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Kursk Oblast

Kursk Root Hermitage

Among ancient Russian monasteries, the Kursk Root Hermitage of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God has always been one of the best known. It is one of the first monasteries in Kursk krai. The Root Hermitage is situated on the right bank of the Tuskar River, 30 kilometers fr om Kursk to the north. The crosses of monastery churches shine with gold against the dark blue of the surrounding fores. White-stone paths lead down to the river and to the church-over-the-well of life-giving spring, with slim ledges resembling the entrances into the caves of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra or the Athos Monastery.

It was founded in 1597 in the place of appearance of the Kursk-Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign. In 1295 where the town of Svoboda now stands, there were dense forests where people used to come to hunt. The hunters fr om Rylsk came there. One of them wandering through the forest saw and picked up a board. It turned out to be an icon and a spring appeared in its place. The pious hunter placed the board into a tree hollow and went after his fellows.

A wooden chapel was constructed in this place with several years. In the Times of Trouble, 1604, many Russian towns were captured by the troops of the impostor Grishka Otrepiev, who called himself the son of Ivan the Terrible. False Dmitry settled in Putivl while preparing to march on Moscow. In order to bring the people on his side, he requested the miraculous Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign.

With tears in their eyes, Kursk residents accompanied the holy icon, some all the way to Putivl. The cunning impostor met the holy icon with the proper honor. After capturing Moscow, he put it in the tsar's chambers. And in the absence of the icon, the recently constructed Root Hermitage was demolished by the Crimean Tatars.

In 1618 the holy icon returned fr om Moscow, wh ere it had stayed during the Times of Troubles. After the exile of False Dmitry from the capital, for some time it was held in the house of prince Dmitry Pozharsky. In 1634 both Kursk and the Holy Mother of God Monastery were demolished by the Poles and nine years later by the Crimean Tatars. But in those years, the Root Hermitage remained intact.

The period from the beginning of the 18th century saw a successful expansion of the monastery.  In 1713 the Church of Life-Giving Spring was built on the place wh ere the icon had appeared.  By the end of the 18th century, the hermitage looked quite complete.

From 1832-1835, steep stone descents were built, leading from the upper monastery square to the lower Church of Life-Giving Spring. The pathways fit in marvelously well with the rest of the monastery ensemble and provided maximal convenience to the pilgrims. From all of the stairs and platforms, the center of the church was in plan view and services clearly audible from all sides (the descents are currently being renovated to their original specifications).

The monastery's history is connected with the life of one of the most important illuminators of the past, Silvester Medvedev. He was a monk at the Root Hermitage from 1675-1678, and later become an important publisher and leading bibliographer.

The iconostasis installed at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Root Hermitage is one of the most important works of the craftsmen of the Holy Trinity brotherhood from the town of Shchigra in Kursk oblast. During the civil war, in 1919, the icon (which for the better part of the year was kept at the monastery of the Sign in Kursk) was taken away from Kursk: to Belgorod, Taganrog, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, Novorossiysk. On March 1, 1920, on the steamboat St. Nicholas it departed to Constantinople and from there to Greece and Serbia. For a short time at the request of General Wrangel, the icon was brought to Crimea to lift the spirits of his forces. In 1944, the icon was brought to Munich and later to the US, wh ere since 1957 it has been held at the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in New York.

The Tourist Information center of Kursk oblast /

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Address: Kursk oblast, Svoboda town

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