Russia V: Sergiyev Posad

After a lot of time spent in Moscow, it was almost imperative that I took a look at what was left of medieval Russia, a lot of which had been subdued by war and ideological differences. 70km North-East of Moscow and heading towards Yaroslavl, one would arrive at Sergiyev Posad, symbolised largely by the Trinity Lavra – one of Russia’s greatest monasteries established by St Sergius of Radonezh (also the Orthodox Church’s highly-venerated saints).

My memory fails me a little at this, but I could give a little story about St Sergius, originally baptised with the name Varfolomei. Varfolomei and his brother Stefan took off to lead an ascetic life after their parents’ death in the Makovets hills. He continued his stay in the forest as a hermit even after Stefan left for Moscow and eventually more monks came to settle around him to live by their own labour. After he had been ordained to priesthood, his disciples spread his teachings across Russia, resulting in many other establishments of monasteries. A settlement grew, resulting in what is known a Sergiyev Posad (a posad is a semi-urban settlement surrounded by moats and connects to a town or monastery). A self explanatory name, Sergiyev Posad grew in commemoration of St Serguius. St Sergius had little involvement in politics, but historians believed that his stance was a peaceful unity of Russian lands.

Today, the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius stands as a most important spiritual monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Trinity Cathedral with its golden globes shimmer in magnificence from afar and one might note that after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the lavra was closed and buildings were assigned to civic/government use or declared as museums, just as the Tsar Bell had been destroyed. The lavra was returned to the Orthodox Church for a brief period under Stalin in 1945. The interior of each monastery is grand and eye-opening, which you will have to see for yourselves as you visit due to strict no-photography¬†rules. Due to the many pictures I wish to put here, I’ve inserted a gallery instead, enjoy!

Religious beliefs aside, a visit to Russia should never neglect the numerous monasteries that hold so much history we’ve never heard of. Another interesting monastery is the Danilov Monastery sitting on the right bank of the Moskva River in Moscow and its bells were saved from melting through the purchase of an American industrialist. Many other interesting stories surround the religious buildings of Russia – if politics, religion and history does not interest you, maybe the architecture will. There’s always something to look out for in this wonderful country.