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Russian Sacred Places: The Pearl of the Russian Golden Ring - Sergiev Posad
July 26, 2011 10:43

                                                                "In the land of Moscow and all over the world there

                                                                 is no other monastery equal to this."

Archdeacon Paul of Aleppa

Short History of the City

  • The birth of the city dates back to the foundation of The Holy Trinity Monastery in 1345 made by St. Sergius of Radonezh (1322-92), a highly revered monk and the patron saint of Russia.
  • In the next four centuries it turned into the greatest monastery on the Russian territory and in 1742 the town status was granted to it .
  • After the Revolution of 1917, the Soviet government closed the lavra and assigned its buildings to civic institutions or declared museums. In 1930, monastery bells, including the Tsar-Bell of 65 tons, were destroyed. During this period many valuables were stolen and sold, lost, or transferred to other collections. Also the Soviet authorities changed the name of the city first to Sergiev and then to Zagorsk in 1930, in memory of the revolutionary Vladimir Zagorsky.
  • In 1945 the Holy Trinity Lavra was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. On April 16, 1946 divine service was renewed at the Assumption Cathedral. The lavra remained the seat of the Patriarch of Moscow until 1983, when he settled in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow Since then, the monastery has continued as a prime center of religious education. 

What to see in Sergiev Posad

Holy Trinity Lavra

If you have time for just one day trip out of Moscow, use any opportunity to visit this place and you won't regret about it. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993, calling it "a fine example of a working Orthodox monastery, with military features that are typical of the 15th to the 18th century.

The heart of Holy Trinity Lavra is the Holy Trinity Cathedral (Troitsky sobor), built in the 1420s and distinguished by its white-stone architecture and many-tier completion. It contains the revered holy relics of St. Sergius in its southeast corner. A memorial service for the saint is conducted in the cathedral twenty-four hours seven days a week. The interior, lit by oil lamps, is covered with icons that present mostly  the work of the great medieval Russian painter Andrei Rublev.

 Behind the Trinity Cathedral is the Vestry (Ritznitsa), which contains the monastery's rich treasury. On display are 600 years worth of donations from the rich and powerful jewel-encrusted vestments, fine tapestries, solid-gold chalices, etc.

Another important church is the Cathedral of the Assumption (Uspensky sobor), modeled on the church of the same name in Moscow. It was finished in 1585, with money donated by Ivan the Terrible as penance for killing his son. Services are held here in the summer, but it is often closed at other times of the year. Outside the west door is the grave of Tsar Boris Godunov, the only tsar not buried in Moscow's Kremlin or the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Nearby is the Chapel-at-the-Well (Nadkladeznaya chasovnya), topped by a five-tier baroque bell tower, which took 30 years to build. It once had 42 bells, the largest of which weighed 65 tons.

Taking over the hosting of services from the Assumption Cathedral in the winter is the Refectory Church of St. Sergius (Trapeznaya tserkovnaya Svyatogo Sergia). A huge block-shaped structure with wallpaper-like paint and a lavish interior, this was once a dining hall for pilgrims. The green building next door is the metropolitan's residence.

The Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is a little 15th-century church with a bell tower under its dome. A graceful imitation of Trinity Cathedral, it is used only a special occasions. Among its interior features is the grave of the first Bishop of Alaska.To bring cameras inside the Lavra, you must buy a pemission (an excursion CD is included though). Or you can pass free by just hiding your cam. Inside the Lavra there're some churchware stores as well.

Toys and Souvenirs

Sergiev Posad is also known as a capital of  doll kingdom.This is the place where many dolls and toys are produced. Moreover, only in this city exists Toy Institute, where new toy types are being developed. So-called " toy of Sergius" is very popular in the country. To buy a toy beside the wall of Lavra is to make a pious act. Even St. Sergius himself was making toys to amuse children.

 In the end of 1980s a unique Toy Museum was opened in the ciyt,where people can see about 30 000 of toys.

Sergiev Posad is also famous for its wooden craft and souvenirs. In city stores you can buy old postcards, pictures, books, icons and balalaika (a traditional musical instrument). You can also check out the Vernisage, a souvenir market near the Lavra gates. There you'll find counters with souvenirs like matryoshka, painted eggs, chainlets, mini-icons, boxes and all sorts of folk trade.Present souvenirs portray caricatures of famous politicians, musicians and popular movie stars. Matryoshkas featuring communist leaders became very popular in the early 1990s. 

 Useful Information

Lavra is opened for visitors daily from 5 a.m. to 21.00 p.m. On the Great Days and Days of Saint Sergius (5/18 of July, 25 of September/8 of October) it is opened 24 hours. Excursions are organized daily from 9 a.m. to 17.00 p.m.

How to get there

Trains run to Sergiev Posad about every half-hour from Moscow's Yaroslvl Station. The journey takes about an hour and costs 30 rubles. Look for any train bound for Sergiev Posad or Alexandrov. The fastest option is the daily express train to Yaroslavl (90 rubles for the 1st class; 60 rubles for the 2nd class), which takes 55 minutes.

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Alexandra Dibizheva

Tags: Sergiev Posad Holy Trinity Lavra Russian churches Russian sacred places Golden Ring 

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