Sretensky Monastery: Church of the New Martyrs & Confessors

Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Sretenksy Monastery was founded in 1397 by Grand Prince Vasili I. The larger gold-domed cathedral is Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors, featuring icons of Orthodox Christians who suffered under or died as a consequence of Bolshevism, such as St. Hilarion Troitsky, whose full body was in repose there.

This particular building was completed in 2017 to mark 100 years since the October Revolution, when Bolsheviks began their godless attacks against the Orthodox Church. The monastery is in an area called Lubyanka, which was known for its infamous Soviet prison. It was said that if you went to Lubyanka, you would never be seen or heard from again.

Cross to the New Martyrs.

Close up of some of the exterior architectural detail.

Look at that huge Orthodox cross relief-sculpted into the side of the church. How gorgeous is that?

New martyrs and confessors surround the inner dome.

Icon of the Russian imperial family, the Romanovs. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, their five children (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei), and four servants (who chose to accompany them into imprisonment in Yekaterinburg) were shot and bayoneted to death by Bolsheviks in July 1918. There was great debate as to whether they were “martyrs” (people who are killed explicitly for their faith). But in 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate ultimately canonized the family as “passion bearers”: pious Christians who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner.

Another view of the dome where you can see the Romanovs among the new martyrs and confessors.

Icon of the Optina Elders.

St. Aleksandr Nevsky, 12th-century Christian who served as Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev, and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most difficult times in Kievan Rus’ history.

A small chapel located above large cathedral. A nice security guard let us check it out.

Sretensky Theological Seminary is within the monastery grounds.

Sretensky: Cathedral of the Meeting of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir

Cathedral of the Meeting of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir.

This is the smaller house of worship in Sretensky. Built circa 1679, it is also 338 year older than Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors. It features relics of St. Mary of Egypt and a replica of the Shroud of Turin. Some of the older churches at the seminary (as well as elsewhere throughout Russia and former Soviet republics) were “disassembled” by the communists. Some of these razed Sretensky churches dated back to the 14th century.

The origin of the monastery’s name comes from “Sretenie,” which is the Church Slavonic word for “meeting,” since it was built on the spot where the Muscovites and Prince Vasily I had “met” the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir on August 26, 1395, when it was moved from Vladimir to Moscow to protect the capital from the Mongols’ sacking and raping. Soon thereafter, the invading armies retreated and the grateful monarch founded the monastery to commemorate the miracle.

In 1552, the Muscovites “met” again at the walls of the monastery to greet the Russian army returning home after the conquest of Kazan under Ivan the Terrible. This putt an end to 100 years of Mongolian Khan rule in that city.

 

Another darkened, “forbidden” photo, although the accentuated candlelight really does illuminate the space nicely.

A stunning relief sculpture. There’s something about the wood that made it seem so real.

An identical copy of the Shroud of Turin.

Another version of the Shroud in a different exposure. It’s amazing how clearly you can see Jesus’ face in this one. Wow!

 

 

Christ smashing the gates of hell.

Archangels protect the Shroud, which is housed on the bottom floor of the church.

St. Mary of Egypt’s relics. She is one of the only female saints to be shown scantily clad and without a head covering, as she was naked when St. Zosimas found her in the desert. She had been a prostitute (who sometimes wouldn’t even accept money for her pleasurable acts), but she was transformed from sexual deviant to devout and sanctified Christ follower.

More royal doors on the outer edge of the smaller cathedral.

St. Stephen the Protomartyr.

The warm glow of Holy light from the cathedral bids us farewell from the monastery.

Donskoy Monastery

Approaching Donskoy from the road.

Donskoy Monastery, founded in 1591 on the Russian army line of defense against the invading Mongol Tatars. It is said that Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy, son of Ivan the Fair, had taken the Our Lady of the Don icon with him to the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Subsequently, the Tatars left without a fight and were defeated during their retreat. Dmitry became known as “Donksoy,” meaning “of the Don River.”

The Old Cathedral features a copy of this Donskaya Virgin icon on its outside, but the original 14th-century icon now resides in the the Tetrakov Gallery in Moscow. The monastery has seven churches and 12 towers.

Even the fresco-lined tunnel leading to the monastery is stunning.

Mosaic inside the tunnel.

Fresco telling the story of St. Tikhon.

Fresco of soldiers venerating the icon of the Donskaya Virgin icon, which was taken into battle against the continuously invading Mongols at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380 to strengthen, bless, and protect Russian soldiers, who were resisting 100 years of oppression, coercive tribute, and Golden-Horde invasion.

The outside of Old Cathedral shows a copy of the Donskaya Virgin icon.

The monastery’s bell towers and onion domes are also topped with half-moon crosses, which many say is meant to symbolize Christianity’s ultimate victory over Islam.

Monastery ground abound with beauty.

Fascinating architecture as far as the eye can see.

A shadowy Gabriel in the cemetery behind the main cathedral.

Glimmers of light enable some nice shots.

My friend says this looks like the swirled foam on top of a cappuccino.

 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s grave.

Another snuck photo in a very dark church since it was only illuminated by candlelight.

The body of Patriarch Tikhon, saint and New Martyr. He established the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America, encouraged the translation of the liturgy into English, resisted the Bolsheviks, was imprisoned in Donskoy after the Revolution, and was never flinching in his faith. He said, “Devote all your energy to preaching the word of God and the truth of Christ, especially today, when unbelief and atheism are audaciously attacking the Church of Christ. May the God of peace and love be with all of you!”

We got to venerate another icon of St. Nicholas at this spot. When we entered, we were met with visitors singing hymns and got anointed with oil by a Donskoy priest.

Leaving Donskoy.

Novodevichy Convent

Church of the Dormition

Novodevichy Convent, built circa 1524. Many of the 15 buildings on the fortress grounds were being renovated, so they were inaccessible, as was much of the cemetery. Buried there is Yeltsin, Khrushchev, Chekhov, and Stalin’s wife. Peter the Great banished his half-sister and first wife to this convent. Napoleon tried to blow it up before he fled the city, but a nun diffused his canons. We visited on the feast day of St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker, some of whose relics are there in Church of the Dormition, as well as relics of the Optina Elders, whose prayer is our of my favorites.

Pretty chapel in the park across the street as we’re entering.

Cool shot by Aleksandr right inside the monastery.

The 3 Amigos, Trisha, and Seraphim.

Beautiful grave in the monastery center.

Houston snaps a shot of Mom and Dad.

It’s a no-no to take pics inside the churches, but I snapped this quickie of St. Nicholas’ icon when Stephen and Aleksandr were behind me and the serious lady “bouncer” was looking away. No such luck with the Optina Elders relics, though.

Wide view of the Church of the Dormition.

The Virgin of Smolensk Cathedral is the main cathedral of the convent, but unfortunately, it was under renovation. Good for the monastery, bad for us. It is said that it’s modeled after the Kremlin’s Uspensky Cathedral.

One of the tower walls surrounding monastery.

 

The “Perfect” and Prominent King

The “Perfect” and Prominent King
By Houston
October 17, 2016

Alfred the Great is thought to be the most prominent ruler of the Anglo-Saxons. He was king of the West Saxons in Wessex, England, from 871 to 899. Amazingly, Alfred acquired the crown at the young age of 21 because all four of his brothers, who were king before him, died. He was foremost in virtue, so he was the only English ruler to be called “the Great.” Alfred was resolved in his fight against the tenacious Vikings. In fact, it is said that when he was once fleeing these raiders, a woman took him in, asking him to watch her the food she was cooking.

“Why have you burned my cakes, you imbecile?” rebuked the perturbed woman.

“I am sorry. I am King Alfred, and I was distracted because I am planning an attack on the heathen Vikings,” disclosed the contrite and cunning king.

Triumphantly, Alfred did defeat and make peace with them, even converting a Viking king to Christianity. He made education reforms by creating schools and monasteries throughout the land. Extolled by a myriad of historians as “perfect,” Alfred was without a doubt a great and prominent ruler.

The Burning of Troy

The Burning of Troy
By Gabriel
October 1, 2018

Long ago in ancient Greece, a gray, dusty castle was mysteriously quiet, but the wind howled ferociously outside the walls, while the thick, murky fog descended upon the city. King Menelaus awoke to find his wife Helen kidnapped by Paris, the puny prince of Troy. Menelaus, who was extremely sad that Helen was away, confidently vowed to rescue his wife. He called upon all the cunning kings of Greece. These leaders and their men journeyed with Menelaus to Troy to find the missing queen.

The majestically fashioned Troy had immense walls. For 10 years the Greeks could not enter the city, which was fantastically fortified. A smart warrior named Odysseus had an idea: to have men build a giant horse with wheels. Thirty soldiers would remain in the belly of the wooden animal, and the rest of the Greeks would sail to a nearby island and wait.

In the morning, the Trojans saw the horse, which they thought was a peace offering. They happily rejoiced because they assumed the war was over. The Trojans pushed the rustic creation into the gates and slept soundly. In the night the Greeks inside the horse opened the city gates for the returning Greeks, who killed the Trojans. Houses smoldered and cracked into the earth, and noxious smoked filled the air. The Greeks had burnt Troy to the ground and retrieved Helen.

The Rise of Constantinople

The Rise of Constantinople
By Houston
September 19, 2016

The barbarians were fatal for the Western Roman Empire, so it was imminent that this massive empire would fall. The stunned people were melancholy because they had lost their land. Interestingly, some intrepid parts of the Eastern Roman Empire, which had a brilliant capital city called Constantinople, withstood the tenacious attacks of the barbarians: this was called the Byzantine Empire.

In 527, Justinian the Great, who wanted to restore the glory of the Roman Empire, rose to power. So, his resolved armies fought and recaptured some land that had been stolen. This emperor intently gathered Roman laws into the Justinian Code, which made all the laws around his kingdom the same. Justinian’s once desecrated and dilapidated empire flourished, and Constantinople became the most majestic city in the world.

Augustine the Tenacious

Augustine the Tenacious
By Houston
September 26, 2016

Ambling along the bumpy, filthy cobblestone streets of Rome on a misty morning, Pope Gregory heard the rattling and clanking of chains, and the cruel screeching spewed forth from the traders. He witnessed the tears on the distraught, melancholy faces of the people on the blocks. The pope knew he had arrived in the fetid slave market.

The pope was stunned by something he saw: three slave boys, whose hair and skin were almost pure white. The intrigued, but bewildered pope sternly asked the slave traders from where the children came.

“They came from the island of Britain,” scoffed the traders. “They are called Anglo-Saxons.”

“No one should have to be a slave,” snapped the pope crossly, rebuking the slave traders for participating in the fatal business. “I’ll buy all three.”

He took the fatigued children home and kindly asked them about their land and their religion. Sadly, they didn’t know anything about God or the Bible.

Pope Gregory, who was downhearted, wanted to send missionaries to Southern England and asked Augustine to lead the massive effort. He and 40 monks, who were resolved to extol the virtues of Christianity, sailed to Britain. Upon arrival, they saw the king, who asked them why they were there.

“We are Christians,” Augustine intrepidly said, “and we’re here to tell your people about the Lord.”

The king generously acknowledged that they could live in Canterbury and preach. Many Anglo-Saxons were converted. In fact, on Christmas 597, Augustine baptized thousands. The pope sent more monks, who built churches all over Southern England. The pope also made the tenacious Augustine the Archbishop of Canterbury. Consequently, he is known as the Apostle of England.

An Eternally Remembered King

An Eternally Remembered King
By Zeke
September 24, 2018

Gilgamesh, who was the king of Urek, was a strong and brave ruler, but he was not content. He crossed the stunning Euphrates River, enormous deserts, and climbed vastly huge cliffs to find the man who could tell him about the plant of life. Gilgamesh learned that the life-giving twig was in the sea, so he started the drastically long journey to find it to henceforth live forever.

On his boat, Gilgamesh could smell the salt from the ocean and saw a radiant glow in the water. He determinedly jumped in and grabbed the shrub, which was covered with prickly thorns. As the king was traveling home, he could feel the dripping sweat on his hairy body, sense the mist from a nearby river, and stopped to take a swim in a pond. He put the plant on a rock, but a slick slithering serpent sucked up the slimy shrub and shed its scary scales. Gilgamesh was in despair! He decided to go back to Urek.

Just then an eagle majestically swooped down and took Gilgamesh on his back, showing him the city he’d made great from the sky. The bird, who was wise and kind, said the king would not have eternal life, but that he would live forever in the hearts of his people.

The Truly Majestic Colossus

The Truly Majestic Colossus of Rhodes
By Gabriel
September 16, 2018

Colossus of Rhodes was incredibly colossal. This radiant statue, which was 100 feet tall, was of the sun god Helios. The people of Rhodes believed Helios drove away the petrified enemy. They used the armor the attackers left behind to build the majestic monument.

It stood triumphantly for 56 years until it descended into the enormous ocean. Wonderfully, the thumb was found and lots of travelers came to see the digit. It was so immense that a grown man couldn’t stretch his arms around the thumb. Colossus of Rhodes was a truly grand wonder.