Valaam Island is the biggest island in Lake Ladoga
The island is located 22 km from the mainland. Waterway along Ladoga takes enough time to “clean” the eyes, ears and imagination for new impressions. If you first came to the North, swimming in itself will open up a wonderful world: the waves of the lake-sea, wind, gulls, granite shores with jagged rocks and pine groves. For those who sought a spiritual refuge on Valaam, his natural beauty, “exciting awe of the Creator,” was just as important as the solitude of the island.
Nowadays, the island can hardly be called secluded, at least in the summer season. Increasingly are talking about at least limiting the incessant flow of guests to Valaam, or even banning entry at all. But for now there are enough people here. From the Resurrection Skete, from which tours to Valaam usually begin, a minibus runs to the monastery, the “tourist sector” is more than developed, there is a brisk trade in souvenirs everywhere. Most travelers come to the island in two ways: as pilgrims through the pilgrimage service of the Valaam monastery or as part of secular tourist groups. But if you want to feel the legendary atmosphere of the island, you should break away from the excursions and explore Valaam on your own.
The permanent inhabitants of Valaam are slightly more than two hundred people, most of them are monastic brethren. In addition to the monastery, there is also the village of Valaam and a small military base, where, naturally, guests are not welcome. The relationship between monastic and worldly islanders, as in Solovki, is complex. Orders on the island determine the church authorities. Valaam Monastery is subordinated directly to the patriarch, who personally appoints the hegumen. This "monastic republic", with its own hierarchy and laws, "northern Athos". The main cathedral of the monastery is the Holy Transfiguration Valaam Monastery, completely rebuilt in the XIX century. In the cathedral you can hear the famous Valaam church singing, which is actively being revived.
One of the oldest and most impressive sights is the skete of Alexander Svirsky on the Holy Island 8 kilometers from the monastery. In fact, there are a dozen sketes on Valaam, where the monks went to live in complete solitude, having renounced the world. Looking at the local nature, even a purely secular person is able to understand this desire.
In the south of the island of Valaam there are remains of buildings of the Mannerheim Line, which will be of interest to lovers of military history.
Motor ships are moored in the deep-water Great Nikonovsky Bay. From it to the central manor of the monastery there is a road 6 km long. It leads to a large square, to the left of which there is a memorial stele of black stone, where the names of the highest persons who visited Valaam are carved.
Opposite the stela is the chapel of the Icon of Our Lady “The Sign”, designed by architect Alexei Gornostayev in 1862. The complex of the central manor was formed in the XVIII-XIX centuries. Above the main entrance to the monastery is the Gate Peter and Paul Church. The main cathedral is the five-domed Spaso-Preobrazhensky 1887-1896 years of construction. This is the third Transfiguration Cathedral in the monastery: the previous buildings were either burnt down or were destroyed. The two-storey cathedral, the lower church was consecrated in the name of Sergius and Herman, the Valaam miracle workers. Here are their relics. The upper church was consecrated in the name of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The five-tier 72-meter bell tower of the temple ends with a hipped roof.
Above the Big Nikon's Bay, on the mountain of the same name, stands the Resurrection (Red) Skete. This is the only inactive skit on Valaam. Here is the pilgrimage service of the monastery. All buildings of the monastery are built of bright red brick. These are the two-tier Resurrection Church of 1906 and three cell buildings surrounded by a fence with carved gates. In the temple, in a marble grotto, a piece of the Holy Sepulcher is stored, a piece of stone from Jerusalem.. The upper church was consecrated in the name of the Holy Resurrection of Christ. From the west, a three-tiered bell tower was attached to the church.
At the crossroads of the main monastery road and the one that leads to the Konevsky Skete, the Gethsemane (Yellow) Skete is located. Here stands the Church of the Assumption with a high two-tier bell tower, Voznesenskaya Chapel, cell buildings and a small chapel "Praying for the Chalice." South of the skete - Nikon lake.
Not far from the Gethsemane Skete there is the Small Nikon's Cove. On its right bank rises Mount Eleon - a rock 40 meters high. At the beginning of the 20th century, a gray granite worship cross was erected here, and in 1912 a wooden five-domed Voznesenskaya chapel with a beautiful porch was erected on the top of Mount Eleon. Both the cross and the chapel are clearly visible from afar.
From the Mount Eleon along the forest path you can go to the Konevsky (Igumensky) lakes, which are named after the Konevsky skete built here in 1870. These are the lakes Igumenskoe (the largest), Mustojärvi and the smallest - Ossiyevo. At the foot of the rock are the remains of the basement of the cell of Damaskin, who lived here as a hermit. Damaskin (Kononov) - one of the most prominent devotees of the monastery, a native of Tver peasants, who became abbot and led Valaam to flourish in the XIX century.
Not far from Konevsky Skete, on the shore of Lake Sisyayarvi, there is a monastery farm built back in 1881: a two-story cell building and a barn.
The monastery bay, where small ships are moored, cuts through the island of Valaam almost exactly from north to south. Not far from the pier there is the Blagoveshchensk chapel, built at the end of the 18th century, and on the coast of the gulf in 1896 the chapel of the Icon of the Virgin of All the Sorrows of Joy was erected with a bell tower. Under the western walls of the monastery there is a wooden Pokrovskaya chapel, restored in 1982 according to old drawings.
Nikolsky Skete is located on Nikolsky Island, a kilometer from the central manor, at the entrance to the Monastery Bay. The sketean buildings are the Nikolskaya Church and the private building with the home church of John of Damascus, consecrated at the end of 1865. The Church of St. Nicholas was created by the project of the architect Gornostaev in 1853.
To the east of the central manor, just a kilometer walk away, is the Igumenskoye Cemetery, where all the priors of the monastery are buried, starting with Damascus. In 1876, the Church of the Venerable Fathers was erected at the cemetery, and they began to shine through fasting and prayer. Hegumen Damascus himself is buried at the altar of the church.
You can get to the second largest island of Valaam - Skitsky by the granite one-arch Vladimirsky bridge, which is laid over an artificial channel. On the arch of the bridge there is an inscription “This resumption of the ditch in 1860”. Behind the bridge, on the right, stands a small wooden Vladimir Chapel. On the shores of Lake Sisyjärvi, on the way to the skete of All Saints, the Shishkinskaya pine has been growing for 350 years. It was this pine that the great Russian artist Ivan Shishkin repeatedly painted on sketches.
The skete of All Saints, located on the Skete island, is famous for the chapel in the name of the Cross Suffering of the Lord, built in 1842 by the project of the architect Brandt. The skit has the size and shape of a small monastery - it is surrounded by a fence with corner towers. In addition to the chapel, there are cell buildings, utility rooms and, of course, the Church of All Saints.
On the territory of the monastery, women are strongly encouraged to cover their heads with a handkerchief and wear a skirt. If there is no skirt, it will be offered for rent - you can simply put it on over jeans. It is necessary to take care of appropriate clothing in advance.
Valaam is called the "northern Athos", although women are allowed on the island, unlike the Greek Mount Athos. However, in the skete of All Saints, in accordance with the strictest regulations, only men can enter, with the exception of one day in a year - the holiday of All Saints.
Since 1995, in the Valaam military unit, it has been allowed to perform military service to monastic monks who have reached military age and to “pious Orthodox youths” if they do not want to serve on common grounds and are ready to live according to the monastic rules.
Valaam is attracted not only by Orthodox pilgrims, but also by those who believe in all sorts of "forces", dark and light. In this sense, the Divniy island is particularly distinguished. Mysterious creatures, ghosts, and UFOs were seen on it.
Smoking and strong alcohol are prohibited on Valaam. Once pilgrims who arrived on the island drunk, were sent to sobering to the appropriate island with the corresponding name Drunk. Recently, due to the general commercialization of Valaam, the attitude has softened. But drinking is not worth it.
You can arrange a private motorboat trip at a reasonable price with the locals.
On the Nikonovskaya Gora there is an observation deck, from where a magnificent panorama of the Big Nikonov Bay and the three islands of Ladoga - Nikonovsky, Ovsyany and Rye (Lihochun) - opens.
From the summit of Mount Eleon offers a stunning view of the Malaya Nikonovskaya Bay and the endless expanses of Ladoga.
The name Valaam is derived from the Finno-Ugric word "valam" - a high, mountainous land. The islands were settled in the 10th century, and almost immediately Orthodox monks settled on them. The monastery founded on Valaam was ravaged and burned by the Swedes in 1611 and restored only in 1715. In 1751 and 1754, wooden structures burned down again.
Churches, chapels, sketes, household and industrial buildings were erected here; roads were laid, dams were built, bridges were erected, drainage facilities were built and canals were dug out. Valaam monks manually created a fertile layer of soil on the rocks, transported from the mainland, and grew watermelons and grapes in the open ground one and a half century ago.
According to legend, during the spread of Christianity, the Apostle Andrew the First-Called went to the north, preaching the Gospel. Having passed the Dnieper and the Volkhov, the disciple of Jesus Christ entered the boat in the "stormy and rotating waters of Lake Nevo" and installed a stone cross on the Valaam mountains. Nine centuries later, two monks, Sergius and Herman, "moved in" on one of the rocky islands and founded a monastic brotherhood. The relics of the monks were found incorruptible in the XII century and hidden in the mountain, on top of which stands the Valaam Spaso-Preobrazhensky friary. In “The Tale of the Valaam Monastery” the exact date of its foundation is named - 1407.
From 1811 to 1917, the Valaam Archipelago was part of the Finnish princedom of the Russian Empire, and after the revolution it was on the territory of Finland. In February 1940, when the Soviet-Finnish war came to an end, the inhabitants of the monastery, fearing reprisals, were evacuated to Finland, where they founded the Novo-Valaam monastery, which is still active today. After signing a peace agreement between the USSR and Finland, Balaam withdrew to the USSR. First, there was a school for boatswains and jung, then a house for the disabled. On December 13, 1989, on the day of memory of the holy Apostle Andrew the First Called, the revival of the Valaam Monastery began. Now the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Valaam Monastery has about two hundred inhabitants. Monastic life in monasteries is being revived on Valaam. In Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sortavala and Priozersk there are farmsteads.
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