This is a fine example of a working Orthodox monastery, with military features that are typical of the 15th to the 18th century, the period during which it developed. The main church of the Lavra, the Cathedral of the Assumption (echoing the Kremlin Cathedral of the same name), contains the tomb of Boris Godunov. Among the treasures of the Lavra is the famous icon, The Trinity , by Andrei Rublev.
the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad
© Sacred Sites / Martin Gray
The ensemble of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad is an outstanding example of 14th- to 18th-century Russian architecture. Many of these buildings were models for later buildings in Russia.
The monastery, founded in the 1330s, is located on a strategically important road, and became part of the defensive system around Moscow with the construction of fortifications in 1540-60. After a fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched. During the later 18th century, the policy of secularization of church property led to the lands of the monastery being expropriated. The settlements around the monastery became the town of Sergiev Posad in 1782. The building of a highway from Moscow to Sergiev Posad in 1845 and a railway in 1868 increased the flow of visitors and pilgrims, and this in turn brought economic prosperity. The Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary was transferred there in 1814; the ensemble are continuing their activities, but following the Revolution of 1917, it was closed and the artistic and historical treasures were nationalized.
The Trinity Cathedral is a four-pillar single-domed church with three apses. Its interior is decorated with frescoes by Chernyi and Rublev, including its masterpiece: the icon of The Trinity. It has a gilded dome, carried out on the orders of Ivan the Terrible in 1556 to celebrate the seizure of Kazan. The Nikon annex is a single-domed and single-apse church with a square plan, built from brick faced with white limestone. The Tent of Serapion is a rectangular building, which adjoins the south side of the Trinity Cathedral and is symmetrical with the Nikon Annex. It was built in 1559 and houses the burials of three church dignitaries.
The Palace of the Metropolitan, built against the southern wall of the monastery, has the appearance of a small Baroque palace, with its red-painted facade. There is a portico in the centre, supporting a wide balcony with an elegant wrought-iron balustrade. The interior apartments are luxuriously decorated. The Refectory with the Church of St Sergius is spanned by a single vault. The high, pillar-less church of St Sergius, richly decorated, has three apses and a single dome. The facades are painted in blue, red and green squares and embellished with embedded columns with ornate capitals and a cornice with medallions.
The Church of the Holy Spirit (Dukhovskaya), located in the centre of the monastery, is one of the oldest monuments in the complex. It is a four-pillared church with three apses and a single dome built from white limestone in conventional form. The interior walls have the earliest examples of glazed tiles for decoration. The Cathedral of the Assumption is a towering structure echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin. The walls of the six-pillar building are divided by prominent pilasters and the facade has a band of blind arcading. There are two tiers of narrow windows. The interior is light and spacious, the walls being decorated with frescoes and a masterpiece of Simon Ushakov. The Belfry is the highest building in the complex, situated on the northern side of the central square. It is a brick structure, clad in stucco, with decorative elements (columns, cartouches, etc.) in white limestone.
The Church of the Virgin of Smolensk has three limestone balustrades and two staircases on either side of the main door; decorative double pilasters support four curvilinear pediments. The interior is light and spacious, but the original wall decoration has not been preserved. The Palace of the Tsar (Chertogi) has the facades painted in a chequerboard design, similar to those of the refectory. The layout of the richly decorated interior conforms to the regularity demanded by mid-18th century architectural standards. The monks' cells, two-storey stone buildings, were built up against in the fortress walls in the 16th and 17th centuries. Several blocks of these have been preserved.
The fortress, stone walls and corner towers form an irregular rectangle with three levels of defences: the lowest being isolated casemates, a vaulted gallery, and an open machicolated gallery. The towers were originally floored internally with wood, but this has been replaced with stone vaulting. The religious buildings outside the walls are: the Piatnitskaya Church and the Vvedenskaya Church (1547), the Chapel over the Piatnitskii Well (late 17th century), and the Krasnogorskaya Chapel (1770). Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The Trinity-Sergius Monastery was founded in the 1330s in the forest to the north of Moscow by the monk Sergius, the son of a boyar from Rostov the Great. The creation of the Monastery and the neighbouring settlements is well documented in two early lives of Sergius.
In 1355 he introduced rules for monastic life in the community, which required the construction of buildings - refectory, kitchen, bakery, etc. specialized This resulted in a well defined layout being adopted, with the monks' cells arranged around a rectangular open space with the church and refectory in its centre. The whole complex, with its outbuildings, was enclosed within a wooden palisade.
Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow. Despite Dmitri's decisive defeat of the Tatars at the battle of Kulikovo in 1380, however, Tatar raids continued for another century, and in 1408 the Monastery was destroyed by fire. It was quickly rebuilt on its earlier plan by Nikon, Sergiusls successor, with Royal support. The new church, again built in wood, was consecrated in 1412.
From this time onwards the Monastery began to grow in wealth, as a feudal landowner, and influence. It established many daughter houses in different parts of Russia. Sergius was canonized in 1422 and declared the patron saint of the country. This event coincided with the erection of the first stonebuilding at the Monastery, the new Trinity Cathedral, which still stands. This became especially important to the Royal house, who were baptized and held thanksgiving services there. The Cathedral was embellished with masterpieces by the famous Russian artists Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chernyi.
The location of the Monastery on a strategically important road led to its inclusion in the defensive system around Moscow with the construction of fortifications in 1540-60. The original wooden palisade was replaced by stone walls some 1.5 km long, with 12 towers. The area of the Monastery was extended at this time, and new buildings were erected, including accommodation for the Tsar, a small church over the tomb of Nikon, an infirmary and cellarer's chambers, and, most important of all, the large Cathedral of the Assumption (1559-85). The villages and settlements around the Monastery expanded to house the many workers involved in the new works.
During the political upheavals of the early 17th century the Monastery withstood a legendary 16-month siege, as a result of which it received many rich endowments and donations. Some of this money was used to strengthen the already formidable defences, which were to prove their worth at the end of the century, when the young Tsar Peter (the Great) twice took refuge there. With Peter's consolidation of power, a number of new buildings in Baroque style were added to the Monastery, including the refectory chamber with the church of St Sergius, a stone palace for the Tsar (Chertogi), the Church over the Gates, and the Chapel over the Well.
In 1744 Empress Elisaveta Petrovna awarded the highest title to the Monastery, that of Lavra, reinforcing its paramountcy in the Russian Church. At the same time, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Moscow became also the Holy Archimandrite of the Lavra. Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style and new elements were added, including the Church of the Virgin of Smolensk (17451, the Kalichia (Pilgrim) Tower (1788), and a five-storey belfry.
During the later 18th century the policy of secularization of church property led to the lands of the Monastery being expropriated by the State. The settlements around the Monastery became the town of Sergiev Posad in 1782, and it was rebuilt on a new plan orientated on the Monastery after a fire. The building of a highway from Moscow to Sergiev Posad in 1845 and a railway in 1868 increased the flow of visitors and pilgrims to the Monastery, and this in turn brought economic prosperity to the town. The Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary was transferred to the Monastery in 1814.
Following the Revolution of 1917, the Monastery was closed, the monks being allowed to move to a nearby Gethsemanean cell. The artistic and historical treasures were nationalized and entrusted to a State commission, the repair and restoration of the monuments being the responsibility of another commission. At the present time the Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary and the Trinity-Sergius Monastery are continuing their activities within the Lavra.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation