VALAAM

Valaam monastery in XVIII - beginning XIX century


Valaam at Abbot Nazary.

According to the Nishtadsky peace agreement of 1721, Western Karelia was returned to Russia. In 1715, emperor Peter I had ordered to reconstruct the Valaam monastery. In 1719 the wooden Cathedral of Transfiguration, built upon the Saints'relics, was consecrated. In the time of hieromonk losif (Sharov, 1724-1750), the monastery regained its territories on the archipelago. But God sent new trials to the monks: fires in 1748,1750, and at Easter 1754, when all wooden buildings were burnt to ashes. Twice empress Elizabeth made considerable contributions for the restoration work. In 1755 the new buildings of the church of Assumption, the five-domed cathedral of Transfiguration, and the church of Christmas were consecrated again. They were surrounded by a wooden fence with chapels. In 1764, the order of Catherine II deprived Russian monasteries of their holdings. Lands donated to the monasteries were withdrawn from them. 754 cloisters out of 954 were left without any compensation from the state. The Valaam monastery was among them. The Church deprived of Patriarch in the time of Peter I and included into the state system, lost much of its former power and independence. The spiritual life was in decline, many monasteries were in desolation.

Though Russian monasticism suffered a hard blow, in the late XVIII century it started rising again, first of all spiritually. It became possible thanks to the efforts of the followers and disciples of St. Paisy (Velichkovsky), who had revived ancient ascetic movement of elders and inner perfection. The elders accepted the soul and the will of their disciples into their own soul and will (F.M. Dostojevsky), the latter confessed in their thoughts and deeds constantly and sincerely, overcoming vanity and pride. This tradition was supported by a number of well-known hierarchs of the church of Russia. Some other measures were also taken to resume the former glory of Russian monasticism.

Thanks to the efforts of one of those hierarchs, the metropolitan of Novgorod and St. Petersburg Gavriil (Petrov), the Valaam cloister was headed by hieromonk Nazary (Kondratiev, 1735-1809), an elder from the Sarov Hermitage which was famous for the good organization of the monastic life. He introduced the Sarov Rule in Valaam and rearranged the life of the cloister.


The Abbot Nazary.
 

The Rule controls all aspects of monks' life and the conduct of services. The strictness of the Rule may be attributed to the fact that it is very difficult to keep the monastic vows without certain restrictions. Keep spiritual and corporeal silence, 'consider yourselves and condemn yourselves', taught father Nazary his disciples. It was forbidden to take any donations or any monastery property, drink alcohole, leave the cloister, receive secular visitors, or correspond with them without prior's consent. Long services started at 4 p.m., then at midnight. Vespers were traditionally served all night long. In the time of father Nazary, traditional forms of communal and anchoretic monastic life were established in Valaam. There were usually up to ten or fifteen monks living in a skete, the skete rule being stricter. We can add that the present-day monks in their life and especially their services follow the main points of the Sarov-Valaam rule. The main achievement of Abbot Nazary was the construction of the five-domed stone cathedral surrounded by the square of monastery buildings with the churches of Assumption (1785) and St. Nicolas (1793). The construction was designed by the Abbot himself and accomplished in 1785-1801. The architecture of the cathedral of Transfiguration was close to that of the cathedrals of the Sarov Hermitage and Byzantine monasteries. Blessed by Abbot Nazary in 1794, six monks from Valaam and two from Konevets headed by archimandrite loasaf (Bolotov) left for Alaska and established an Orthodox mission there. Among them was St. German, a Valaam monk. Over 12,000 Aleutians adopted Christianity. But bishop loasaf and other members of the mission perished in a shipwreck. Hieromonk luvenaly was martyred. Only St. German, until his death in 1837, remained the intercessor and enlightener of the Aleutians who worshipped him as a saint even in his lifetime. After his death the Valaam mission was over and the Orthodox Church in Alaska continued by itself. To commemorate the 200-th anniversary of the mission, a plain wooden cross was risen in Valaam in the field where St. German's secluded cell once stood. The 'Russian America' society participated in rising of the cross with a plaque. Thus the old Valaam tradition of erecting crosses in various parts of the island was maintained.

Having established the Valaam cloister, elder Nazary retired and lived in his cell (now destroyed) near the Abbot cemetery. He occupied himself with prayer and hand-work: he cut maple spoons and rosaries, cypress crosses, worked in the garden and at haymaking. In 1804 he returned to the Sarov Hermitage.

Father Nazary's successor, Abbot Innokenty (Morujev),born in Olonets, had come to the cloister as early as 1765.


The Znamensky (Tsar's) Chapel.

In the time of Abbot Innokenty, in 1819, emperor Alexander I unexpectedly visited the monastery 'as a simple pilgrim'. He arrived on a small boat, almost without a retinue, from Serdobol (Sortavala). The tsar entered the cathedral, kissed the icons, got the blessings of all hieromonks, enquired about the services and came to the morning service earlier than anybody else, at 2 a.m. After the service he walked around the monastery, visited the skete of All Saints and the cell of hermit schema-monk Nikolai. He could hardly enter the cell, so small it was. (The upper part of the elder's tomb still remains.)

The tsar talked with the elder, and speaking about the war he said that 'it is not we who defeat the enemies, it's God. When you rely on God and ask him for advice, everything turns so good that the previous plan seems just miserable.' By the tsar's will the monastery was certified as a first class one and the Abbots were granted a diamond ring with a cross. Next royal visit of the monastery was in 1858, in the time of Abbot Damaskin, when emperor Alexander II came to the island together with his family, among them was the heir who was to become the tsar Alexander III. To commemorate the visit, a chapel designed by A.M. Gornostajev was erected by the stair of 62 steps leading to the pier. The chapel, named Tsarskaja'(the 'tsar chapel') was to honour the icon of the Our Lady The Sign' (1865).


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VALAAM