Orthodox Christian Russia: Nine Interesting Places to Visit in the Summer

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In every corner of Russia there are historical places which are unknown to tourists, but where there are ancient shrines, unique monuments, and beautiful nature. This article lists only 9 of these little-known and sometimes hard-to-reach places, which are worth visiting during your summer vacation.


Trinity-Lykovo, Moscow


    Trinity-Lykovo is a place with a landscape unique to Moscow. Surrounded by the city’s high-rise quarters within the Moscow Ring Road, rural houses are preserved along the bank of the Moskva River, and above, among the trees, an ancient church. A marvelous view opens up from here with a view of the river bend and behind it the forest of Serebryany Bor island, a popular vacation spot of Muscovites.


In Trinity-Lykovo the beauty of nature and centuries-old history come together. The main decoration of the village since the time of Peter the Great is the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity. It was built between 1690 to 1695 by maternal relatives of Peter I, the Naryshkins, and is an outstanding example of Moscow Baroque, or "Naryshkin" style, one of few that have survived to this day. Visitors called the church "the white swan" or "the bride," as they compared it to a young maiden dressed in a lace outfit with a golden headdress and gazing at her reflection in the waters of the river.


In 1812, and then in Soviet times, the Trinity Lykovo estate, the Trinity Church and the Church of the Dormition experienced hard times. The temples were repeatedly robbed, destroyed, and closed. These days, the churches have been restored, but the service at Trinity Church is performed only once a year, on Holy Trinity Day.


Village Dunilovo, Ivanovo region


    Patriarch Alexy II, who visited Dunilovo in 1993, called the village "the pearl of Russia". In the village, which at the beginning of the XIX century had a population that was equal to the city of Kineshma but today has no more than 600 people, there are at least a dozen ancient churches and thirty-three shining crosses.


It is a picturesque place on the bank of the Teza River, about 40 kilometers from the city of Ivanovo. Once Dunilovo was a major trading point, where roads from Suzdal, Shuya, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Kostroma were connected, and where large fairs were held. The village is home to two women's monasteries, the Annunciation Monastery and the Holy Dormition Monastery, and the oldest surviving church in Dunilovo is the Annunciation Cathedral, erected in 1675.


Palekh, Ivanovo region


    On a hill among the woods and fields is located the world-famous center of folk art; Palekh.

Palekh icon painters were famous prior to the time of Peter I, but after the revolution of 1917, the need arose for iconographers to both preserve the tradition of iconography and at the same time find new forms of art for the realization of their creative potential. Thus, using the old icon painting styles and techniques, the masters, in addition to icons, began to produce the now well-known miniatures depicting scenes of labor, plowmen, peasants, women with sickles, etc.

As before, there are many icon-painting, art workshops, and organizations open in Palekh. And a collection of thousands of Palekh works can be seen at the State Museum of Palekh Art. In the collection there are 1.5 thousand icons of the XIV-XX centuries, works of Western European painting of the XVI-XVIII centuries, over three thousand pieces of lacquer miniatures, sculptures, graphics, old printed books, embroidery, household items and objects of ethnography. The museum also includes four memorial museums devoted to outstanding artists and icon painters of Palekh: Pavel Korin House-Museum, Nikolay Dydykin Museum-Studio, Ivan Golikov House-Museum, and Nikolay Zinovyev Museum-Estate.


The wall paintings of Palekh churches; the Krestovozdvizhenskaya and Ilyinskaya churches at the end of the XVIII century, are made in the tradition of the Palekh school. Also, not far from the village, in the village of Krasnoye, is the Svyato-Znamenskaya Church which is the only temple in the vicinity of Palekh that was not closed during the Soviet years.


The village of Sit-Pokrovskoye, Yaroslavl region


    On the picturesque bank of Sit river rises the church of Intercession of the Holy Virgin built at the beginning of XVIII century and the main sightseeing place in Sit-Pokrovskoe village. It is a classic example of the architecture of the Yaroslavl region. At present, regular church services are held and restoration works are being carried out in the church.


And 20 kilometers from Sit-Pokrovskoye in early summer every year there are festivities dedicated to the Battle of Sit-Pokrovskoye; one of the central events of the Mongol invasion of Russia. The battle ended in the defeat of the Russian troops, but at the same time greatly weakened the enemy's army and became one of the reasons for the Khan’s refusal to go to Novgorod.


The high hill near the village of Lopatino, 20 km from Sit-Pokrovskoye, is the center of the celebrations: here a 12-meter white-stone stele was erected in memory of the fallen soldiers and here, according to historians' calculations, the key event of the battle took place.


Five of the oldest churches in Russia and the rock face of the Savior, Karachay-Cherkessia


    The mountains of the North Caucasus conceal not only the beauty of nature, the purity of mountain rivers, and the unique wealth of flora and fauna, but also that in the early Middle Ages there was a powerful state, whose people adopted Christianity long before the baptism of Kievan Rus.


On the territory of the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic are five Christian churches built in the first millennium after Christ. Three of the churches, known as the Northern, Middle, and Southern, have survived in Lower Arkhez. (In the Middle Ages in the valley of the Bolshoi Zelenchuk River there was the Lower Arkhez settlement.) There are also the ruins of 11 chapel temples. Of the three churches, only the Southern Church holds regular divine services. Most likely, it was a part of the estate of a rich Alanian family, and was a house church.


On the other bank of the river is the face of the Savior, painted directly on the surface of the rock. At the foot of the Mitseshta Ridge there is a temple in honor of Christ the Savior, and regular services are held there.

About an hour and a half drive from the settlement, there are two more temples of the same period. On Shoana Mountain the Shoani temple rises (presumably built in the 2nd half of the 10th - early 11th centuries).


Finally, on a rock ledge above the valley of the Teberda Gorge stands the Sentin temple, built in 965. Fragments of the temple's wall paintings are the most extensive surviving fresco complex in Alania.


Chapel Church of the Holy Martyr Victor Damascus, Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island


    On the very border with China stands a 32-meter chapel built in memory of soldiers who died defending the Far Eastern borders of Russia and became a symbol of the inviolability of Russian borders in the Far East. Cross processions are regularly conducted here, and the chapel is a place of regular prayers. In 2005, when drawing the new border line, the chapel was almost "cut" in two. But it was saved from demolition when the Chinese side ceded a few dozen meters to Russia.


In addition, Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island is a good place for recreation, camping and fishing. There are many lakes on the island, and in the summertime, people come here for weekends with tents, motorboats and water skis.


Talab islands, Pskov region


    Most tourists, pilgrims, and those who help revive the Talabskie Islands on Lake Pskov, visit the closest of the three islands, Talabsk, as a famous elder, Archpriest Nikolai Guryanov, served on this island, and Talabsk has always been the most populated island. However; although for centuries the population of the islands had numbered at least four, if not six thousand people, today there are only a hundred and fifty permanent residents.


Few people today get to the remote island of Verkhny, and yet it has a very interesting history! In the XV century, Verkhny was the island of the lake pirates of the Talab tribe. It was here that Dositheus, a disciple of St. Euphrosyne of Pskov, set out. He built a cell in the taiga of the island, where there is now a memorial cross in its place, and began communing with his dangerous pirate neighbors. Dositheus' righteousness changed the islanders, and they repented and stopped pirating. Most of the Talabans became artisans, merchants, and fishermen, the mightiest and strongest became warriors, and a few became monks and together with Dositheus, founded a monastery in honor of the apostles Peter and Paul. This church of Peter and Paul was later rebuilt several times, but is the main treasure of the island. Its oldest structure being underground where in the cave Church the former robbers, standing around the Venerable Dositheus, took part in worship.


Visitors to the Upper Island can admire the view of the Pskov lake, which was also called the Pskov sea as one cannot see the opposite shore from here, and on the tops of the firs you can see the nests of gray herons.


The village of Sura, Arkhangelsk region


    "Dear homeland, holy homeland, blessed Sura," Saint John of Kronstadt said of his small homeland. Father John did much for his village, where during his time there were only two dilapidated wooden churches. He founded the stone St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Monastery of St. John the Theologian of Sura, and also established a village school and various industries. Even during Father John's lifetime, pilgrims began to flock to the village from all over the country.


Today not many people know about the hometown of the saint, but it is a wonderful place to visit and pay homage to one of Russia’s most beloved saints.


Holy Trinity St. Nicholas Monastery, Kirovsky District, Primorsky Krai


    This is the oldest male monastery in the Far East, and not far from it there is a little-known but ecologically pure lake, where the Komarov lotus grows. Specially for the tourists the shores of the lake are not developed, so one can observe the lotuses in their natural environment.


The monastery keeps an icon of the Holy Trinity, which was painted on a slice of a branch of the Mamre oak and donated to the monastery from the holy Mount Athos. During the Soviet years the monastery was closed, and its territory became the property of Shmakovsky military sanatorium. The temple of the Iveron Mother of God was turned into a clubhouse and a medical building, the chapel church of the Transfiguration, located on the top of the hill, became a viewing platform, the abbot's house became an administrative building, and the monastic cell became a gymnasium.


In 1995, the monastery began its revival, but most of the historic territory of the monastery was not returned, only the half-destroyed Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The monastery today is located in the building of the former cattle yard, and there are 2 churches, with the monastic brotherhood consisting of about 20 people.

Source: Foma (Russian)

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