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Kaluga Oblast , Kozelsk

Optina Pustyn Monastery

Монастырь Оптина пустынь
Монастырь Оптина пустынь
Монастырь Оптина пустынь

Optina Pustyn is rightly considered to be a symbol of the revival in Russia at the end of the 18th century. Situated near a pine forest and divided fr om the world by the Zhizdra river, Pustyn was the perfect place for a solitary life. It was a spiritual oasis, wh ere the blessed gifts of the first centuries of monasticism were repeated. These gifts have been completely manifested in a special service — eldership. The elders in Optina stood apart with the highest of all gifts — the gift of discernment as well as the gift of prophecy, healing, and miracles.

The time of Optina Pustyn's foundation is not known. There is a supposition that it was founded by prince Vladimir the Brave, who liked monks, or by his closest heirs. According to another version it was founded in ancient times by a repented outlaw, Opta, who took the name Makary, when he became a monk, for which reason it was called Makarievskaya. But a more realistic supposition is that earlier the monastery was common for monks and nuns, hence the name Optina. Evidently it was founded by unknown hermits, who chose for their achievements a place in the forest, far from any dwelling, near the border with Poland, and inconvenient for animal husbandry, which nobody needed and nobody owned. Optina Pustyn is among the most ancient monasteries.

Optina Pustyn is about two kilometers from Kozelsk. The road crosses the Zhisdra river and runs along the magnificent monastery grove. T low fence and four corner towers were built around the monastery in 1832-1839. The monastery is almost square. The main cathedral of the monastery — Presentation of the Holy Virgin Cathedral — is in the center. The churches are placed around the cathedral in the form of a cross. The church of St. Mary of Egypt, reconstructed from an old refectory in 1858, is to the north. Kazan church built in 1811 is to the south, and Vladimir church (restored in 1999) is to the east. There is a skete behind the monastery grove. There used to be a cedar grove, which only the monks were permitted to enter, in the skete. All the cells and the fence of the skete were wooden.

Many great works of Russian literature are connected with Optina Pustyn. Dostoevsky came to Optina Pustyn right after a hard drama — the death of his son in 1877. He spent a short time in the skete, but many details of The Brothers Karamazov were inspired by this trip. Elder Amvrosy, who lived in the skete at Optina Pustyn at that time, was the prototype for the elder Zosima.

Tolstoy has a special affinity with Optina Pustyn: his sister M.N. Tolstaya was a novice at the convent in Shamordino founded by Amvrosy, his mother, born princess Volkonskaya, was buried in the necropolis of Optina Pustyn. Tolstoy's story The Farther Sergius was written mainly based on material from Optina Pustyn.

The monastery in skete had large libraries, which in 1929 were moved to the Lenin Library in Moscow. After the monastery's closure, the vacation retreat of the Workers» and Peasants» Red Army named after Maxim Gorky was placed here, and in 1939-1940 Kozelsk was a concentration camp for four thousand Polish officers. An agricultural school was placed in the monastery in 1952-1989. In 1989 the monastery was returned to the church. It is currently subordinate to the Patriarchy, and the Patriarch of All Russia is its guardian.

Official Page of Kaluga's Tourist Information Center / visit-kaluga.ru

Site on the map

Website: www.optina.ru
Address: Saint Presentation Optina Pustyn monastery the Kaluga region, Kozelsk


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