Alexander Monastery in Suzdal and its attractions

Sacred things of Suzdal Alexander’s monastery

Alexander’s monastery is one of the architectural and historical sights of the Vladimir-Suzdal land.

Though it is not as majestic as the golden-domed Pokrovsky or Spaso-Evfimievsky, but in it the pilgrims find solitude and silence for prayer, and ordinary tourists enjoy the architecture and the panorama, opening from the high bank of the Kamenka river.

History of the monastery

Tradition says that the founder of the monastery, which was originally female, is the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky. And the date of foundation is significant for Russian history – 1240. To commemorate the brilliant victory over the Swedes the prince decided to found a church in honor of his angel.

In the years of Mongolo-Tatar yoke widows and the weak were received here, and charitable work was done. Many of the inhabitants sought solace in their religious feelings after being ravaged by the invaders and murdered by their loved ones.

In its heyday the complex was called the “Great Lavra”. Ivan Kalita and his son patronized it and gave it land for the commemoration of the soul. It served as a tomb for princely wives.

During the Time of Troubles Suzdal was burnt by Polish-Lithuanian invaders, and many wooden buildings didn’t survive. Only at the end of the XVII century the rebirth started – tsarina Natalia Kirillovna, Peter I’s mother, donated money for the construction of the Ascension church with a bell tower. A few decades later there appeared Holy Gate and a stone fence, made in the style of defensive constructions with corner towers.

There is a document which tells how in 1738 two dissenters were imprisoned here for re-education. One of them managed to escape, having connived with the keeper. The abbess was threatened with trouble, but she managed to prove her innocence.

Closure of the monastery happened not in the XX century, which would be logical, but much earlier – during the secularization of church land during the reign of Catherine II. Because of her reform, Alexander’s monastery became a simple parish church of the city. It should be noted that by this time only 20 nuns remained, and from the documents you can see the scarcity of monastic funds.

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The revival of the monastery as a men’s monastery happened in the XXI century. – In 2006 an appropriate religious organization belonging to the Vladimir-Suzdal diocese was registered. Now the monastery is inhabited by 5 monks and since 2011 the Father Abel has been the abbot, who is warmly remembered by many pilgrims.

Attractions of

Unfortunately, the oldest monastery buildings have not survived – the oldest monuments are dated to the end of the XVII century. On the territory are:

  • Ascension Church of 1695;
  • The hipped bell tower;
  • The holy gates and fence of the beginning of XVIII century by I. Gryaznov.

Church of Ascension

The architecture of the Church of the Ascension is typical of the Suzdal land. It was one of the first to use decorative carved platbands, which later spread across the city. Basically the construction is a cube to which attached a warm winter part and an apse. Five graceful drums decorated with stucco and crowned with small chapels stand on the cube.

It is worth going inside if only to see the tombstones of two princesses – Grand Duchess Marina, who died in 1262, and Agripina, who died in 1293. The iconostasis and interior decoration from ancient times have not been preserved, restoration works are carried out, the iconostasis is temporary.

Bell tower

The bell tower differs by the modesty of finishings in comparison with other similar constructions. It is decorated only with carved arched apertures and dormer windows with platbands. Such simplicity and severity is not typical for Suzdal architects. Unfortunately for visitors it is usually impossible to go upstairs – to do it one has to take the keys from the monks. Those who manage to do so write rave reviews, as the top offers a beautiful view of the river and neighboring monuments.

The fence has not survived to this day in its entirety. Initially, the whole area was surrounded by it. Its construction was done by a talented local craftsman Ivan Gryaznov.

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Working schedule of the monastery

Entrance is free and unrestricted. Women should preferably wear skirts and have their heads covered, but female visitors in jeans won’t be kicked out of the place. Upon entering the temple it is necessary to wear scarves and skirts, which are handed out near the entrance.

Pilgrims can stay for the service and pray in this revered place.

Excursion services are not provided here. To get here with a guide, you must go on a guided tour of the active monasteries, the cost of which is 48 EUR for a group of 1-10 people for a duration of 3 hours. There are also other offers from private guides and small tour companies. The guide service for an hour costs 1.5 thousand rubles.

How to get to the monastery

The monastery is located in 500 meters from the main square – the Red Square. You can park your car there at a free city parking lot. Then go left through Friedrich Engels street to Gastaeva, then turn right through Gastaeva street. You can go by car and leave it at the Svyatye Vorota (Holy Gate). There are no signs prohibiting parking in the area.

As we can see, Alexander’s monastery is not the most popular tourist attraction, although this place has an ancient history. Perhaps an ordinary tourist will not see here anything outstanding in comparison with other temples of the city. This object will attract more those who go for silence and peace.

Alexander’s Monastery

On the slopes of the river Kamenka in Suzdal is one of the main attractions of the city. Here you can see the Alexander Monastery. It is located on an elevation and therefore the bell tower behind its walls and immediately behind it the tip of the Ascension Church – the main construction of the monastery – are already visible from afar. Other buildings are hidden in the trees on the shore and become visible only when approaching the complex.

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Alexander monastery in Suzdal

It is a very quiet and beautiful place that is definitely worth visiting. The view of the complex is so picturesque that often artists have tried to portray it in their paintings. It is located just a few hundred meters from the central Lenin Street. So guests of the city can take a walk to one of the most interesting historical buildings and attractions of Suzdal.

History of the Alexander Monastery in Suzdal

The monastery was founded back in the 13th century. According to some data it was founded by Alexander Nevskiy himself. As the chronicles say, he willed to build the monastery before the battle with the German knights in 1240. And he eventually built the first wooden church of the future complex. However, this building has not survived until nowadays, only information about it survived. At different periods of its history, including the 14th century, the rulers sympathized with the monastery. That is why it received lands and grounds in its possession. It is assumed that it was at this time that the monastery began to be called the “Great Lavra”. It had a charitable purpose.

Widows and orphans, who were left without breadwinners after the attack of enemies on Suzdal, received shelter and subsistence in the monastery. Unfortunately, all constructions of that period of history are already lost. The reason for that were aggressive actions of Polish-Lithuanian invaders, by whose efforts Suzdal was almost ruined in the beginning of the 17th century. Certainly, the Alexander Nevskiy Monastery suffered a lot too, and was almost ruined. Some constructions were erected soon, but they did not stand long.

Toward the end of the 17th century the full-fledged restoration of the monastery began. In 1695, the Ascension church was built on the territory of the monastery. It was erected on the place where a wooden tent church used to stand. The church was built in a style that was typical for that time. It is monumental and austere. The architects used a high chapel with two tiers of windows, crowned with a high pentagon. The tetrahedron itself is decorated with six corbel arches. The windows of the construction are decorated with patterned platbands. Interestingly, on the first tier they resemble the platbands of Peter and Paul Church, the second tier differs in that the windows are supplemented with original figured columns. In the future this kind of decoration will spread to other Suzdal temples.

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On facades of the central part of the temple one can see portals decorated with “beads” of white stone. On the east side of the main part of the church is a modestly sized apse. On the western side, there is a porch. There is a door in its northern wall. Through this door it is possible to enter the so-called “warm” annex. Given its temperature features – its purpose was the winter divine services.

The bell tower of the Alexanderovsky Monastery in Suzdal

Unusually looks a bell tower, which is located in the monastery. If, of course, to compare it with other similar structures of Suzdal. It is an octahedron, at the base of which there is a low cube. This whole construction is covered with a high hipped roof. From the point of view of decorations of a belltower it is remarkable by its total absence. Actually this feature gives the building a special strict style. The bell tower, which stands next to the cathedral, rises above the rest of the landscape and thanks to the high elongated tent it is visible from afar. If you climb the bell tower, you can see a wonderful panorama of Suzdal neighborhoods.

In the 18th century the monastery got its own brick fence. It was supplemented with original towers, which imitated more monumental towers, usually intended for defense.

The Holy Gate of the Alexander Monastery

The Holy Gate was also built at that time. All these structures are the work of the Suzdal mason Gryaznov. He also took part in the erection of the Trinity monastery. Until now in the Alexander monastery only a part of a fence created by Gryaznov survived. Experts say that the loss of significant portions of the wall is one of the main losses in the architectural appearance of the monastery.

The Holy Gates of the Alexanderovsky Monastery in Suzdal

Fortunately, the Holy Gate has survived and was restored in 1947. It is a simple, one-bay structure with no extravagances. The only additions to the structure are octagonal windows, which in turn were decorated with a chapel.

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History of the monastery as a convent ended in 1764, when reforms of Catherine II abolished many similar institutions. Since then the main temple of the complex became a parish church.

Already in the 21st century the status of the monastery has changed. In 2006, the Vladimir-Suzdal eparchy took it over. Since then the monastery resumed its activity, but as a masculine monastery.

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The monastery is situated on the bank of the river Kamenka between Spaso-Evfimiev monastery and Rizopolozhensky monastery. Passage from the central Lenin street.

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