WHS: Trinity Sergius Lavra, Sergiev Posad

Next on our Moscow road trip after the Church of the Ascension, heading northwest on the Yaroslavl highway brings us in short order to Sergiyev Posad, notable for two things:

1. The birthplace of the iconic Russian nested matryoshka dolls

2. The spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church, World Heritage Site

Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad

Trinity Sergius Lavra


The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. Being situated in the town of Sergiev Posad about 70 km to the north-east from Moscow, it is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, “the pearl” of the Russian church architecture, was founded in the first half of the 14th century (1337) by the monk Sergius of Radonezh, a great abbot of Russia and one of the most venerated orthodox saints. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen…

You enter the walled compound through the Gate Church of St. John the Baptist,

Gate Church of St. John the Baptist

and inside are a variety of buildings. If you’re lucky enough to time your visit to when they’re saying Mass, as to our complete surprise we did, that’s said in the Assumption Cathedral, the largest building there:

Assumption Cathedral

Hadn’t ever been to an Orthodox Mass before; we didn’t realize that there aren’t actually any spoken words, they sing or chant the entire thing!

That’s the largest building, but the tallest is the Bell Tower, which before the Russian Revolution had 42 bells, mostly destroyed during the Soviet interregnum, but lately has gained new bells, including a 72-ton called the Tsar:

The Bell Tower

And the most palatial is the The Refectory with the Church of St. Sergius, an intricately Baroque construction originally built as a dining hall for pilgrims:

The Refectory with the Church of St. Sergius

For a parting shot, here’s the Holy Spring Chapel:

Holy Spring Chapel

Seems that at the original founding, there wasn’t any water in the compound. That being a problem, St. Sergius prayed to God to do something about that, and God promptly obliged by having a spring, er, spring into existence on the hilltop.

We’ll leave it to learned hydrologists to estimate the likelihood of that scenario, but as of today why yes there is a spring running, and why yes people line up to bottle the water, so having a drink certainly can’t hurt!

So yep, if you’re at all interested in religious history, this is a visit you won’t want to miss: TripAdvisor has a variety of Moscow day trips for those that don’t want to navigate the Russian countryside themselves. Us, we find the roadtrip all part of the adventure, personally!

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  1. […] on down the Yaroslavl highway from Sergiev Posad, just about the time you’re ready to take a break you’ll come to the town of Rostov (also […]

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