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The Town of Sergiev Posad

Sergiev Posad is a small town, 71 kilometres from Moscow, which is world-famous as the location of the Trinity St Sergius Lavra Monastery – the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. Today, the monastery attracts thousands of pilgrims, and thousands more tourist visitors – all keen to see the monastery which was founded by St Sergey of Radonezh. The devout visitors will want to visit the chapel in which the relics of St Sergey are preserved.

Fascinating Facts

  • Some legends claim that the tradition of 'Russian dolls' – carved sets of dolls, known as 'matrioshkas' (little mummies) which fit one inside the other – began at Sergiev Posad.
  • Whatever the truth of this claim, today carved wooden toys and souvenirs are a major local industry, made in local workshops.
  • The cultural and religious significance of the town have attracted visitors as diverse as Alexander Dumas and Theophile Gautier – as mentioned in his Memoirs.
  • Each year Sergiev Posad has a balloon festival. The balloons are often formed into unconventional shapes – such as matrioshkas, top hats, and others. The festival is called 'The Sky above St Sergius'.

History

The town's history began with the founding of the monastery here - traditionally dated at 1337 – by St Sergey, or Sergius of Radonezh. It began in a very modest way, as a small religious community where Sergey and a few like-thinking believers could lead a religious life of their own choosing. Yet the deep faith of the monastery's founder, and his ideas about religion provided a draw for many more visitors in search of religious enlightenment. These followers included several influential and titled individuals. It was here that the military leader Dmitry of the Don was given a holy blessing, before going out to meet the foe of the Golden Horde at Kulikovo Field – a battle which turned the course of history at a time when Russia was living under Tatar overlords. The number of visitors grew to a level at which not all could be accommodated in the monastery itself – and instead, a small town grew up around the monastery to service its material needs. The town was given the title of 'posad' – meaning the Lower Town of St Sergey's.

The monastery underwent huge transformation during Ivan the Terrible's reign. He decided to build a chain of fortress monasteries across Russia – with its epicentre at Sergiev Posad. Ivan the Terrible loved the monastery at Sergiev Posad, and enjoyed spending time here. The town around the monastery began to thrive from passing trade visiting the regional fairs.

The Soviet authorities were opposed to all religious sites. The monastery was closed down in 1919, just like all other religious organisations throughout what had then become the USSR. The coffers were ransacked, and even the church bells were melted down for scrap metal. The monastery site reopened in 1920 as a historical and architectural museum. It was only in 1946, in the wake of World War Two, that the monastery was able to receive permission to operate as a functioning monastery once more.

Today, in addition to its religious significance, Sergiev Posad is a major stop for tourists following the 'Golden Ring Of Russia' route.

What to see

  • The Trinity St Sergius Lavra Monastery is not only the main sight visitors come for, but also the spiritual centre of Russian Orthodox Christianity, to which the Tsars themselves – including Ivan the Terrible, and Peter the Great - came in search of spiritual fulfilment. Today the monastery has a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing. The relics of St Sergey of Radonezh are kept here.
  • The Trinity Cathedral, dating from the 15th century.
  • The Assumption Cathedral with its striking blue dome.
  • The Bell-Tower of the Trinity St Sergius Monastery stands at 88 metres tall. Among its bells is the Tsar Bell – at 72 tonnes, the largest bell in the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • The Stableyard held as many as 700 horses in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today it is classed as a monument of architecture.
  • The Pokrovsky Khotkov Monastery is one of the oldest in Russia, where the early Russian monks took the tonsure. Including Kirill and Maria with their son Bartholomew – who would later take the monastic name of Sergey of Radonezh.
  • The Toy Museum has a collection of over 150,000 toys – true works of art from Russia, Europe, Asia and the USA.
  • Krasnogorsk Square – the main square in Sergiev Posad, situated between the monastery and the central street of Red Army Prospect.
  • The Church Archaeological Collection is famed for its collections of Russian Orthodox ikons, ritual utensils, clerical regalia, ancient printed books and manuscripts.
  • The Abramtsevo Estate. This attractive estate is located 15 kilometres drive from Sergiev Posad. It was home to the so-called 'Abramtsevo Circle' of craft professionals and artists in the 19th century. Under the patronage of wealthy philanthropists, artists such as Repin, Vasnetsov, Vrubel and Levitan had the freedom to develop new ideas and techniques.
  • Kochevniki ('Nomads') Ethnopark celebrates the lives of different nomadic peoples of the world.
  • Gremyachi Kliuch Spring. Legend claims that these remarkable springs began to flow after the prayers of St Sergey of Radonezh. They are located quite close to Sergiev Posad.
  • St Elijah's Church (Ilinskaya) is one of the oldest and most significant churches in Sergiev Posad.
  • The Chermigov Monastery is located three kilometres from Sergiev Posad. Visitors can see the stone churches and monastic cells, as well as an underground spring.
  • Florensky's House-Museum. The famous scientist Pavel Florensky lived in Sergiev Posad, where he flourished as a poet, theologian, and a priest. He made many discoveries and in different fields – including electrical technology, mathematics, geology, ethnography, philology and philosophy, museum practice and the history of art.
  • Blinnaaya Gora, or Pancake Hill is the best-located observation platform in Sergiev Posad, with magnificent views of the lavra monastery. The unusual name comes from the tradition of cooking pancakes there to feed hungry pilgrims after their long journey.
  • Savva Storozhevsky Holy Spring. These holy springs are named after a devoted disciple and follower of St Sergey's, Savva Storozhevsky.
  • Skitskie Ponds Park is an attractive ornamental park which makes a perfect spot for a stroll at any time of year.
  • The Museum of Peasant Life. This small building is a historic monument itself, and contains exhibitions about the history of peasant life in Ancient Russia, which is vividly recreated by the displays. You'll see buildings, buckles, faience, braided baskets, wrought tongs, irons and samovars. The collection is interactive. It was created by the enthusiast and amateur collector Victor Bagrov.
  • The Sergiev Posad Nature Reserve Museum. The Reserve is one of the largest exhibitions of ancient Slavic culture in Russia. The core of the collection is a display of monastic items dating to the 14th century. Many different items and ancient ikons are exhibited, along with handwritten books, craft items, and items of gold- and silverware.

Guided Tour to The Town of Sergiev Posad

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