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Pskov Oblast , Pechora

Holy Dormition Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery

Свято-Успенский Псково-Печерский монастырь
Фотобанк Лори

The Holy Dormition Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery is one of the largest and richest monasteries in Russia. Its history stretches back many centuries. It has never closed fr om the day it was opened at the end of the 15th century.  

The monastery was founded by the Venerable Jonah. He chose this picturesque place to pray in solitude so he dug a small cave church in the mountain. In 1473 it was consecrated in the name of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

A major role in the monastery development was played by a 16th century state service clerk Misyur Munekhin, an educated and pious person. Misyur Munekhin patronized the future Father Superior of the monastery — martyr Kornily, under whose rule the monastery flourished: icon painting workshops operated, chronicles were kept, and an excellent library was collected. Father Superior Kornily started to educate the local Aesti people, but this was brought to an end by the military successes of Germans.

Under Kornily's rule the monastery was surrounded by a strong stone wall with nine towers and three gates. The stone Blagoveschenskaya (Annunciation) church and the Nikolskaya gate church were built inside.

The Pechorskaya fortress was built on Ivan the Terrible's order during the Livonian War, when siege and fortress artillery was already well developed. This had an impact on the strength of the fortifications. The fortress walls and towers follow the upper slope of a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flows the Kamenets stream. The walls gradually descend to this stream, forming a circle. The walls, 2 meters thick, stretch to a total length of 726 meters. The fortress has a battle history of nearly two centuries. The monastery withstood sieges by the army of Stephen Báthory during the Livonian War, by Polish hetman Chodkiewicz, and by the Swedish kings Carl Gustav and Carl XII. The military history of the fortress and its defenders ended with the Great Northern War and the subsequent moving of Russia's western border to the Baltic Sea.

The monastery is famous for caves, from where its history began. They became an underground burial vault. The caves are located in layers of dense sand in the natural karst voids wh ere the temperature is always constant, at close to 0°C. The bodies of the buried have been untouched by decay for centuries. The coffins are simply placed one on top of the other. At first the caves were rather small but as the necropolis grew, they were extended by the monks. Now they consist of two small rooms near the entrance and six long underground galleries. The caves house the bodies of warriors who perished during the Livonian War. Those buried in the caves include the ancestors of Tatishev, relatives of Kutuzov, the poet Plescheev, and the composer Mussorgsky.

There are currently eleven churches in the monastery, three of which are under the ground. The heart of the monastery is the Uspensky (Assumption) Cathedral, the first monastery church to be created in a cave and which was consecrated in 1473. This is a unique cathedral, is a popular destination for pilgrims from all over Russia and for tourists from other countries. The Uspensky Cathedral was initially just a small cave­ in a flank of a sandy mountain. Later, though, it was redesigned and its passages were made deeper. In 1523, for instance, a new cave part was created.

In the 18th century the mountain was given a baroque style facade. Crowned with multi-tiered domes and painted with frescoes, the cathedral is actually just a wall with its opposite­ side being a part of the mountain. The main monastery treasures­ are kept here: the icon «the Dormition of the Mother of God», painted by­ the icon painter Alexey Maly from the city of Pskov and given to the monastery as a gift in 1521, the icon «the Tenderness of the Pskovo-Pecherskaya Mother of God» and a unique 16th-century fresco «The Procession of the Righteous».

A stone sacristy was built in the late 17th century to hold gifts and contributions. It now houses the monastery library. At the monastery's lower site are the hospital church of Saint Lazarus, the church of the Meeting of the Lord, the House of Brothers, and a two-storey refectory. At the upper site there is another object of interest — the golden dome of the Archangel Michael Cathedral, built in 1827 using money donated by officers and soldiers who participated in the 1812 war.  Behind the Uspensky Cathedral domes, on the mountain in the monastery garden there is the wooden church of All Pskovo-Pechersky Saints.

About 100 cenobites live and work at the monastery. Every year on August 28, the main monastery holiday is celebrated — the Assumption of the Mother of God. Many pilgrims and guests from Russia and other orthodox lands come here to celebrate mass, with a cross procession bearing the miracle-working icon of the Assumption of the Mother of God carried around the monastery.

Official site of the Tourist Information Center of Pskov Oblast /

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Phone number: +7 (81148) 2-21-45
Address: 181500, Pskov Oblast, Pechory, Mezhdunarodnaya Street, 5

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