This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.
Brumfield is the world’s leading historian of Russian architecture. He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.
His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon). This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Here is our 2015 review of it.
Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield’s work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography. We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.
Don’t believe in miracles? Well, we can assure you, Brumfield’s work is undoubtedly just that. You can find a complete list of his articles on RI here.
The original headline for this article was: St. Avraam Gorodetsky Monastery: Picturesque site with ties to Lermontov
On the way to Soligalich in the northern part of Kostroma Region lies one of Russia’s most picturesque monasteries, located on a steep bluff overlooking the deep blue Lake Chukhloma. The monastery is dedicated both to the Intercession of the Virgin and to its founder, St. Avraamy of Gorodets. Also known as Avraamy of Galich and Avraamy of Chukhloma, this venerable sage led a monastic existence for much of the 14th century until his death in July 1375.
Avraamy was tonsured at the Nizhny Novgorod Cave Monastery, but he soon moved to the renowned Trinity Monastery to the north of Moscow. Like other Russian monastic pioneers in the 14th century, Avraamy was a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1322?-1392), founder of the Trinity Monastery and the avatar of Muscovite monasticism.
At some point in the middle of the century, Sergius gave his blessing to Avraamy’s departure for the Galich principality, far to the northeast of Moscow. In the area of Lake Galich and its nearby town, Avraamy established three monasteries, all of which would be reduced to simple parishes during the monastic reforms of Catherine the Great.
Seeking greater isolation, Avraamy moved to the north shore of Lake Chukhloma, where he built a log chapel at the water’s edge. As other monks asked to join him, Avraamy gave his blessing to a community to be established on the bluff above his hermitag and a wooden church dedicated to the Intercession of the Virgin was built there. Sensing his impending death in the summer of 1375, Avraamy moved a short distance from the monastic community and passed away. His remains were interred at the Intercession Church.
During the 15th century, the monastery received donations from the region’s nobility, and from the princes of Galich and Moscow. Much of its income came from salt refining derived from the area’s many brine pools. Grand Prince Ivan III (the Great) also gave the monastery exclusive fishing rights in the late 15th century.
By 1553, Avraamy was locally venerated at what had become known as the Intercession-Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery. (The Russian Orthodox Church has a system of locally venerated saints in addition to those whose sainthood is venerated throughout the Church.) In 1981, his sainthood was acknowledged by the church as a whole.
As was usual in Russia, the Gorodetsky Monastery for the first centuries of its existence was built entirely of wood. The monastery’s original masonry structure, the modest Church (Cathedral) of the Intercession, was begun in 1607 and consecrated in 1632. It is one of the few churches initiated during the brief reign (1606-1610) of Tsar Vasily Shuisky, who had the misfortune to rule during the dynastic crisis known as the Time of Troubles and died in 1612 as a prisoner of Polish King Sigismund III Vasa.
The Intercession Cathedral also contained a chapel dedicated to the Prophet Elijah, as well as the remains of the venerable Avraamy. Vandalized during the Soviet period, the church itself survived, and its interior has been sensitively restored both with wall paintings and with a new icon screen.
By the mid 17th century, the monastery gained another brick church, dedicated to St. Nicholas and built over the Holy Gates, or main entrance, on the west side of the monastic compound. This church, with an additional altar to St. Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa, has also been restored.
During the reign of Catherine the Great, the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery was stripped of its landholdings, but continued to survive on local donations. In the 19th century, it further benefited from the large trading fairs (the Avraamy Fairs) that were held near the monastery several times each year.
Indeed, the monastery’s regional prominence and favored location led to a surge of construction in the latter half of the 19th century. The first phase began in 1857 with the dismantling of the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah attached to the north wall of the Intercession Cathedral. In its place, a large cathedral dedicated to the locally revered Tenderness Icon of the Virgin was built during the decade from 1857 to 1867. Fortunately, the 17th-century Intercession Cathedral was preserved, and the two structures were connected by a passage.
The design of the new cathedral followed the Russo-Byzantine style developed by the prominent architect Constatine Thon, author of the original Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The structure, crowned with four large cupolas, has extensive paintings on its white facade. The interior is well illuminated and has a new icon screen.
After the completion of the Tenderness Icon Cathedral, work began in the 1870s on a grand four-tiered bell tower over the North Gate. Together with new cloisters, the 19th-century buildings transformed the monastery’s appearance.
Following the Russian revolution, the monastery was subject to harassment throughout the 1920s and closed in 1929. During the Soviet period, the buildings were used for various purposes, including as a village school, but vandalism and lack of maintenance took their toll. The monastery walls and part of the St.Nicholas Gate Church were dismantled for brick by local villagers. An attempt to conserve the monastery in the early 1970s had only limited effect. Under these circumstances, it is something of a miracle that the historic structures were preserved at all.
A sustained revival of the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery began in 1990, and in 1991, the first liturgy was held. Since then, the monastery has regained its active status and attracts numerous pilgrims. Its three churches have been beautifully restored and the cloisters refurbished. Parts of the monastery cemetery, which was desecrated during the Soviet period, have also been reclaimed.
One of the most interesting discoveries in the cemetery is a wooden chapel consecrated in 1997 to honor the 400thanniversary of the birth of George Learmonth, a Scottish mercenary who entered the service of Polish King Sigismund III Vasa during the Polish-Muscovite War (1609-1618). Captured by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky at the siege of the Bely Fortress in 1613, George Learmonth decided to enter Russian service, and after years of loyalty, was granted land in the Chukhloma area. Killed in battle against Polish forces in 1633, he was buried at the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery.
George Learmonth’s most famous descendant was one of Russia’s greatest writers, Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841). There is no evidence that the young poetic genius and author of the psychological masterpiece A Hero of Our Time (1838-1840) visited the monastery, yet its connection to his courageous Scottish forefather is now commemorated.
Thanks to the efforts of the “Lermontov Heritage” Association (which includes Lermontov family descendants in the United States) as well as the support of the Diocese of Kostroma and Galich, a chapel-monument to the Lermontovs now stands on the sacred territory of the Intercession-Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery.
Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row
The killing on Saturday evening in the western town of Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, is believed to be the first in Germany linked to the government’s coronavirus rules.
The row started when the cashier, a student, told the customer to put on a face mask, as required in all German shops. After a brief argument, the man left.
The suspect then returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he brought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off the mask and another discussion ensued.
“The perpetrator then pulled out a revolver and shot him straight in the head,” prosecutor Kai Fuhrmann told reporters on Monday.
The suspect, a 49-year-old German man, walked to a police station the following day to turn himself in. He was arrested and has confessed to the murder.
He told police he felt “cornered” by the coronavirus measures, which he perceived as an “ever-growing infringement on his rights” and he had seen “no other way out”, Fuhrmann said.
Idar-Oberstein mayor Frank Fruehauf called it “an unfathomable, terrible act”, and residents have laid flowers and candles outside the petrol station.
The murder comes just days before Germans head to the polls for a general election on September 26 that will see Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics after 16 years.
Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Green party, tweeted that she was “deeply shaken” by the killing, which she said was “the cruel result of hatred”.
Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner from Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, who hails from the region, said the murder was “shocking”.
The Tagesspiegel newspaper said far-right chat groups on Telegram were applauding the murder, with one user writing “Here we go!!!” while others posted thumbs-up emojis.
Germany has seen repeated protests from anti-mask demonstrators throughout the pandemic, some of them attracting tens of thousands of people.
The Querdenker (Lateral Thinkers) movement has emerged as the loudest voice against the government’s coronavirus curbs and regulations. Its marches have drawn a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of Germany’s far-right AfD party.
Remains found in Dublin adds intrigue to search for Robert Emmet’s grave
Skeletal remains have been found at one of the locations identified as a possible last resting place of Robert Emmet who was executed on this day in 1803.
The remains were found during an excavation at the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter in Dublin.
The disappearance of the body of Robert Emmet is one of the great mysteries of Irish history.
Emmet was tried and then hanged for instigating the ill-fated 1803 rebellion. He became a symbol of Irish martyrdom for his speech from the dock in which he concluded: “Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”
After he was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803, his head was displayed to the crowd by the hangman Thomas Galvin. The remains of Emmet’s body was taken to Bully’s Acre in the grounds of what is now the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and buried there.
When some of his friends went to reintern his remains from Bully’s Acre to St Michan’s Church in Church Street, a church associated with the United Irishmen, they found there was no body there, and so began a search which endures to this day.
His great-nephew Dr Thomas Addis Emmet requested an archaeological dig at the family vault in St Peter’s Church in Aungier Street to mark the centenary of Emmet’s death in 1903, but that proved to be unsuccessful.
St Paul’s Church is another contender in the saga of Emmet’s remains. It was the parish church of Kilmainham Gaol’s doctor and effective governor Dr Edward Trevor.
In his book In the Footsteps of Robert Emmet, JJ Reynolds speculated that Trevor removed Emmet’s body and put it in an unmarked grave in the grounds of St Paul’s Church. This was to ensure that his grave would not become a shrine for Irish nationalism.
The church, which was the venue for the consecration of the philosopher George Berkeley as Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, has been converted into the Spade Enterprise Centre, a not-for-profit social enterprise unit.
The land where the skeletal remains were found is being turned into a shared kitchen for small business enterprises in the area.
Archaeologist Franc Miles said burials in the grounds were from 1702 to the 1860s. A extant set of burial records remain, but Emmet, if he really is buried there, would have no record.
Previous exhumations were carried out when the graveyard was closed in 1860s to make way for a school on the site.
“With all the evacuations, we were left with bits and pieces of body. There weren’t many full skeletons,” he said.
Mr Miles said it all the gravemarkers and stones were removed in the 1860s “so all you are left with really are bones.”
Mr Miles said it would be difficult if not impossible to identify Emmet’s remains even if they are buried in the grounds of St Paul’s Church.
His own “educated guess” is that Emmet’s body is still buried somewhere in Bully’s Acre.
As many of his supporters have said over the last two centuries: “Do not look for him. His grave is Ireland.”
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