Recently, I was able to see several amazing monasteries. The most impressive by far was the Pechorskiy Monastery. I was absolutely beautiful! The building were like something out of a fairy-tail, the domes are painted a rich blue color and have brilliant stars painted on to them to represent the heavens. Everywhere you look there were gorgeous icons (painted or mosaics representations of divine figures and saints).We woman also had to wear make shift skirts and a shall over our head, while in all the monasteries. It looked funny, but those are the rules!
We were unable to go in the church because it was closed at the time but I could imagine how beautiful it most likely is. Also, an other interesting feature of this monastery is that its monks are buried with caves that are behind the church. The maze like catacombs are off-limits unless you have a monk with you because the are so vast and easy to get lost in. The monks are interesting as well. People are not allowed to take pictures of the monks. I am curious for the reason behind that, but I didn't think to ask at the time. I am told that the place is amazing during the spring when there are flowers and birds twittering about. I could imagine the beauty because if even in the soaking gloom of late winter it is this beautiful, then in spring (my favorite time of year!!) it must be fantastic!
Also, here their first mother superior had pass away in recent years and she had a beautiful burial site on the monastery grounds. She had helped the monastery to be restored, during the Soviet times it had been misused and had become dilapidated, now you couldn't even tell. We were also met by a very friendly, very beautiful dog. He just walked up to us out of nowhere.
For the last monastery were traveled to it was an adventure just getting to the place it was in the middle of a marsh so the road was continually washing away and was very “holy” (ha ha ha). This place was also amazing the before and after pictures of its restoration were so impressive. It had looked like Medieval ruins and now it was a beautiful self sustaining compound. I was able to go to the very top of the bell town and the view was breathtaking. Inside there were two different chapels a cold chapel, used during the warm summer season. When we walked in the air was bone-chillingly colder... and remember Russia is still covered ice at this point!This one had a beautiful carved oak icon frame it was huge and absolutely beautiful! Then we went to the winter chapel and it had a beautiful golden icon frame and brass chandelier. Fantastic!!
Maria, our guide, was very enjoyable to listen too. She knew so much and I just loved her Russian accent! She said that in every town and city you would be able to find a monastery. They seem to be an important part of the culture, only not many people seems to go to church... while at the Pechorskiy monastery we were able to see a small part of an Eastern Orthodox service and it was beautiful, but also very small and almost intimate. While religious beliefs are important in Russian culture, I don't think Religion has the same fervor as it does in Western Europe or America. Its nice not to have some manner of “God” shoved in your face but you can definitely tell that it has had a profound impact on the culture of Russia. You get this implied matter of “religious right,” so the atmosphere is still somewhat restrictive but, I believe, that they are a little bit more whiling to at least here your opinion and beliefs.