Yesterday 7th of January Orthodox followers celebrated Christmas. Thousands of religious people attended the mass in Russia in spite of extremely cold weather of -30C (-22F).
Religion played an important role in Russian culture. If you ever travel to this country, you will be amazed how many ancient monasteries, cathedrals and churches you will discover there!
Thinking about my home on the Christmas Day, I decided to write about some of the most beautiful cathedrals that I discovered while travelling around my country. If you are looking to see a GENUINE Russia and to visit something beyond standard travel destinations like Moscow and St. Petersburg, here is a little guide where to go with relatively easy access from these two main cities.
This map indicates location of the described destinations in relation to Moscow. The numbers correspond to the order in the list below.
Sergiyev Posad developed in the 15th century around one of the greatest of Russian monasteries, the Trinity Lavra established by St. Sergius of Radonezh. It is one of the largest monasteries in Russia.
Sergiy of Radonezh is one of the venerated Russian saints. He is a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia. Dmitry Donskoy was blessed by Sergyi for the fight with Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo field which was an important step towards liberation from Mongol-Tatars.
This city has a huge historical importance. It was named in honor of Vladimr Monomah who founded it in 1108 by building a fortress on the bank of Klyazma river. Vladimir was a capital of North-East Russia between 1243 — 1389 (for 146 years!) with a lot of development projects going on. However, unfortunately it was badly destroyed and plundered during Mongol-Tatar invasion. Unlike many other churches, Assumption Cathedral survived the great devastation and fire. Constructed in 1158–1160 and painted by the great Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chyorny in 1408, it is now included into UNESCO World Heritage List
The history of this town dates back to 1024. It played important political role in the beginning of XII century and was the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. In XVI century after a decline in political importance, the town became a religious center with incredible development projects initiated by Vasily III and Ivan the Terrible. Today few of its monuments are part of UNESCO World Heritage.
4. Rostov Veliky (=Rostov the Great) is an ancient city first reference to which dates back to 862 when it already was an important settlement. It is located on the bank of a large and extremely beautiful Lake Nero which is about 500 000 years old .
Yaroslavl is one of the oldest cities in Russia founded in XI century. From April to June 1612 Yaroslavl became the de facto capital of the Russian state during the time of Polish invasion. Few of its key attractions include:
Saviour Church on the city in Yaroslavl was initially built in 1463 from wood. But in 1658 it burned and in 1672 a stone cathedral was built on its place. The cathedral was badly damaged in 1918 and the latest restoration works took place in early 90s.
Assumption Cathedral was first built in 1215. Destroyed by fire it was then rebuilt in the XVI century. Later in 1937 it was demolished by the Soviets who built park of recreation and leisure on its place. In 2005 it was decided to rebuild the cathedral with exact reproduction of demolished version. The largest part of construction was finished by 2010 to celebrate 1000 years since Yaroslavl city foundation.
6. Kalyazin Bell Tower
Located next to Kalyazin city this Bell tower was built in 1796—1800 as part of St. Nicholas Monastery.
In 1930s it was decided to build a huge barrage and reservoir which is why Troitsky Monastery, cathedrals and houses located on the bank of Volga river in Kalyazin town were demolished. But this Bell tower for some mysterious reason was not touched… After water flooded part of Kalyazin city, it was decided to keep Bell tower as a navigation sign. Now people can access it only by boat.
7. Torzhok was first mentioned in chronicle in 1139.
The Monastery of Saints Boris and Gleb is the dominant architectural feature of the town. The Monastery was founded in 1083 and dedicated to the earliest martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1925 the territory of monastery was transformed into prison which was there for about 50 years. After that it served as a rehab center for alcoholics.
A lot of efforts were made to restore the monastery. In early 90s it got back its religious function.
8. Optina Pustyn (=Opta’s hermitage or Optina Monastery)
Optina Pustyn was the most important spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church during 19th century. It was visited by a lot of famous writers like Vasily Zhukovsky, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy. In 1878 Fyodor Dostoevsky visited this monastery after the death of his little son Alexey. His personal tradegy and this trip to Optina Pustyn made an important influence on his novel “Brothers Karamazov”.
9. Kizhi Pogost
Kizhi Pogost is a historical site dating from the 17th century. It is located on Kizhi island in Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia and accessible from St. Peterburg.
The Kizhi Pogost was built from wood without using a single nail! (however, they say that nails were used in the domes)
These are just few of those incredible destinations with huge historical importance that a traveler can discover in Russia.
If you need assistance in planning and organizing your tip to Russia, I will be happy to offer you my service. Just send me a message through the contact form on this website.
About the author:
Oxana believes that every person’s life can make an intriguing story for a book which can teach a lot of wisdom. Life in Russia, England, France, Hungary, USA and lots of travelling around the continents introduced her to exceptional personalities. She loves to share stories about people and destinations which bring new ideas and help to find a way to your true self. This is why she started her blog “In search of the genuine”