Location and nature of Valaam, legends about an origin of the name and about a most ancient history Valaam
There are places which seem to be especially destinied to glorify God, places reminding of the primordial harmony of the world. Often these places are separated by Nature from the surroundings. One of such places in Russia is Valaam, an archipelago in Ladoga Lake with the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour.
The total area of its fifty islands is thirty-six square kilometres. The wonderful nature of Valaam, according to the words of hidrographer A.P. Andreev, "is unique in Europe: sheer rocks rasing high from the depths, little islands, capes, bays... Straits, lakes surrounded by thick plants and sullen granite rocks reflect everything in their azure, and tall coniferous trees complete the marvelous, magnificent picture. "The name "Valaam"is translated from Finnish as "the high land", less probable are the translations "the land of vow" or "the land of light". Sometimes the name of the island is attributed to the name of the pagan god Baal (Veles), or the biblical prophet Balaam.
One of Valaam legends says that long time ago, before the finno-ugric and Slavic peoples inhabiting the shores of Ladoga lake adopted Christianity, the islands used to be a huge site of pagan sacrifices. The first of Christ's disciples, St. Andrew the First-Called went preaching in Scythian and Slavic lands and having visited Novgorod left for Valaam where he destroyed pagan altars and erected a stone cross. St. Andrew predicted the islands' great future. The prediction turned true after the establishing and further flourishing of the monastery which became an indispensable part of Valaam.