Feodorovsky Monastery, Gorodets

Feodorovsky Monastery in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod Region is a sacred site for Russian Orthodox adherents. Located along the Volga River in the town of Gorodets, the monastery is best known as the original locale of Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God, one of the most revered relics of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is also the site where Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky was initiated into the brotherhood of the schema monks, an act which is now memorialized in an on-site monument to the prince.

According to unconfirmed speculation, Feodorovsky Monastery was established in 1152 by the founder of Gorodets, Grand Duke Yuri Dolgoruky. Although originally constructed from wood, it burned down in 1238 when Mongol-Tatar troops decimated the city. In the chaos, Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God disappeared. Many years later the icon was purportedly found and transferred to the city of Kostroma. In its stead, a copy was placed in Feodorovsky Monastery, where it remains the central icon to this day.

In November 1263, Prince Alexander Nevsky passed away at the monastery after having recited his monastic vows, gone through the rite of tonsure (head shaving) and taken the step of becoming a schema monk, a rare and extremely devoted form of monasticism. Toward the end of that century, the city of Gorodets was elevated to capital of Gorodets District, and Feodorovsky Monastery correspondingly became the region’s head monastery.

The hermitage survived another Turkic-Mongol invasion in 1408 and continued to function through much of the 17th century before closing for some years. It was reopened on March 20, 1700 under Patriarch Adrian of Moscow. That same year, another chapel was built on site in honor of the Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God. Emperor Peter I himself visited the monastery and Empress Catherine II attended the consecration of the stone Feodorovsky Cathedral in 1765.

In 1927, the Bolsheviks closed Feodorovsky Monastery, only to reopen it in 1934 as a center for juvenile offenders. During the height of Stalinist repression in 1937, the monastery’s only remaining monk, Abbot Israel, was shot. In the late 1940s, the complex was tragically blown up by the Soviet regime.

To the great joy of Gorodets residents, Feodorovsky Monastery was restored to its original form in 2009, although the bell tower and Church of Alexander Nevsky were never rebuilt. Church services have been regularly held at the hermitage since May 2009.

What to See:

As the site where Alexander Nevsky took his monastic vows, Feodorovsky Monastery contains the only monument in Russia which depicts the prince as a schema monk. The most important shrine of the monastery is the revered Icon of the Mother of God, which is marched through Gorodets in the annual Holy Cross Procession. The complex also includes icons painted by members of Tikhvin Assumption Monastery near St. Petersburg and 12 new bells which were specially cast for the renovated church in 2009.

Visitors who wish to delve into the history of Feodorovsky Monastery and Gorodets will appreciate the on-site museum, which also offers guided tours. The monastery even has a guest house where pilgrims can lodge. True die-hards can opt to live with the monks, provided you have prior permission from the abbot, observe the monastery’s rules and attend church services.

Where: 346, Proletarskaya Square, Gorodets town, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Russia