VALAAM

The skete of Smolensk icon of Our Lady


In Smolensky skete.

In the last skete built on Valaam there lived only one hermit, hieroschemamonk Ephrem (Khrobosov, in the small schema Georgy, 1871-1947). At the age of twelve he came to Valaam secretly and begged the Abbot to let him stay with the brethren. After twelve years as a novice he took vows and in four years was ordained. When he resided in Moscow, he was invited to serve as confessor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolajevich. In late June, 1914, the Grand Duke with his family, followed by father Georgy, visited Valaam when archbishop (later Patriarch) Sergius was there, and they suggested building a skete on the Skitsky island, where twelve elders would continuously read the Psalter in remembrance of the warriors who perished for their Faith, Tsar, and Motherland. The construction work lasted from 1915 to 1917, the church was designed by Grand Duke Peter Nikolajevich in the style of ancient churches of Pskov and Novgorod. The austere church had two helm-like domes. On June 24, 1917, archbishop Sergius consecrated it in honour of the Smolensk icon of Our Lady because the Valaam icon was not worshipped by all Orthodoxy.


The ruins of the church of Smolensky skete.
 

Father Georgy did not forget the idea of the Grand Duke. He settled in the skete and every day, starting at five in the morning, prayed for the heroes perished in the Great War. In 1919 he took vows of great schema. In his modest cell he received pilgrims, and secretly made his spiritual daughter, the Empress's maid of honour Anna Vyrubova, a nun. Gods' will let him die far from Valaam, evacuated to Finland. The Valaam icon of Our Lady also came to Finland, and is currently one of the most sacred things in the New Valaam monastery. The Smolenskaya church is in ruins now, but the chapel has been built anew.


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VALAAM