Awesome Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius
Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is 70 km to the north-east of Moscow on the southern slope of the Smolensk-Moscow Upland in the city of Sergiev Posad. It is famous not only in the religious world. It was founded in 1345 by Sergius of Radonezh, who was a spiritual leader and monastic reformer. A century later the monastery became widely known spiritual and cultural center of the Moscow principality.
He was called Bartholomew, his parents were the Rostov boyars Cyril and Maria. From his childhood he was reading holy books. As a boy he wanted to devote his life to the Orthodox Church. But eventually his parents became impoverished and in 1328 the family moved to the Pokrovsky Monastery in Khotkovo – one of the first monasteries that was built on the lands of the Moscow principality. There lived men and women at that time, but later it became a nunnery. His parents and elder brother diligently served God and were buried there.
Bartholomew and his brother Stefan, after the death of their parents, wished to build their own abode and began to look for a dumb place. And in the middle of the Radonezh wood on the bank of the River Konchura brothers built a small wooden church in 1335. Soon Stefan went to Moscow, to serve in the Epiphany Monastery, and Bartholomew in 1337 took the monastic vows under the name of Sergius.
The news that a church had appeared in a dense forest and a monk lived there spread throughout the district and soon monks began to gather in Sergius’ church. They wanted to follow his example. In 1345, the monastery was formed. Its first abbot was Mitrofan, the second – Sergius. The glory of the monastery and Sergius of Radonezh, went beyond the Moscow principality and reached Constantinople. Patriarch of Constantinople sent him a special embassy and gifts for virtuous life.
In 1380, Sergius of Radonezh blessed Moscow prince Dmitry for the battle with the Golden Horde. The Trinity monks Alexander Peresvet and Rodion Oslabya took part in the Kulikovo battle. But in 1408, during one of the raids of the Mongol-Tatar hordes the monastery was looted and burned. The Trinity Church, in which Sergius of Radonezh was buried, was also burned.
In 1540-1550 to protect the monastery from uninvited guests it was surrounded by a powerful stone wall with 11 towers. Tsar Ivan the Terrible was baptized in it.
Further development of the monastery was associated with another hegumen, Nikon. Under him, the monastery received the first land and villages granted to it and the right to trade. Hegumen Nikon invited a team of icon painters led by Andrei Rublev to paint the walls of the stone Trinity Cathedral. In 1608-1610 the monastery withstood the siege of the Polish-Lithuanian troops of J. Sapieha and A. Lisovsky. From there Minin and Pozharsky’s militia were volunteer monks.
Russian tsars felt special favor towards the monastery, they made pilgrimages to holy places, made donations for the consolidation and prosperity of the monastery. In 1682, during the Streltsy rebellion, Princess Sophia was hidden in it. Later, Peter the Great also found refuge in it. In 1744 the monastery was awarded the honorary title of laurels, the head of the monastery was confirmed by Metropolitan of Moscow.
By the 20th century, the whole ensemble of the monastery included 50 buildings for various purposes. The oldest and most significant is the four-pillar cross-dome Trinity Cathedral made of white stone, around which the entire architectural ensemble of the laurels was formed. In 1993 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as an outstanding architectural monument of the XV-XVIII centuries.