On October 5, after visiting the Abramtsevo Artists’ Museum Reserve (музей-заповедник “Абрамцево”), as the second section of the day-long cultural excursion for its International School on Global Security for Young Specialists, PIR Center, where I intern as part of my program with SRAS, took school students and lecturers to the Trinity Monastery of St Sergius (Троице-Сергиева Лавра). This most holy site of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia is still an active monastery today.
Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius has a rich and interesting history. It was founded in 1337 by St. Sergius of Radonezh. St. Sergius, initially named Bartholemew, was born to wealthy Rostov boyars in 1314, and experienced a solitary childhood devoted to salvation through austerity and prayer. He and his elder brother, Stephen left home and traveled to the desert to live as hermits after their parents died. Once they had traveled far enough, they built a small church and a cell, which was the beginning of the monastery and which they dedicated to the Lifegiving Trinity. Stephen eventually grew tired and left for Moscow while Bartholemew remained and took on the name Sergius. He devoted himself even more fervently to the idea of salvation through austerity and prayer. He soon became famous and came to often be asked for advice, blessings and guidance by monks, farmers and city inhabitants. After several years St. Sergius became the monastery abbot but never ceased his life of hard work and austerity. He became revered by all of Russia, and received many followers and disciples, 70 of which are canonized saints. The monastery has been considered a museum reserve and has remained under UNESCO protection since 1940.
Among the various churches and religious structures within Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, there is the Trinity Cathedral (Троицкий собор), which holds the tomb of St Sergius, the Cathedral of the Assumption (Успенский собор), the Chapel-at-the-Well (Надклалезная часовня), the Vestry (Ризница), the Refectory Church of St Sergius (Трапезная церковь преподобного Сергия), and a large Bell Tower (колокольня). As a general note, female visitors should wear headscarves and male visitors must remove their hats before entering the monastery’s various churches. Shorts and sleeveless shirts should not be worn.
Our group was given a tour in Russian, and I and another intern were told to translate for the English-speaking PIR lecturers in attendance. Unfortunately, I understood very little of what the tour guide said, and could not successfully complete this task. Luckily, the other intern is Russian and speaks English reasonably well, so she did all of the translating and all was not lost. However, the monastery itself is very visitor-friendly; along the various walking paths there are signs with the names of the different churches and buildings that point to the structures themselves. Inside each church there are stands that explain the history and significance of the church in both Russian and English. Even without understanding the tour guide, it was possible to gather the immense importance of this site from its massive size, the amount of care that has visibly been put into preserving the various buildings and grounds as well as the magnificent beauty and detailed work held within the churches’ structures and icons.
Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius is located in the town of Sergiev Posad (Сергиев Посад), which is located not far from the Abramtsevo Museum Reserve in the northeastern part of the Moscow Oblast (Московская область), and is thus a good destination for a day trip from Moscow. The fastest way to get there from Moscow is by train; the entire trip takes about 3 ½ hours. The fastest train is the express train from Moscow’s Yaroslavsky Station (Ярославский вокзал). One should get off at the Sergiev Posad stop and then either walk (approximately 20 minutes) or take a taxi to the monastery. One can also take a commuter train, also known as the “elektrichka” (“електричка”), from Yaroslavsky Station.
Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius /
Свято-Троицкая Сергиева Лавра
In Sergiev Posad – Day Trip from Moscow
Hours of Operation: 5:00-21:00;
tours run daily from 9:00-18:00 during the summer,
and from 9:00-17:00 during the winter (November 11-April 30)
Cost: Free except for Vestry (Разница); one can purchase various guided tours