I caught a train to Sergiev Posad on a day trip from Moscow, travelling through luxuriant Springtime meadows and a violent thunderstorm. It was a local train with the regular cries of hawkers moving up and down the aisles. It was also a weekend day and at every stop Muscovites alighted and disappeared in to the woods with their picnic hampers.
Running from the Sergiev Posad station to the monastery complex on the hill I was still dodging the raindrops. But then the rain cleared to leave water and sun combining with the gold and blue star-spangled onion domes. The sun shone through the fountains of Sergiev Posad holy water as people brought their bottles to fill at the fountain.
Sergiev Posad is sometimes described as being at the heart of Russian spiritual life and the crowds of Russian visitors is testament to the restored influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia.
The monastery itself is called the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius and was founded in 1345 by one of the most venerated of Russian saints – Sergius of Radonezh – in fact he’s Russia’s patron saint.
Where once was a group of simple wooden buildings, now Sergiev Posad is a glory of rich gold and delicately coloured exteriors. In Tsarist times it was much patronised by royalty and Baroque palaces and towers were added over the centuries.
Black robed priests smile serenely as they glide about the courtyards. I slipped into the back of the service and was moved by the singing and the glorious iconostasis, a mass of gorgeously decorated paintings of saints and holy pictures which stretches up in to the dim recesses of the ceiling.
I was also impressed by the standing congregation – I’ve never been to a church where you have to stand up the whole time before, unless you’re prostrated on the floor that is.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited a Russian Orthodox Church like Sergiev Posad?