Often called "The Sacred Athos of the North", this Christian Monastery is situated on Valaam island in Lake Ladoga, and has a history stretching back some 700 years. The Russian President often makes pilgrimages to pray here.
Today [July 12, 2018], Vladimir Putin visited one of the most sacred places in Russia. He visited Valaam on the day of the memory of the founders of the Savior Transfiguration Monastery, Saints Sergius and Herman.
However, Putin doesn't need a special occasion to go there. He's been paying close attention to the fate of the monastery. Dmitry Kaistro with the details on the demiurgic energy of Valaam which some call the North Athos:
The main holiday of the Valaam Monastery, the day of Saints Sergius and Herman, was announced by the bell chime piercing the morning silence of the archipelago. The Divine Liturgy began in the Savior Transfiguration Monastery.
Putin celebrated the great holiday at the monastery. The head of the state drove to the monastery by car. Putin first came here as a pilgrim during the times of decline. Since then, he's been visiting the monastery regularly. He's always here on Ss. Sergius and Herman's Day. Since then, the monastery has transformed. The sketes were rebuilt, the walls were repaired, and the central Savior Transfiguration Cathedral was renovated.
[Patriarch Kyrill] "It's an example for all past and future monasteries. It might help people to get the right attitude, the right opinion. on their participation in the life of the nation and our society."
The abbot of the monastery, Bishop Pankratiy, stood at the origins of its resurrection. He dreamed of restoring its former glory.
[Bishop Pankratiy, abbot] "They called it the North Athos, a peasant kingdom, as Nemirovich-Danchenko called it. It was a small country of monks. That's what we're trying to achieve."
In the monastery, Putin bowed to the reliquary with the remains of Ss. Sergius and Herman, which rest in the middle of the church.
During its 700-year history, the monastery has been destroyed four times. However, the monks managed to save the saints reliquary by hiding it in the crack of a large granite slab beneath the monastery.
After visiting the church, the president talked to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church about the infrastructure of the monastery.
[Putin] "Happy Ss. Sergius and Herman Day!"
The monks have their own fleet, manufacturing, bakery, and a small dairy factory, where they make delicious cheese. There's also a repair shop where the monks repair vintage cars.[Monk Veniamin] "We bought it in 2008 at the Vyborg dump for 10,000 rubles ($160). We took it to Valaam and repaired it over the course of three years."
Hundreds of pilgrims come to Valaam from across the country with joy and humility in their hearts.
[Pilgrim woman] "It's a happy and joyful day. It's the anticipation of the last fast day."
The Valaam Archipelago is the bulwark of the ancient faith. This day is celebrated not just by the local monks but by the whole Russian Church and Orthodox believers all over the world for whom the monastery remains an unfading beacon lit by Saints Sergius and Herman.