Saturday, October 4, 2008
Trinitiy Monastery of St. Sergius
Yesterday we saw one of the gems of the Golden Ring of Russia. Just northeast of Moscow there are a number of old towns that before the current capital were the heart of Russia. They form a loop of old towns that contain some of the area’s most beautiful art, museums and architecture. We visited the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, which was founded by Sergius (surprise, surpise) in 1340. He is buried in the trinity cathedral where they have an ongoing memorial service for him during the 8 hours a day it is open. There’s a constant line going that sprawls into the courtyard of people who come from miles around to light candles there and kiss his grave. We saw a procession of townspeople marching toward the monastery carrying banners, crosses and candles. I asked a Russian lady who they were, so needless to say I’m still not sure because I only understood about two to three words per sentence, but she said something about them walking from afar and stopping in different towns gathering more and more followers. There is more than one cathedral, but only the one where St. Sergius was buried was open when we went. I must say I got a little cathedralled-out while living in Latin America, but this one was so different that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very small, but astoundingly beautiful. The inside was covered with murals, mostly individual paintings depicting various scenes of Christ’s life. Of course it was lit only with candles and dim hanging lanterns, but what made it so amazing was that there was a little line of nuns softly singing Gregorian chant. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so I’m posting pictures of the outside of the cathedral and the grounds of the monastery. Apparently the Bolsheviks closed it during Soviet times, but it was opened by Stalin (who had a higher tolerance of religion) and used as a museum and monastery until 1988, when the patriarchs there moved to Moscow. It still functions as a monastery to this day, but on a smaller scale.
After our tour we spent some time shopping in the town. It was so beautiful. It was really nice to walk up and down the streets and get a feel for what Russia's really like. We live in such a weathy area that I feel like we could be practially anywhere. It was nice to see the tree-lined streets and quaint little houses and talk to some of the townspeople who were there selling their goods. They get a lot of European travellers, so a number of them spoke English. It was funny too, because they kept giving us prices in euros. Isn't it obvious I'm not European? Anyway, among other things, I bought this cute little apron there, which you will have to tilt your head to view because I don't have time to save it to my computer and turn it. I apologize for the neckache.