VALAAM

Heyday of monastery at Abbot Damaskin


The Abbot Damaskin.

In the time of Abbot Damaskin (Kononov, 1794-1881), Valaam enjoyed prosperity Father Damaskin, the son of a Tver peasant, started wandering about the monasteries of Kiev and Northern lands at the age of twenty. In 1819 he reached Valaam, and the sagacious elder Euphimy, the disciple of the elders Feodor and Leonid, foreseeing the future of the young man, bowed before him. 'I am seeking salvation, teach me,' were the words that the Abbot-to-be could utter. He worked in the stables, in the bakery, in the sewing workshop, and every day he came to the elder to confess. After taking monastic vows in 1825, he stayed in the skete of All Saints, for that was the will of the prior, and later left to live in the desert. When a new Abbot had to be found, father Ignaty (Bryanchaninov), an outstanding ascetic and author, patron of Valaam, told emperor Nikolai I about father Damaskin. In December, 1838, he was ordained in St. Petersburg and became the Abbot. Father Damaskin was not only a wise spiritual instructor, but also a talanted builder and architect, agronomist, meteorologist and botanist (he was the first to start studying the climate and nature of Valaam), writer and bibliophile, historian and economist (the monastery treasury, empty before, in five years grew by 77,000 roubles, mostly due to donations). He established Nikolsky, Svyatoostrovsky, Predtechensky, Ilyinsky, Konevsky, and Avraamievsky sketes, added several remote islands to the property of the monastery where Tikhvinsky, Sergijevsky, and Ger-manovsky sketes were to be founded. He established a regular steam-boat communication between the island and the capital which allowed thousands of pilgrims visit Valaam. Valaam became the favourite place of many outstanding figures of Russian culture. Father Damaskin was in correspondence with the academicians: zoo-botanist Zheleznov, architect Gornostajev, philologist Vos-tokov, hydrographer Andreev, historian Solovjov, as well as with a famous philantropist countess Lambert. The president of the Art Academy F. Iordan, influenced by the conversations with the prior, not long before his death decided to adopt Orthodoxy. The Valaam monastery, reformed by Abbot Damaskin, was visited by many well-known people of Russia: artists F.A. Vasiljev, I.I. Shishkin (the 'Shishkin pine' is still alive), A.I. Kuindzhi, K.A. Korovin, N.K. Roerich, M.K. Klodt, poets and writers F.I. Tiutchev, A.N. Muravjov, A.N. Apuhtin, N.S. Leskov, K.K. Sluchevsky, composers P.I. Chaikovsky, A.K. Glazu-nov, geologists A.A. Inostrantsev and M.N. Mikluho-Mak-lai, philosopher VS. Solovjov, chemist D.I. Mendeleev, and folklorist E. Ljonnrot.


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VALAAM