Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg
Celebrates 300th Anniversary

Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg Celebrates 300th Anniversary on September 12th

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On April 5, 1713, in St. Petersburg, in the presence of Peter I, the wooden Church of the Annunciation was consecrated. This day is considered the official founding date of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

According to legend, Peter I, surveying in 1710 the neighborhood of St. Petersburg, took notice of the place where, it is believed that on July 15, 1240, Prince Alexander scored a famous victory over the combined forces of the Swedes, Norwegians and Finns led by Birger Jarl. This important skirmish became known as the Battle of the Neva, for which Prince Alexander became known as Alexander Nevsky. Peter I ordered that a monastery in honor of the Holy Trinity and St. Alexander Nevsky be built at this site.

In 1714, monastic cells were built here and monastic communal life started. In 1720 under the monastery was opened a printing house, and later – the Theological Academy, which still operates. In 1722, in accordance with the project of Domenico Trezzini the wooden Church of the Annunciation was replaced by the Church of the Annunciation of the Holy Mary – the oldest church of St. Petersburg. On September 10, 1724, the relics of St. Alexander Nevsky were transferred here from Bogolyubski Nativity Monastery in Vladimir. Here they had stayed until 1790, and then were moved to the new Holy Trinity Cathedral, where they remained until 1922.

Construction work at the monastery lasted almost until the end of the 18th century. Metropolitan House, House of Bishops, the new buildings were constructed. In 1776, under the direction of the architect I. E. Starov, started the creation works of a new monumental Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky Lavra. In addition to the Trinity Cathedral, Starov designed a round square at the entrance to the monastery, built the Gate Church, which completes the perspective of Nevsky Prospekt, the stone wall and two corner houses and building of the almshouses at the entrance to the square.

On December 29, 1797, Emperor Paul I ordered the Holy Synod to rename the Alexander Nevsky Monastery “into Lavra with the staff equal to the one of Kiev-Pechersk and Trinity St. Sergius.”

From the very beginning of St. Petersburg’s existence, Alexander Nevsky Lavra became the burial place for outstanding statesmen and public figures, representatives of art and culture. The ensemble of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra contains three cemeteries: Tikhvin, existing from 1823, Nikolsky, founded in 1861, and Lazarevskoye.

Numerous cultural figures were laid to rest at the monastery, including Alexander Suvorov, Mikhail Glinka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and many others.

After the October Revolution of 1917 the monastery was abolished and its church closed, and countless relics and works of art were transferred to the Russian Museum, State Hermitage Museum and other museums of St. Petersburg. In 1957, Holy Trinity Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky Lavra was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church as a parish church. June 3, 1989, the cathedral received back the relics of St.. Alexander Nevsky. In 1987, St. Nicholas cemetery church opened. In the summer of 1995 Holy Spirit building was partially returned to the St. Petersburg diocese. The final transfer of all the Lavra buildings to the Diocese took place April 18, 2000.

Source & Copyright: Russkiy Mir and Royal Russia
13 September, 2013