Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery, which is also called Pskov-Caves Monastery, located in a small town Pechory, Pskov Region, is one of the oldest and most beautiful Russian monasteries. Reaching it, you first see its beautiful baroque domes that create a feeling of joy and festivity. However, many pilgrims come here to find its hidden part, the monastery caves. The first Christians didn't build churches but used caves for their religious services. The monastery in Pechory still keeps and uses an underground church consecrated in 1473 as the Church of the Dormition. Later, the monks started to use the caves as a burial place. Today, in the monastery, you can still see the beautiful baroque and gloomy caves.
You can start your visit to the Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery from the viewing platform and take a photo of the blue monastery domes rising over the fortress wall. When you go through the Holy Gate, don’t think you are inside the monastery yet. This is a ricetto created for the protection of the residents in case of an attack. Turn left, and you’ll see the 16th-century Church of St. Nicolas the Gatekeeper with a wooden figure of St. Nicolas inside. Low-arched gates near the church will lead you to the monastery. However, before entering, it doesn't hurt to remember the local legend about Ivan the Terrible and St. Cornelius.
Every monastery has some stories connected to its history, as well as its celestial patrons. In the 16th century, St. Cornelius made this monastery a flourishing center and citadel of Orthodox Christianity on the western border of Russia. He created new churches, icon-painting rooms, a rich library, and built a belfry and strong walls around the adobe. Those walls that served for the defense from the enemies became the very reason of St. Cornelius' death. Tsar Ivan the Terrible suspected that the monastery was going to fight against him and, in a burst of temper, he cut the head of St. Cornelius here, near the Holy Gate. Since that time, the way from the Holy Gate down to the main church is called the Blood Road and the Holy Dormition Cathedral keeps the shrine with the holy relics of St. Cornelius, a celestial patron of the abode.
In the 14th century, local hunters heard the angelic singing from inside the hill and felt the wonderful fragrance around. They thought there were angels. Years later, when a local farmer cut a tree, it fell down the hill, opened caves, and the secret of angels was revealed. Inscription on a stone wall above the entrance said: “Caves Given by the God”. The caves still have this name to this day. Later, the monks started to use the caves as a necropolis. Nowadays, remains of 10,000 monks are kept in the caves’ walls behind the ceramic boards with the engraved names (keramidy). You can visit the caves only with the local guide from the Pilgrim service, who would guide you through several underground corridors called “streets”, show you the cave church, brethren burial place in the niche behind the icon, and the holy relics of the Pechery saints. The only light in the total darkness of the caves will be a small candle in your hand.
When you leave the gloomy caves, you will see the beautiful baroque churches in a different light. It seems more joyful and bright. There are nine churches in the Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery and a sacred spring. You can enjoy observing funny squirrels from the squirrels' nursery, and buy pryaniks (spiced cakes) or traditional drink sbiten as souvenirs. Additionally, an angel on the belfry wall points to the clock. This is a reminder that time goes fast, and if you have important things to do in your life, never postpone, but do them now.
Cover picture © Credits to Photosight.ru/Sergei V
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