Sergiev Posad

Saturday 11 June: Day 2 of the 2011 Russia trip

We left Moscow and travelled to the small town of Sergiev Posad, famous for the magnificent monastery of St Sergius.  I visited the town before in 1987, in Soviet times, when it was known as Zagorsk (named after the revolutionary Vladimir Zagorski). Even in those anti-religious times, the monastery was permitted by the authorities to be a functioning place of worship and seminary for monks, and drew crowds of pilgrims.

On the way we visited the museum-preserve of Abramtsevo (more about that lovely place in a future blogpost…) and arrived in Sergiev Posad to find the monastery packed with the faithful, ready to celebrate Trinity Sunday the following day.

There are two great museum collections within the monastery complex. In the Sacristy the collection of ecclesiastical art includes gold and silver liturgical and devotional objects, and embroidered icons, palls and vestments. A short walk took us outside the monastery walls to another building where the collection of folk art has been newly displayed as a museum of village life. There were many examples of peasant dress from various regions of Russia, together with wooden artefacts, such as carved roof beams and painted distaffs. We learnt a lot about peasant life and beliefs from our guide. We were not allowed to take photographs because the curators have not yet recorded the new interpretation themselves. Quite understandable but a pity, because I would like to have had some images of this beautifully designed and fascinating display.  As seems to be the case in most small museums in Russia, there were no postcards or publications to buy.

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Early next morning some of us went into the monastery and watched the priests in spectacular green vestments processing into one of the cathedrals. Many of the spectators lining their route held up bunches of birch twigs.  ["In Russian tradition, the church floor is strewn with mown grass at Trinity, and the icons are decorated with birch branches. Orthodox clergy wear green vestments, which symbolises the Holy Spirit’s life-giving power and the renewal it brings."]

 

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