Sekirnaya mountain may be the most tragic place not only on the Solovki but in the entire Russia. In the course of several centuries there was located one of the skits of the Solovetsky Monastery, and after the revolution of 1917 there was opened a punishment isolation cell – the site of mass executions of the prisoners of the Solovki prison camp.
Sekirnaya mountain, though not being the highest elevation on the Solovki, was always a landmark for seafarers, as its top is the best guide for the ships coming from the mainland.
The monastic cells appeared on the Sekirnaya mountain as early as in the 15 century when the monks began to come to the Solovki after the Sts. Herman and Savvatiy. It is believed that the founders of the Solovetsky Monastery, Herman and Savvatiy, used pole-axes to cut the trees for the building and so the mountain was named Sekirnaya. Later, there was founded the Ascension skit responsible for the supply of vegetables of the monastery, as well as having a berry nursery.
The old buildings of the Ascension skit didn’t survive and what we can see today – the Ascension church, as well as the monastic cell building, dates back to 1862. It should be noted that it is the only lighthouse church in the world. The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church had considered the project of the church for about a year and consequently had come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be bad for the church to have a lighthouse guiding the people who comes to these holy places.
The church has two aisles: the Lower one - in honor of the miracle of the the Archangel Michael in Khonekh, and the Upper one – in honor of the Ascension of Christ. The lighthouse was upgraded in 1904. If before the light of kerosene lamp could be seen at the distance of about 15 kilometers, a new French lens made it possible to increase the distance up to 40 kilometers. Today this very lens of 1904 is fully operable and used for navigation.
But besides the church buildings of the Ascension skit, there are also the tragic places on the Sekirnaya mountain called the «Russian Golgotha». Over the period of the prison camp there was located a special housing unit. It was almost impossible to return from it. It was there that the mass executions and tortures took place.
From the church a stair of 294 steps runs down the steepest sides of the Sekirnaya mountain. A great number of prisoners were bounded to the beams and thrown down the stair. The stair has 4 landings, but the prisoners, who were thrown down, died already in the middle of the hillside. The commemorative cross was set up at the foot of the stair by the Patriarch Alexey.
You may visit the Ascension skit on the Sekirnaya mountain with a excursion starting at the Solovetsky Kremlin. During the excursion you may also see the Savvatievo skit, St. Isaac skit, as well as the Botanic garden in the Makarievskaya pustyn.