Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Christmas Eve at Sergeev Posad

Today is Christmas Eve in the Russian Orthodox church. Which theoretically makes it a good day to visit the Golden Ring city of Sergeev Posad. Located about 35 miles northeast of Moscow, Sergeev Posad is home to one of the largest monasteries in Russia. Tourists and religious travelers alike flock here, so it can get pretty crowded during the Christmas season.

Of course, we are currently experiencing some painfully cold weather here in Moscow, and sightseeing when the temperature hits zero degrees Fahrenheit is not my idea of a good time. Still - we had to get out of the house for awhile, so we broke out the glove warmers and hit the road.

First stop was the the town of Radonezh. You go to Radonezh to stock up on holy water from the holy spring, and according to our tour guide, some people even choose to go for a holy swim in the holy spring, even in the dead of winter. We were pretty much the only people at the spring this morning, and none of us opted to go swimming. I did manage to get my hand in the water, but that was as far as I was willing to go.

(Seriously, it was cold. I went once to Lake Baikal, in Siberia, in the middle of winter, and I think it felt colder at the Radonezh spring today. Beautiful, but ouch.)

He was very careful not to fall in.

Then on to Sergeev Posad itself. Isn't it beautiful?

The entrance. Once you walk through that arch, you'll be surrounded by churches of all shapes and sizes.

Inside one of the churches. Still cold inside. No, I'm not sure why that huge group of soldiers was in there with us. I'd guess they were touring the place as well.

You can take pictures inside some of the churches, and they are some of the best preserved/ maintained churches I've seen in Russia. Truly beautiful. Today a choir was singing inside one of the churches, hidden in an eave somewhere, and it was hauntingly beautiful.

Back outside the wall. So. Cold. That's a statue of Sergei himself...

But. We had one more stop before we could go home. The New Jerusalem Monastery and Gethsemane Gardens were built by the Russian Patriarch Nikon back in the 1600s, I believe. Nice place, but we weren't there to tour the grounds. We went inside to view the underground caves. Until the 1930s, monks used to go into those tiny caves and spend days, weeks, even months in there praying. That is some seriously hardcore prayer right there. We couldn't take pictures inside, but it was dark and creepy and beautiful all at once. Also slightly warmer. A young seminarian led us around and told us about the history of the place.

That's it. That's our day. Much more to say, but it's late and I have to work in the morning.  Merry Christmas to my Russian Orthodox friends.


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