One of the holiest places in all of Russia the stunning Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra and the surrounding town of Sergiev Posad has been a place of pilgrimage for Russian Orthodox believers for centuries. Just one and a half hours by train from Moscow it makes a perfect day trip. The cradle of Russian Orthodox Christianity and one of the most beautiful towns in the Russian nation, the city of Sergiev Posad was founded by the venerable Sergey Radonezhsky in 1337. This year is special because it marks the 700th birthday of the city’s founding father. A reformer of monarchism in Russia, and a religious and political figure, St. Sergius of Radonezh, as he is also known, is highly honored by the Russian Orthodox Church and is considered the patron saint of Russia.
From childhood he seemed destined for holiness and as a young man Sergius set off to live his life as an ascetic monk in the forests outside Moscow. He was soon joined by others inspired by his pious lifestyle and eventually a monastery began to grow around the small wooden church that Sergius had built. This small church is now one of the holiest places in all of Russia – the stunning Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra – around which the town of Sergiev Posad grew and became a city in its own right. Sergiev Posad’s greatest sight is its stunning monastery, although there are also one or two other worthwhile museums dotted around which show off the region’s strong artistic history and especially the legacy of toy making of folk crafts.
Sergiev Posad is the only town of the Golden Ring located near Moscow. The Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius was founded in the early 14th century by one of the most venerated saints of Russia St. Sergius. For centuries, Russian czars and common people set out on pilgrimage to the monastery. It remains one of the most sacred places in Russia today. Today the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius is home to over 300 monks. The monastery houses a theological college, spiritual academy and an icon painting school. All the laity should be aware that Lavra is the largest active monastery of Russia, the residence of the Patriarch, and on its territory must follow certain rules. Entrance to the monastery in T-shirts, shorts, mini-skirts and dresses of open forbidden, desirable women to wear a headscarf.
The monastery is included in the UNECCO list of World heritage. Its complex of medieval buildings might appear a rival to Moscow Kremlin. Standing in the cathedral square you can trace the history of Russian architecture from the early 15th up to the 19th century. The Trinity cathedral, built in the early 15th century is one of the oldest churches in Moscow Region. This cathedral boasts some works by Andrei Rublev, Russia’s most famous icon master. The relics of St. Sergius in a silver shrine bring a lot of pilgrims from all over Russia. Coming to the church you’ll hear the amateur choir singing from early morning up to late evening.
It’s easy to go until Sergiev Posad from Moscow. Trains leave every 30 minutes between Sergiev Posad and Moscow‘s Yaroslavsky train station. The station is located at Komsomolskaya metro station (red line). A ticket to Sergiev Posad costs 164 rubles (1.5 h, prices in 2017) and 210-260 rubles on express (5-6 times a day, 1 h). It is an easy day trip from Moscow. Bus 388 is available at VDNKh (VVTs) for 200 (160 with “Strelka”, an universal travelcard) rubles every 15 minutes. However, be aware of jams about from MKAD to Pushkino almost always in rather extended rush hours.
To get to the town by car take Yaroslavskoe highvay from Rizhski Vokzal (Rizhski train station) or VVTs (VDNKh) – it takes approximately 2 hours to get to Posad: distance is 70 km (40 miles), however see above about jams. Construction of new intersection between Korolyov and Mytishchi simplified things with the jam a little, but parts of M8 highway before and after intersection are still crowded because of bottlenecks closer to MKAD and in Klyaz’ma village.
The main attraction – the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, where comes pilgrims from around the world. Church is on the territory of the monastery, and in the streets. Three kilometers from the Monastery is located Chernigov Skete. The reason why one should see the city is the world heritage listed monastery. The monastery of Sergiev Posad is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia and one of the principal spiritual centers of the Russian Church. It is a combination of a fortress and a monastery. The seminary of the Russian Orthodox Church is located in the buildings of the complex.
There are several churches to see, a holy spring and in general the whole complex with its massive walls and gates is very picturesque. There are no admission price to pay except for the museum, which shows old religious objects and woven pictures of saints. At the weekend the monastery can get very crowded, as it hosts some very important icons (at least copies of them). In return it can be very interesting to observe the believers kissing the icons and praying for hours.
The grave of Boris Godunov (of Pushkin’s play and Russian history) and some family members is also located here. In addition to the monastery in the city there are many museums. The most famous – The stables, Toy museum, Museum of local lore…
The highlight of Sergiyev Posad in gastronomic terms is the abundance of restaurants with Russian cuisine: pancakes, sbiten, mead, dumplings and similar dishes are in stock and for every budget. Expensive and delicious dining options in one of the restaurants in town, decorated in Russian style – as a merchant tower or manor (from RUB 600 per person (∼10€)). Inexpensive meal can be directly in the walls of the laurels in the local refectory. All dishes are meatless, but very tasty and authentic. And what is baked pies and gingerbread!
There is a restaurant called Rusky Dvorik (Russian courtier) which is quite good, but also expensive taking into consideration the general price level of Russian province. It is located just in front of the entry of the monastery. Inside the monastery (entering through the main gate and going to the left) there is a really good bakery-pastry, with local products that seem to be very popular among Russian visitors.