Fully admitting that any knowledge of the intricacies of Orthodoxy is a subject beyond any of us, a day trip out to Russia’s religious capital seemed like a good way to form an acquaintance. Nearly 700 years old the monastery at Sergiev Posad has been a focal point for not just spiritual activity but politics, Peter the Great spent good period of his childhood here, scholarship and even military action which resulted in the white walls surrounding the complex. Not surprisingly for a branch of religion that places such stock in mystery there are a number of visible symbols to indicate divine protection of the site like the holy water spring that supposedly appeared during a siege by the Polish in 1608, allowing 1500 defenders to withstand a force outnumbering them fifteen to one, and not least the body of the founder Sergius which was the only thing to remain unscathed after the Tatar invasion.
Rdoc imbibes the holy water.
Both of these would count as the greatest attractions for both visitors like us and also the streams of locals that also pour into the place, mostly bearing containers to fill with the blessed water that still flows out of a fountain erected over the site. To pay our respects to the Saint we traded the bright sunshine for a very dark, incense filled chapel adorned with murals we presumed to be depicting his life. Accepting some tapers we joined the queue of old pilgrims and bemused school children and shuffled our way towards the silver trunk containing the remains. It speaks to the resilience of both the church and the Russian people that their religion prevailed through the extreme persecution during the communist era and that these traditions still hold relevance in peoples daily lives. I also learned that to cross yourself here it is forehead, chest, right shoulder then left which left me a little befuddled at the moment of offering in front of the attendant monks. Or maybe it was the shabbily dressed, thin faced man just off to my right working himself into a trance chanting in a high pitched voice and rocking back and forth.
Not the ones featured in the story below.
On the way out to the gate to go and eat our picnic lunch in the park one of the heavy set babushkas lining a bench decided to scratch herself under her arm. She did this by lifting up her woolen vest revealing herself to all those innocents walking by. Needless to say the reflective mood was lost. This was not even the most uncomfortable moment of the day. To get out to the town we had to take a local train wooden bench seat and all. It started to get a little uncomfortable when an older, well mustachioed gentleman sat opposite and proceeded to stare at Arnika. He turned out to be a Tajik immigrant lathe operator and was nice enough swapping initial pleasantries and explanations but then got awkward as he tried to press home his advantage. Still, feeling quite sorry for this guy who was sacrificing his dream of one day visiting America (why!?!) to put his sons through university, it was nice the warmth received when it came time to make out farewells.
A very nice place to visit.
Tags: Golden Ring, monastery, Russia, Sergiev Posad, train