Sergiyev PosadRussian: Сергиев Посад is a small city 70 km from Moscow, in the direction of Yaroslavla city located 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow. In its seven centuries of existence, it has become a major Orthodox centre, a veritable open-air collection of religious architectural masterpieces. Established in the mid-14thcentury, the monastic community of St. Sergius of Radonezha spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia is the largest friary and religious awareness centre in Russia. The archimandrite (or monastic superior) of the Trinity Lavra of St. SergiusRussian: Svyato-Troitskaya Sergieva Lavra or Свято-Троицкая Сергиева Лавра is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’. The Moscow Theological AcademyRussian: Moskovskaya Duhovnaya Akademiya or Московская Духовная Академия and a SeminaryRussian: Seminariya or Семинария are located on the convent’s premises.
The Lavra’s main treasure is a reliquary with the remains of St. Sergius of Radonezh, a saint hugely venerated by Orthodox Christians. A holy spring named after him, as well as a host of unique structures and rare artifacts of great historical, religious and artistic value can also be seen here. Life in Sergiyev Posad is closely linked to the monastery, and this is the only city in the Moscow OblastRussian: Moskovskaya oblast' or Московская область which has been placed on the list of Russia’s Golden RingRussian: Золотое кольцо; a ring of ancient towns northeast of Moscow which feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries.
In the 14th century, young Bartholomew left the nearby town of RadonezhRussian: Радонеж to pray in solitude in the middle of a dense forest. He built a small wooden izbaa traditional Russian countryside dwelling and a wooden church in honour of the Holy Trinity. Bartholomew lived here, and dedicated his life to the glory of God, taking monastic vows and renaming himself Sergius. Soon, other monks started following in his footsteps and laid the foundations of the monastery. Sergius of Radonezh is known in Russian history as a peacemaker and a Christian preacher. He played a large role in uniting disparate Russian principalities during a time of open conflict between the Russians and the mighty TatarMongol invaders of Russia and Europe hordes.
The first community of monks was burned to the ground by the Tatar Khan Edigu in 1408, and the hegemon Nikon, the successor to St. Sergius, had a wooden church erected on top of the holy founder’s tomb. This wooden church was replaced in 1422 with the white stone Holy Trinity CathedralRussian: Troitskiy sobor or Троицкий собор. The church of the Holy SpiritRussian: Duhovskaya tserkov' or Духовская церковь was founded in 1477, and the villages that sprang up around the monastic shelter later formed an ancient posadoriginally inhabited territory outside the princely, boyar or church settlement under the protection of their walls, or settlement.
In the 16th century, brick walls with 11 watchtowers and a trench protected the monastery, which was turned into an impenetrable fortress by Ivan the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584. The construction of the Dormition CathedralRussian: Uspenskiy sobor or Успенский собор started in 1556, and the stone St. Paraskeva and Presentation churchesRussian: Pyatnitskaya tserkov i Vvedenskaya tserkov or Пятницкая церковь и Введенская церковь were founded in the slobodasthe kind of settlement or district of the city whose residents were liberated from local feudal lords (boyars) and were in the service of the state, or large villages. Market stalls and a popular annual fair became an integral part of life in the settlement.
The community of monks survived the siege of Polish and Lithuanian invaders between 1608 and 1610, and young tsar Peter Iruled from 1682 until 1725 found refuge here from the rebellious Streltsythe units of Russian guardsmen from the 16th to the early 18th centuries, armed with firearms in the late 17th century. In the following century, Empress Elizabeththe Empress of Russia from 1741 until 1761 granted the monastery the right to be called a LavraRussian: Лавра, and, a century later, a highway and the Moskovsko-Troitskaya railroadRussian: Moskovsko-Troitskaya zheleznaya doroga or Московско-Троицкая железная дорога connected Moscow, Sergiyev Posad and the Lavra, which had now come into its superior status.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Lavra was closed and desecrated, and Sergiyev Posad was renamed ZagorskRussian: Загорск in 1930. The monastery’s religious life was revived in the late 1940s, however its’ former status of ‘Lavra’ was only restored in 1991.
Today, lovers of history and connoisseurs of art visit the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, along with the believers who come here to see the local shrines and relics. From an architectural point of view, the Lavra is a fine example of Russian monastic architecture, comprising approximately fifty structures from different periods which form a harmonious ensemble. The Lavra is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
THE LAVRA’S MAIN ATTRACTIONS
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Krasnogorskaya SquareRussian: Krasnogorskaya ploschad or Красногорская площадь) is the city’s geographical and spiritual centre. This awe-inspiring open-air museum catches the eye even from a distance, especially from the observation platform situated on the neighbouring hill. The churches’ multicoloured and gilded domes dominate the monastery’s snow white walls, which range from 7 to 15 metres in height. A chiseled belfry towers over the whole ensemble. The brethren’s numerous buildings and the seminary naturally complement the monastery.
The entrance into the territory of the Lavra is through the Holy GateRussian: Svyatye vorota or Святые ворота of the original Red TowerRussian: Krasnaya bashnya or Красная башня built in the mid-16th century. The ornately shaped portal and the spherical domed roof with a cross were added to it in 1807 and 1856, respectively. This entrance has witnessed hundreds of famous personalities who visited the Lavra, starting with the early Grand Princes of Moscow. It is through this gate that the monastery’s defenders, such as the renowned Russian warrior monks Peresvet and Oslyabyaepic figures in the Battle of Kulikovo (1308), went to fight their enemies.
The Holy Gate overlooks the inside of the monastery alley. On its left is the Refectory PalaceRussian: Trapeznaya palata or Трапезная палата and the St. Sergius ChurchRussian: tserkov Prepodobnogo Sergiya or церковь Преподобного Сергия, built by the architects of Tsarevichs Ivan and Peter Romanov in the 17th century. The Refectory ChurchRussian: Trapeznaya tserkov' or Трапезная церковь, as it is also known, is bright and festive with its spiraled semi-columns, shells, window frames and the colour palette typical of the Moscow Baroque style. Adorned with a gilded chased iconostasis, the building is ornately decorated without being gaudy. The monastery’s major religious ceremonies are held at this temple in wintertime.
At the end of the alley is the Trinity Square surrounded by several important buildings, including the Trinity CathedralRussian: Svyato–Troitskiy sobor or Свято–Троицкий собор, the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the ApostlesRussian: hram Soshestviya Svyatago Duha na apostolov or храм Сошествия Святаго Духа на апостолов, the Dormition Cathedral and the belfry. The Trinity Cathedral is the central and oldest cathedral of the monastery. Despite its modest size, it has always been of special value to the monasteric community in Russia, since it contains the relics of St. Sergius, the founder of the monastery. Built in white stone in the early 15thcentury on the site of the original wooden Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, the Trinity Cathedral has become one of the few surviving architectural landmarks of that distant time. Cross-domed, four-tiered and featuring a well-proportioned, soaring silhouette, it is very modestly decorated on the outside. A plain wall and precise geometrical proportions are the main artistic elements of the building.
The church’s interior and, specifically, the surviving part of the décor – a tall five-tiered iconostasis – is of outstanding artistic and historical significance. Some of the best 15th-century artists brought their talents to the interior of the church, including the renowned medieval Russian icon-painter Andrei Rublev, who painted his inimitable icon of the Trinity, now in the Tretyakov Art GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya kartinnaya galereya or Третьяковская картинная галерея. Unfortunately, the wall frescoes by Andrei Rublev and Daniel Chornya Russian monk and icon painter have not survived, unlike the iconostasis. The walls are frescoed by 17th-century artists who reproduced the work of the earlier masters. Frescoes of the Trinity Church exemplify the traditional themes of Russian church painting: Christ Pantocrator is depicted on the dome, while the Last Judgment is depicted on the western wall. Scenes from the Bible are the main features of the south and north walls.
In 1623, an annex adjoined the Trinity Church on its western side over the tomb of hegemon Nikon of Radonezh who devoted indefatigable energy to build and embellish the cathedral, fought relentlessly to promote the arts and literature at the monastery and strengthened the role of the clergy in uniting Russia.
The second oldest church in the Lavra, the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, built in the early 16th century, is situated on the square. Unlike the Trinity Cathedral, its exterior is ornately decorated including the tiles, small vaulted belts and chiseled stone ribbons. Elegant and soaring, the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles typifies a rare harmonious combination of the church and the belfry under its dome.
On the eastern side of the square is the large five-domed Dormition Cathedral built in the 16th century on the orders of Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the fall of Kazanthe capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, the capital city of the Khanate of Kazana medieval Bulgarian-Tatar Turkic state that occupied the territory of former Volga Bulgaria between 1438 and 1552. Its construction was of particular importance to the monastery, since the Trinity Church lacked space to hold all the pilgrims. Today, the Dormition Cathedral dominates the Lavra, owing to its dimensions and location. It was frescoed on the inside by a group of artisans headed by the renowned icon-painter Dmitry Grigoryev.
The family vault of the Godunovs is located next to the cathedral, to the left of the entrance. Tsar Boris Godunovwas elected tsar of Muscovy (reigning 1598–1605) after the extinction of the Rurik dynasty, one of the most controversial figures in Russian history, is buried here, along with his wife, son and daughter. The fate that befell them is truly tragic: the False Tsar Dmitry Ithe first, and most successful, of three #impostors# who claimed during the Time of Troubles to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible had Mariawife of Boris Godunov and Fyodor Godunovthe son and successor to Boris Godunov strangled, and young Kseniadaughter of Tsar Boris Godunov became the impostor’s concubine. She then lived and worked for a long time in the Lavra. The cover depicting the Holy Trinity is thought to have been embroidered by Ksenia Godunova for the shrine containing the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh.
One of the most interesting structures in the monastery is the 87-metre-high belfry built in the 18th century by architect D. M. Ukhtomsky. It has 42 bells and is even taller than the Ivan the Great Bell TowerRussian: kolokol'nya Ivana Velikogo or колокольня Ивана Великого, located in Moscow. Ukhtomsky overcame the challenge of incorporating the belfry among the already existing ancient buildings and it is now a well-recognised structure of the monastery.
LOCAL ORTHODOX LANDMARKS
There are approximately ten landmarks in Sergiyev Posad that are perhaps less stricking than the Lavra but interesting in their own way. A non-exhaustive list is given below. Gethsemane Chernigov HermitageRussian: Gefsimanskiy Chernigovskiy skit or Гефсиманский Черниговский скит, located at 1 Gefsimanskiye Prudy StreetRussian: ulitsa Gefsimanskie prudy or улица Гефсиманские пруды, has been under active reconstruction since the early 21st century, including the courtyard of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, Chernigov and Peshcherny Churches Russian: Chernigovskaya tserkov i Peschernaya tserkov or Черниговская церковь и Пещерная церковьand a tall belfry. All structures were built in red brick in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Monastery of the Saviour and Bethany Russian: Spaso–Vifanskiy muzhskoy monastyir or Спасо–Вифанский мужской монастырьis located at 25, Masliyeva StreetRussian: ulitsa Maslieva or улица Маслиева, 3 km from the Lavra.
St. Paraskeva and Presentation ChurchRussian: Pyatnitskaya tserkov i Vvedenskaya tserkov or Пятницкая церковь и Введенская церковь dating back to the 16th century are located on Pyatnitskoye PodvoryeRussian: Pyatnitskoe podvore or Пятницкое подворье outside the Lavra (127, Krasnoy Armii AvenueRussian: prospekt Krasnoy Armii or проспект Красной Армии).
St. Elias ChurchRussian: Ilinskaya tserkov or Ильинская церковь, located at 1/5 Kuzminova StreetRussian: ulitsa Kuzminova or улица Кузьминова, 1.5 km from the monastery, was built at the end of the 18th century and is the city’s only church which was not closed under Soviet rule.
Other local landmarks include the 18th-century Ascension and Resurrection ChurchesRussian: Voznesenskaya i Voskresenskaya tserkvi or Вознесенская и Воскресенская церкви and the Church of St. Mary MagdaleneRussian: tserkov Marii Magdaliny or церковь Марии Магдалины located in the village of LozaRussian: Лоза on the grounds of a convent and a boarding school for orphaned girls.
MUSEUMS AT SERGIYEV POSAD
The Patriarch Alexius I Simansky Church and Archaeological MuseumRussian: Tserkovno–arheologicheskiy muzey imeni Patriarha Aleksiya I Simanskogo or Церковно–археологический музей имени Патриарха Алексия I Симанского, located at Krasnogorskaya Square, is part of the Lavra’s Patriarch Alexius Moscow Orthodox Theological AcademyRussian: Moskovskaya Pravoslavnaya Duhovnaya Akademiya v sostave Lavry or Московская Православная Духовная Академия в составе Лавры. It boasts a rich collection of church antiquities, manuscripts and early printed books, graphic drawings, paintings, examples of the applied arts, coins, amazing Byzantine and Russian icons and much more. Academy and Seminary students will take you on an excursion of the museum (by appointment only).
The Sergiyev Posad State Historical and Art MuseumRusssian: Sergievo–Posadskiy gosudarstvennyi istoriko–hudozhestvennyi muzey–zapovednik or Сергиево–Посадский государственный историко–художественный музей–заповедник was founded as early as 1920. The old city mansions now host most of the treasures confiscated by the Bolsheviksmembers of a wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, led by Lenin, seized control of the government in Russia (October 1917) from the Trinity Lavra’s depositary a century ago. The collection includes unique objects of art and jewelry, icon-painting, embroidery, painting, bone-carving (14th-19th centuries), and many more.
The Toy MuseumRussian: Muzey igrushki or Музей игрушки, located at 123, Krasnoy Armii Street, has long been one of the most exciting museums in Sergiyev Posad. This vast collection of toys was founded in 1912 by artist N. D. Bartram, a collector and museum enthusiast. The exhibition is divided into a number of sections (for example, Russian Folk Toys, 19th-century Russian and Western European Toys, Oriental Toys, and Russian and Western European Children’s Portraits of the 17th to 19th Centuries). The museum is incredibly popular with children.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com