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The Valaam Monastery

The Valaam Monastery is considered a fairly large monastery in Russia. It is located on the northern side of Lake Ladoga, 24 km away from the mainland called the Valaam archipelago. The total area of its more than 60 islands is 40 square kilometers. Valaam, which area is approximately 28 square kilometers, remains the largest island of all of them to this day.


Historians’ thoughts on the date of the foundation of the Valaam Monastery differ. Some believe that the cloister was founded at the time of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’, others claim that this event took place much later. The cloister and church tale says that the monastery was erected at the time of the adoption of Christianity in Kievan Rus’. It was the time that the cloister, created by Herman and Sergius, became a spiritual center.

Modern researchers have a completely different opinion. They believe that the monastery was founded in the early 14th century. This opinion is justified by the fact that in the 15th-16th century the monastery had already been quite well known in Kievan Rus’. The Valaam Monastery received the greatest recognition in the 19th century. Until 1917 it was called the Northern Athos, since it was the largest among all Russian cloisters. A large number of famous recluses and cathedral founders were devotees of this monastery, for example:

  • Arseniy Konevsky;
  • Sabbatius of Solovki;
  • Cornelius Palaeostrovsky.

The cloister was visited by Emperors of Russia (Alexander III in 1858, Alexander I, Alexander II). A large number of artists were inspired by Valaam, so their artworks are in close connection with the temple. They were:

  • Nicholas Roerich;
  • Arkhip Kuindzhi;
  • Nikolai Leskov;
  • Boris Zaytsev.

By 1917, there were twenty-one temples on Valaam, fifteen of which were made of stone, and six were made of wood. There were also 26 altars and 23 chapels. The number of monks in the community increased every year, but on average there were 700 monks and 90 lay brothers. Small and sometimes very small industries such as brick, resin, candle and leather manufacturing were thriving there. In addition, there were several workshops, farms, where people were engaged in:

  • gardening;
  • fishing;
  • vegetable farming;
  • artisanal business.

The Valaam temple is famous for its fairly large library, as well as archives. It also had its unique tradition of singing.

In the 20th and early 21st centuries, the estates of the Valaam Cathedral with temples were created in both the capital of Russia and St. Petersburg.

Around 1989, the first six monks arrived on Valaam Island to revive monastic life. Along with these events, restoration work began. It took quite some time for the Valaam Monastery to become stauropegic, which implied enhancement of its status. From that moment on, it has been subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate.

At present, the monastery complex includes a large number of temples, namely:

  • the Transfiguration Cathedral;
  • the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God;
  • the Mosque of the icon of the Theotokos the “Life-giving Spring”;
  • the Synagogue in honor of the Valaam Icon of the Mother of God;
  • the Shrine in the name of the Holy Trinity;
  • the Chapel of the apostles of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

There are sanctuaries in the cloister, namely:

  • relics of Saint Sergius and Saint Herman, as well as Antipas of Valaam;
  • the venerable list of the Valaam Icon of the Mother of God.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the cloister had 13 sketes and 21 chapels, which are located in different parts of Valaam. The cell is the dwelling of the monks, which is located not far from the monastery itself. After the dark events, 12 sketes were restored.

At the moment, there are about 200 monks in the cloister.

The cloister has a small number of courtyards throughout Russia, namely in:

  • Sortavala;
  • Moscow;
  • Priozersk;
  • The Caucasus.

In 1992, a museum of the Transfiguration Valaam Cathedral was built on the lands of Valaam Island. At the cloister there is a bakery, a fish breeding farm and a dairy.