Monday, July 03, 2017

30 years ago today: The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, a renowned monastery in what was then Zagorsk.

Previously: 30 years ago today: A fine meal at the Hotel Moskva.

If my sparse notes are to be trusted, the group tour itinerary for July 1, 1987 involved a day trip by bus to Zagorsk, a city of 110,000 lying roughly 50 miles from Moscow. We returned to the capital after the visit, and later boarded a train for an overnight ride to Leningrad, arriving the morning of July 2.

Zagorsk, which in 1991 reverted to its original name of Sergiyev Posad, grew up around the a 14th-century monastery called Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. The monastery is considered to be the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church, a particularly auspicious identity given that prior to the Russian Revolution, the all-encompassing political power of Tsar and Church were virtually synonymous.

Discontent with the autocracy inevitably sparked antipathy to the Russian Orthodox Church, helping to explain the post-revolutionary "rebranding" of Sergiyev as Zagorsk; Vladimir Mikhailovich Zagorsky was a Bolshevik martyr, albeit one of such insignificance that Wikipedia doesn't even include a biography of him.

Still, Lenin and his progeny never succeeded in erasing religious belief, and subsequently adopted a far more pragmatic approach than today's ISIS, preserving those prominent bits of Orthodox architecture (Trinity Lavra, St. Basil's) calculated to serve the interests of tourists bearing hard currency, while allowing the remainder of the church's far-flung local infrastructure to rot.

My photos at Trinity Lavra were taken outdoors, but the grandeur of the site is better revealed inside the buildings. Even in Soviet times, there were bearded priests dressed in dark colors, intricate hymns being sung, with candles and icons everywhere. The vibe was patriarchal and mystical. The traditional Russian Orthodox liturgy is in Slavonic, the Slav root language from local variants emerged.

All in all, the visit to Zagorsk made for an interesting afternoon, as though stepping back into time. Here's a borrowed photo with just a taste of what's inside.

Following are my exterior photos from 1987.

Next: Beer, vodka and Leningrad.

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