Russia continues rebuilding churches decimated by the Bolsheviks. And they are breathtaking.
Whatever is going one elsewhere in the world, the Russian church continues pursuing its own program: to restore the wealth of churches that had been desecrated and decimated under the atheist Soviet Regime.
On October 20th 2019, the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kyril, consecrated a breathtaking new church called the Dormition Cathedral in Svensky Monastery.
In 1930, during Stalin's Reign of Terror, the Dormition Cathedral was bombed by the Soviets. The most magnificent church of the monastery that had withstood centuries, lay in a pile of rubble even after the monastery began to come to life in the 1970s.
In 2005, the ruins were finally cleared away. In 2011, after a liturgy, reconstruction finally began. Exactly eight years later, despite difficult conditions and a lack of financial resources, the cathedral now stands high again, a testament to the faith that prevails.
Svensky monastery is one of the major jewels among the many ancient Russian monasteries that have played a spiritual role in the country for centuries. The monastery was established 1288 in Bryansk (currently Ukraine) when a Russian prince, in gratitude for a miracle of healing, laid the foundation of the Dormition Cathedral (for the full story, scroll down to the end of the article). Eventually, it became part of Pochaev monastery.
The monastery occupied a liminal, vulnerable territory, and was often subjected to vicious robbery and looting throughout its history by various non-Orthodox Christian peoples, including Mongols and Poles. Nevertheless, many Russian tsars took personal interest in the monastery, visited it, and contributed personal funds to help rebuild it after disasters.
During the rule of Ivan the Terrible, who especially loved this monastery, the wooden buildings in the monastery were replaced with stone ones. Thus monastery continued to survive and even thrive, playing a vital role in Russian spiritual life and even in the formation of the Moscow State. In 1682, the Svensky monastery became part of the neighboring, also stunningly beautiful, Kiev Caves Monastery.
By the early 1900s, one hundred monks lived and toiled in Svensky monastery, which owned 80 tithes of cultivated and meadow land as well as a large, flourishing fruit orchard, which was the monastery's main source of income.
And while many were the dark pages in the chronicles of the monastery, they all pale in in comparison to the total plunder and destruction in the first years of Soviet power.
If the damage from the Polish and Tatar raids of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was compensated by the Tsarist government and various donations from private individuals, the Bolsheviks, were very happy to see--and participate--in the decimation of Russian religious shrines.
After the famous decree of 1918, when the Bolshevik government took legislative measures against religion, the famous Svensky monastery began to live out its last days.
The miracle working icon of the Mother of God of Sven, the major treasure of the monastery, was transferred to the Center of Science of the People’s Commissariat for restoration, from there - to perpetual storage in the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow. In 1926, the entire former monastery was transferred to the Provincial Museum.
In 1930, during Stalin's Reign of Terror, the Dormition Cathedral was bombed by the Soviets. A terrible sight appeared before the eyes of eyewitnesses: domes flying into the sky, mountains of fragments of buildings and gravestones, the main beauty of the Svensk monastery wiped from the face of the earth.
Decades passed. In the 1970s the restoration of the monastery commenced. And in 1988, the former monastery, which became a branch of the Bryansk Regional Museum of Local Lore, first opened its gate to visitors.
The ruins of the Dormition Cathedral remained in the center of the monastery until 2005. The ruins were cleared away and the site prepared for restorative work. In the same year, an architectural project was developed for the new Cathedral.
The Legend of the Monastery's Beginning...
In 1288, the Prince of Chernigov and Debryansk, Roman, suddenly began to go blind.
He remembered hearing of an icon that healed illnesses and he so sent an archimandrite to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra to bring him back the icon. Having received the cherished gift, the Bryansk delegation sailed back.
But all of a sudden, the legend says, “the boat stood in one place in the Desna River; the rowers were powerless to row either upstream or downstream. ”
It became necessary to spend the night on the beach. In the morning, the icon disappeared from the boat. They searched the entire coast until they found it among the branches of an oak tree which grew on the highest place of the chalk mountain at the bend of the Desna River.
This icon, measuring 68 by 42 cm, depicts the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, seated on a golden throne and holding the Everlasting Infant on her lap, raising her hand for blessing. On both sides of the throne, on special elevations are the Kiev Cave Miracle Workers: on the right side of Theodosius, on the left - Anthony. On the scroll of St. Anthony it says: “I pray, you, children, that we keep to abstinence and are not lazy; we have in this a Helper, our Lord. "
Having heard about the miraculous disappearance and appearance of the icon, Prince Roman with his relatives, close boyars and the Bryansk clergy with enthusiasm went to the place where the image was discovered.
Approaching the oak tree, he prayed and exclaimed with tears: “Oh, Most Holy Lady, Madam, Virgin, Virgin! Hear the voice of my prayer and give sight to my eyes! ” And at that very moment, he received his sight, and could see more clearly than before.
After thankful prayers, the prince, having promised the Mother of God to give into her power all the region that lay before her, began to cut timber with his own hands in the forest there for the construction of an ordinary church.
The oak tree on which the miraculous icon was found was divided into parts and distributed to those who wanted it. Later, a stone pillar decorated with a copy of this icon was placed on the site of the appearance of the icon.
The wooden church built in honor of the Dormition of the Virgin became the center of the spiritual center of the wilderness. Prince Roman Mikhailovich allocated gold and silver to the building of the monastery. Upon death he himself was buried in this church. The monastery became inhabited by 70 monks, and a picket fence of pointed logs was built around it.