Nizhny Novgorod is an ancient Russian city which is nearly 800 years old. It features more than 35 magnificent old churches, cathedrals and monasteries.
THE CHURCH OF THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
The city`s historical centre is the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin - a medieval fortress with loopholes and merlons. This complex, completed in 1515, includes 13 towers - 5 square towers with gates and 8 round ones. Here, in the Kremlin, you can see the very first church built in Nizhny Novgorod - It is one of the best examples of a hipped-roof construction of religious architecture in the Nizhny Novgorod region. At first it was wooden. During its last reconstruction in 1631, it was rebuilt in stone to commemorate the victory of the militia under the leadership of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. They were leaders of the militia that liberated Moscow from Polish-Lithuanian occupation in the 16th century. In 1962 the ashes of Kuzma Minin were laid in the church.
THE ANNUNCIATION MONASTERY
One of the most famous monasteries of the Nizhny Novgorod region is the Annunciation Monastery. The monastery stands on the right bank of the Oka just south of its fall into the Volga. The set of buildings of the Annunciation Monastery was founded in the 13th century. Initially it was an outpost to protect the city on the side of the Oka River. After the October Revolution, the monastery was shut down. For many years it hosted various organizations. In the 1980s some of the buildings were restored. The monastery contains five churches, three buildings of monk residence surrounded by a stone wall. The restoration carried out on the Monastery complex at the end of the last century has preserved the buildings as they would have been in the past.
THE NATIVITY (STROGANOVSKAYA) CHURCH
A remarkable example of Russian Baroque is the Nativity (Stroganovskaya) Church. It was built in the beginning of the 17th century on means of the famous merchant and salt trader, G. Stroganov. It is one of the most beautiful religious buildings of the 18th century, particularly notable for the splendor of its white intaglio. The interior of the church is in a very good condition. The iconostasis, richly decorated in golden-leaf motifs, effects your imagination with its beauty and majesty even today. If you are interested in visiting an Orthodox church, the Nativity (Stroganovskaya) Church is an excellent choice. The singing of the Stroganov Church choir is also very beautiful.
ST. ALEXANDER NEVSKY CATHEDRAL
St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral, a monumental structure with golden domes and elements of a medieval castle, was built in 1881 using funds obtained from merchant trade fairs. It was built in commemoration of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Feodorovna’s visit to Nizhny Novgorod. The cathedral was built without a traditional foundation, just on the layers of pine logs joined together like a raft. The cathedral did not have its local congregation. Merchants who traded at the Fair prayed there. The Cathedral was used as a meeting place where local authorities greeted honored guests – members of the Royal Family, Orthodox hierarchs. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the third largest church in Russia, ranking after the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Since 2005, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the only Russian church to host the icon with the relics of martyrs Cyprian and Justina.
CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD (THE OLD FAIR CATHEDRAL)
Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, also called the Old Fair Cathedral (as it is next to the old fair ground) is another remarkable sight of the city. The Cathedral was designed by O. Montferrand, the architect of St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg. He worked on both projects at the same time that is why the two cathedrals are so much similar in composition and style. Until 2009, the Old Fair Cathedral was the main church of Nizhny Novgorod Eparchy. The iconostasis was painted by an Italian artist Torricelli according to European rules that is why many merchants refused to pray before the icons depicting naked bodies. In the end, the new iconostasis was created by an architect Vasily Stasov. After the revolution there was a warehouse in the Cathedral, as in many other churches in Nizhny Novgorod. In April 1989, the cathedral was returned to the Gorky Eparchy. The restoration work immediately started together with religious service on Saturdays and Sundays. On September 11, 2009 a monument to local people who participated in liquidating works at the Chernobyl power station was opened in front of the Cathedral. The monument consists of a two-meter figure of an angel mounted on the three-meter pedestal, surrounded by granite slabs carved with quotations from Scripture and the names of the dead. Russian Patriarch Kirill took part in the event. Nowadays, the building of the cathedral is the oldest building of Nizhny Novgorod Fair.
THE PECHERSKY ASCENTION MONASTERY
The Pechersky Ascention (Voznesensky) Monastery was founded in the 14th century by St. Dionysius, who came to Nizhny Novgorod from Kiev Pechersk Lavra (“pechery” meaning “caves”) with several other monks. They dug caves to live on the steep Volga bank some 3 km southeast of the Kremlin. Later he founded here a monastery with a church of Resurrection of the Lord.
The monastery soon became an important spiritual and religious center of the Principality of Suzdal and Nizhny Novgorod. After a massive landslide of 1597, which destroyed the buildings, the monastery was moved one verst closer to the town. By the middle of the XVII century there had been built the five-domed Cathedral of the Ascention (1632), the tent church named after Euthymius of Suzdal (1645), the only church of this type in Russia that is preserved, the refectory Church of Dormition of Our Lady (1647 – 1648), a tented roof bell-tower, cells.
Although there are no caves in the modern monastery, the name Pechersky has been preserved. Moreover, the entire district of Nizhny Novgorod surrounding the monastery is known as Pechery.
The monastery was closed by Bolsheviks in 1924, and reopened in 1994.
HOLY TRINITY ST. SERAPHIM-DIVEYEVO CONVENT
Holy Trinity St. Seraphim-Diveevo Convent (Diveevsky Monastery) has always had an immense spiritual significance for Russian people. It was founded by a rich aristocrat Agatha Semenovna Melgunova (who took the name of Alexandra when she became a nun). At the request from the Virgin Mary, she ordered the area surrounding Diveevo to be cleared for the construction of a women’s religious community. The monastery started with the Church of Our Lady of Kazan (Kazanskaya), built in 1773-1780. Saint Seraphim Sarovsky was a monk at the nearby monastery of Sarov, 18 km away from Diveevo, and he was asked not to leave the nuns without spiritual guidance after sister Alexandra’s death. Saint Seraphim Sarovsky is one of the most highly respected Russian saints who attained his spiritual perfection by the ascetic acts of living as a hermit spending hours in meditation on a rock in the wood. After finishing his period of seclusion in 1825 he started taking in all those in need of spiritual aid. Now Serafimo-Diveevsky Monastery hosts the relics of the Great Russian saint.
The legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared to father Seraphim and in this way the religious community was blessed by her presence. By order of father Seraphim the nuns dug a trench along the path which the Virgin Mary had trodden. Seraphim explained its significance in the following way: “It was the Queen of Heaven herself who measured out this trench. Whoever crosses this trench while praying and has read the 150 prayers to Virgin Mary that person will get all of Afon, Jerusalem and Kiev”. In 1861 the religious community in Diveevo was named a Third Degree Convent. Up until 1917, it numbered about 1000 nuns. Near the convent, an icon-painting workshop and print works were set up.
In 2003-2004 there were significant restoration works in the Monastery celebrating 250 year anniversary of Saint Seraphim. The Monastery hosts the only portrait of Saint Seraphim painted by a contemporary, the "Diveyevo Portrait". During the years of Communist persecution, the portrait was smuggled out of Russia and is kept to this day in the Novo-Diveyevo Convent in Nanuet, New York.
Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Diveevo to do homage to the holy land and the miraculous relics of the great church elder, Seraphim Sarovsky. The church of the Birth of the Holy Mother of God is where the relics of the venerable nuns of Diveevo, Alexandra, Marpha and Elena are resting in God. They have been canonized.
Saint Seraphim the Wonderworker of Sarov predicted that Diveyevo would become a stronghold of Orthodoxy and a place where worldwide repentance would begin.
HOLY TRINITY MONASTERY OF ST. MAKARY ZHELTOVODSKY
Holy Trinity monastery of St. Makary Zheltovodsky is situated in the river Kerzhenets mouth. It was founded in the first half of the 15th century by Saint Makary. Originally, the St.Makary monastery was built near a large trading settlement of Reshma - a place notable in the Russian history. In 1612 on his way to Moscow Prince Pozharsky with his army made a stay here. During the reign of Princess Sophia the settlement was granted to Prince Vasily Golitsyn in reward for the successful Crimea campaign.
St. Makary was born in 1349 in Nizhny Novgorod in a well-to-do family. Since his childhood Makary hated vanity and loved eremitic life. At the age of 12, he took monastic tonsure from Archimandrite Dionisius in the Pechersky Ascention Monastery situated three kilometers away from Nizhny Novgorod. After 1374, when Archimandrite Dionisius became bishop of Suzdal and Nizhny Novgorod, Makary left the Pechersky Monastery and built a small hut near the settlement of Reshma. Christians from neighboring villages came to him for advice. Some of them joined the hermit. In 1439, the monastery was burnt down by the Tartars. St. Macary was captured. But the Tatars released him soon, making him promise not to found Orthodox monasteries any more. Macarius left these places for the lands by the Unzha River and founded a new monastery there. The Zheltovodsky monastery fell into neglect.
The monastery was revived only in 190 years. In 1624, the Trinity Church was built, two years later - the Church of the Assumption. And in the middle of the 17th century the monastery ensemble was completed. In 1628 Patriarch Filaret managed to get the Romanovs’ protection for the monastery and protection from local authorities.
Every year on St. Macarius Day (July, 25) there was a famous Makarevskaya Fair at the walls of the monastery. The fair was located on both sides of the Volga River, although the main part was on the monastery side. The fair that time was a very picturesque sight: countless crowds, many carts, horses. At the fair all kinds of goods were sold: furs, linen, pottery, wine, etc. The annual Makarevskaya Fair gave to the monastery worldwide fame and wealth. In 1722, St. Macarius Monastery fair was inspected personally by Peter I.
In 1868 the monastery was closed because of the threat of total destruction from floods. But thanks to the petitions of local residents and a significant investment, the building survived, although they were in a terrible condition for many years. Only in the 1960s the restoration works started. Gradually, ancient churches are being rebuilt. Now the monastery is a nunnery.