications.

The main shrine of the monastery is the venerated icon of the Mother of God All-Queen. Many pilgrims come here from all over the country to worship her. The cathedral is the necropolis of the Zakhariev boyars. Mikhail Romanov, the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty, was their direct descendant. Since then, all Russian tsars came to this monastery to visit the necropolis of their ancestors.

In 2013, a monument to Mikhail and Nikolay Romanov was erected in front of the cathedral. These are the first and last tsars of the Romanov dynasty, who ruled Russia for 300 years. Mikhail Romanov was called to the throne in 1613. In 2013, the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov was celebrated.

Powerful stone walls in the Novospassky monastery appeared in the 1640s. In the same period, the Transfiguration Cathedral was built (1645), as well as the Intercession Church with a refectory (1670). The Transfiguration Cathedral is a summer temple, and it is closed for the winter. Church of the Intercession is open all the time. It is built in the style of the Faceted Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin with one powerful column in the center.

St. Nicholas Monastery (Verkhoturye)

St. Nicholas Monastery in Verkhoturye was founded in 1604, and now is the spiritual center of Russian Orthodoxy in the Urals. It contains the relics of St. Simeon of Verkhotursk and All Siberia, the Wonderworker, who is considered the heavenly patron of the Ural land.

In the center of the monastery is a huge Holy Cross Cathedral. The cathedral was founded in 1905. Completion of the construction was planned for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913. The temple, designed for 5-7 thousand people, impresses with its size. By its capacity, it is one of the largest cathedrals in Russia.

The consecration of the Holy Cross Cathedral and the transfer of the relics of Simeon Verkhotursky from the village of Merkushino took place on September 11, 1913. Tsar Nicholas II was expected at its opening, but he could not come. Attention of the tsar to such a remote monastery was due to the fact that Grigory Rasputin was a novice of this monastery in his young years. Subsequently, he became close to the royal family.

During the Soviet era, the monastery was closed, but the cathedral was not destroyed, although it was severely damaged. Today it appears in all its glory. The famous faience iconostasis was restored in the cathedral.

Kostomarovsky Monastery (Voronezh)

Kostomarovsky Monastery of the Savior is located 200 kilometers south of Voronezh. There is no exact data on the time of its origin, since its churches were not built. They were dug in the caves of the chalk slopes of Divnogorie.

According to one legend, Kostomarovsky Monastery was founded by Christian monks who fled from Byzantium in the 8th century during the iconoclasm. This means that the cave monastery appeared here two centuries before the Baptism of Russia, and this version has no confirmation. According to another version, Kostomarovsky and Divnogorsky monastery, located nearby, were founded in the 17th century by monks and Cossacks who fled from Southern regions, not wanting to recognize the union with the Catholics.

Kostomarovsky Monastery of the Savior is located in a small valley, in the middle of two chalk mountains. At the bottom there are cell and household buildings, as well as the Church of the Icon of Recovery of the Dead.

Above the valley rises a mountain called Calvary. Two cave temples are hollowed out in the slope of this mountain: Cathedral of the Savior and the Church of Seraphim of Sarov. The main church of the monastery is the Cathedral of the Savior. It contains Kostomarovskaja revered icon of the Holy Virgin Mary. The entrance to the cathedral is located in the Rock-Diva, and it is in fact a large cave inside the rock. Its size is amazing. At the same time, there can be about two thousand people, and the ceiling is supported by 12 chalk columns.

From the Cathedral of the Savior, there is a Pilgrimage Path along the mountainside. There are three cells of monks hollowed out in the chalk rock. At the end of the Pilgrimage Path, in the depths of the ravine, there is a small chapel - the Cave of Repentance. It is a long, narrow underground passage, with icons and candles on the walls. The ceiling height of the cave is reduced, and the cave itself can only be entered by bowing. For several centuries, pilgrims have been coming here for confession.

Abalaksky Monastery (Tyumen)

Abalaksky of Holy Virgin Mary of Sign Monastery is located on the right bank of the Irtysh River, 20 kilometers east of Tobolsk. It was founded by Saint Barlaam in 1783. Here on the high bank was the Tatar hillfort of Khan Mametkul. During the campaign of Ermak, when Siberia was conquered, one of the main battles of Russian and Tatar troops took place at this place. After the battle, there was a large cemetery here, which was called Abalaksky.

In 1636, the widow Mary, who lived in this cemetery, had a vision of the icon of the Mother of God Sign. The Mother of God is depicted with her hands raised, and the baby Jesus is in the center. The Abalak icon of Our Lady of the Sign was painted by Deacon Matthew in 1637.

The icon was recognized as miraculous and became very revered in Siberia. The icon itself of 1637 has not been preserved to this day, but a miraculous replica of the icon has been preserved. It is kept in the St. Nicholas Church of the Abalak monastery.

In 1636, a wooden church was built here, where the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, just painted by Matthew, was moved. In 1680, the church burned down, and by decree of Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich in 1683, the stone Our Lady of the Sign Church was founded. It was built simultaneously with the St. Sophia Cathedral of the Tobolsk Kremlin. These two temples were the first in Siberia, built of stone.

Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery (Moscow)

Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery is located 45 kilometers west of Moscow in the city of Zvenigorod. The monastery was founded in 1398 by St. Savva, a disciple of Sergius of Radonezh. Since the monastery was located on the Storozhka River, it was named Savvo-Storozhevsky (or Savvino-Storozhevsky).

Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov had two summer residences outside of Moscow. The Palace of Alexey Mikhailovich in the Kolomenskoye estate was a secular residence. The Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery was a place for tsar’s pilgrimage. He even gave the Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery the status of the "First Lavra". It is higher than the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. The Kolomna Palace of the tsar was built of wood, and the palace of Alexey Mikhailovich in the Savvo-Storozhevsky Monastery was built of stone. It has remained to this day.

In the 17th century, the monastery was surrounded by powerful stone walls and turned into a fortress that protected Moscow from the west. In the center of the monastery is the main Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, where the relics of St. Savva Storozhevsky are kept.

The Refectory with Belfry and the Gate Trinity Church are built in the Russian style. Nearby are the Tsaritsyn Chambers, where you can visit the monastery museum. The Palace of Alexey Mikhailovich is a three-story building with a length of more than a hundred meters. It was used by kings who came here on pilgrimage.

Smolny Monastery (St. Petersburg)

Smolny Monastery in St. Petersburg is an example of the Russian Baroque style. Most of the palaces of the northern capital of Russia were built in this style. The monastery was built in a bend of the Neva River, at the confluence of the Okhta River.

In the 17th century, this place was located far outside the city, and the Empress Elizabeth wanted to retire here, in her declining years, together with 120 nuns, representatives of noble families. This place was chosen by her, as here was the Smolny Palace (it has not remained to this day), where Elizabeth spent her youth.

The central place in the monastery was occupied by Smolny Cathedral. The entire complex of the monastery was built by the court architect Francesco Rastrelli. He also worked on all the most famous imperial palaces in St. Petersburg: the Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and the Peterhof Palace.

There are buildings of "cells of nuns from noble families" around the cathedral. It were built by the architect Rastrelli in a magnificent palace style. The monastery is very similar to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Elizabeth ordered for each nun to provide "separate apartments, with a room for servants, a storeroom and a kitchen."

Belogorsky Monastery (Perm)

On the top of the White Mountain in the Perm region is the Belogorsky Nikolaevsky Monastery, one of the most beautiful in the Urals. The huge Holy Cross Cathedral is visible from afar, and from the top of the mountain you can see a panorama for a hundred kilometers around.

The date of foundation of the Nicholas Monastery on Belaya Gora (White Mount) is considered to be 1891, when the Royal "seven-fathom cross" (10 m) was installed on its top, in memory of "the deliverance of Tsarevich Nicholas from danger in Japan". On April 29, 1891, during the long journey of the royal heir Nicholas, in the Japanese city of Otsu, he was assassinated. He miraculously survived.

The site for the foundation of the church was consecrated on White Mount in June 1893, and right away a wooden church was built here. The construction of the stone Holy Cross Cathedral was started in 1902. This is one the most monumental cathedrals in the Urals.

It was built in the Byzantine style. Construction was completed in June 1917. By that time, the monastery had already acquired great importance in the region, and it was called "Ural Athos".

In 1919, the Bolsheviks shot the monks of the monastery, and the monastery itself was closed. However, the buildings of the monastery and the cathedral were not destroyed. For a long time it was in disrepair, but in 2012 the reconstruction of the monastery was completed, and now it is again open to pilgrims and visitors.