Tours: Monasteries in the History of Russia

Russian Monasteries... they are countless on the vast Russian territory. Our trip won't cover all of them, of course. But we've chosen the ones whose fates are tightly intertwined with the history of the Russian state. First of all, the most ancient monasteries, each of which was the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy. Such is the Kyrilo-Belozersky Monastery, founded in the 14th century. It is situated on the shores of the picturesque Lake Siverskoye in the Vologda region. The 15th - 16th centuries were the monastery's best times. Ivan the Terrible himself liked to visit the monastery, saying that he owed his birth to the prayers of Belozersk monks. Throughout his life he sent the monastery generous gifts. Another stronghold of Christianity in the north was the Valaam Monastery, which according to the legend, was founded in the early 15th century by Saint Andrew the Apostle. And when the abode was desolated in 1715, Peter the Great decreed its revival. Today the Valaam Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia, its historical and spiritual pride. When in the Russian north, you can't lose the chance to visit the Solovetsky monastery solitary standing alone on a big island in the White Sea. Until the 16th century the monastery guarded the northern frontiers of the country, withstanding the siege of Livonians, Swedes and English. In 1920 the monastery was turned into the prison camp, the infamous Solovki.

Another famous ancient monastery known for its long history is the Optina Hermitage, founded in the 14th century. For Russian believers it is a special, holy place. Thanks to the monastery superiors, also known as Optina elders, the monastery became a spiritual center back in the 17th century. All Optina elders suffered martyr deaths for the faith and later were glorified by the Church. Among the Optina pilgrims were Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lev Tolstoy. There are a lot of ancient monasteries in western Russia as well. One of the first to appear there was the Pskov-Pechora Monastery. Its history began in the end of the 14th century. But the most monastic farmsteads is concentrated in central Russia. In those very places where Russ started: a beautiful example of central Russia architecture is the Transfiguration Monastery in Yaroslavl, where "The Lay of Igor's Warfare" was found; the witness of the landmark event in Russian history, the accession to the throne of the tsar of the new Romanov dynasty is the Kostroma Ipatiev Monastery, which has preserved richly decorated Romanov palace; the dazzlingly beautiful Bogolyubovo abode in Vladimir founded by Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky in the 12th century (!) and many others. On the territory of Moscow there are hundreds of monasteries, of which the most visited by tourists are Novodevichy Convent, where the disgraced sister of Peter I, Sophia, was confined; John the Baptist (Ivanovsky) nunnery, where titled figures and monarchs took their monastic vows; Holy Danilov Monastery founded by the younger son of Alexander Nevsky, whose walls stood on the way of the attacks of the Crimean Khan Kazy-Giray, the troops of Tsar Vasily Shuysky, the impostor False Dmitriy II, and the French during the Patriotic War of 1812.