Savior-Euthymius Monastery

In the middle of the 14th century, when the significance of Suzdal for a short time increased, Suzdal-Nizhny Novgorod princes founded new monasteries – Pokrovsky and Spassky. The latter was later named the Savior-Euthymius by his first abbot Euthymius, recognized as "holy" in the beginning of the 16th century. The Spassky Monastery, while on the high left bank of the Kamenka, simultaneously strengthened the defense of the city from the north. By the 15th century, in the possession of the monastery were many villages and lands of Middle Russia, granted to the prince-boyar nobility. In the middle of the 17thcentury, the monastery had more than ten thousand serfs. It was also enriched by donations and pilgrims to the relics of St. Euthymius. The accumulated funds enabled the monks to deploy extensive stone construction. By the second half of the 17th century, the monastery turned into a powerful stone fortress with 12 towers adapted for fighting and storing ammunition. The total length of the walls was about 1400 m. The combat intent of the monastery fortress is also indicated by numerous loopholes and different heights of walls and towers (from the inaccessible side of steep river slopes the walls are lower, from the southern, flat side – higher). Despite its power, the walls of the monastery never performed a defensive function.

Almost in the center of the southern wall of the monastery, facing the city, is the Travel (passage) tower. Its rectangular form (unlike other towers - faceted and round), an impressive height (22 m) and a wealth of decorative processing in the style of Suzdal posad churches speak of the primacy of the tower. The tower is crowned, as it were, with a church head and a weathercock instead of a cross. In the 18th century, lightning struck the main tower, causing serious destruction. Repair of the tower took place only in 1860.

Behind the gates of the main tower there is another gate, located in the lower tier of the Annunciation Church, which, as it were, blocks the passage to the main building of the monastery. The gate church, built as the main gate of the monastery at the turn of the 16th - 17th centuries, after the erection of the stone wall, appeared inside the monastery walls.  Architectural decision of the church is rather unusual: from the east the altar part strongly protrudes, from the west the porch adjoins, which double windows adorn the building, upstairs through the porch leads the staircase. There is a wall painting of the 19th century in the church.

There is an exposition "The National Hero-Liberator Dmitry Pozharsky" in the Annunciation Gate Church belonging to the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve. The significance of the exposition is that it represents the contributions of Princes Pozharsky to Suzdal temples and monasteries. For example, in the altar part you can see the carved royal gate of the middle of the 17th century, the contribution of D. Pozharsky to the Intercession Monastery. This is a wonderful example of ancient Russian art. The exposition contains a copy of the spiritual certificate of D. Pozharsky, in which he bequeathed to bury himself in the Savior-Euthymius Monastery (the original is stored in the State Archives of ancient acts in Moscow).

Behind the arch of the gate church houses oldest buildings of the monastery are located. The dates of their creation are determined only relatively. Such a complex and very rare monument is the Belfry, which combines several different constructions of the 16th-17th centuries. Its oldest part is the nine-cornered original pillar-shaped temple "under the bells" (the first decades of the 16th century). This pillar-shaped church of the Nativity of John the Baptist, probably, was built in the fourth birth of Ivan IV (the Terrible) at the expense of the grand-ducal family. According to another version, this pillar-shaped church was built as a "prayer" church during the arrivals to Suzdal of a childless grand-ducal couple – Basil III and Solomoniya Saburova (there are other versions, which we will discuss below). It was a pillar-shaped three-tiered structure, completed with keel-shaped zakomaras and a small head. Such temples were built in Russia for a short time and there were very few of them. At the end of the 16th-17th centuries, to the pillar was added a belfry in the form of a wall with a three-span arcade of toll on short faceted poles, comparable to Rostov-Yaroslavl belfries. At the junction of the pillar and the arcade there are the clocks with a marquee. The largest bell on the belfry in the 17th century weighed 355 kg, in the 18th century – 560 kg. In the 1930s, all bells were sent for melting "for the needs of the state". Currently, the belfry has 17 bells that ring five times a day, performed by the bell ringers of the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve. In 2008, the corresponding painting of the belfry was carried out, reflecting the construction of its components at different times. At the same time the chimes were restored.

Almost opposite the belfry is the Assumption Refectory Church, a rare monument of church and civil architecture (built, according to the calculations of N.N. Voronin, about 1525, according to modern data – in the last quarter of the 16th century). This is a small pillar-shaped temple: "an octagon on a tetragon", with two tiers of kokoshniks, a tented top and a powerful apse, decorated with niches, shoulder blades, keeled arches and ceramic inserts. It is adjoined by a miniature pillar-shaped church without an apse, with tiers of kokoshniks and a graceful head (Diomid's chapel). A two-level refectory chamber under the wooden roof joins the Assumption Church from the other side. The lower floor of the chamber was intended for various economic services, on the upper floor there was a one-pillar refectory hall with a complex system of arches. Only about 20 refectory chambers of the 16th century have preserved in Russia. After the restoration work in 2006, the Museum of Naive Art was opened in the premises of the Assumption Refectory Church, the first and the largest permanent exhibition of self-taught artists in Russia.  

The Archimandrite Corps adjoins the Assumption Church on the side of the Diomidov's chapel. It is an interesting monument of civil architecture of the mid-17th century:  a two-storeyed L-shaped structure with a covered wooden gallery, resting on stone pillars and giving the building the warmth and comfort of living quarters. The building was erected as an official building (here housed an order of monastic affairs, a chamber of attorney, a monastery archive), but approximately from the end of the 18th century, the archimandrite of the monastery lived in it. From 1650 to 1654 years, Pitirim was the Archimandrite of the Savior-Euthymius monastery, the future eighth Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. In the building of the Archimandrite Corps there are now expositions "Book of six centuries", representing rare manuscripts and prints from ancient times to the beginning of the 20th century, and "Russian icon of the 18th - early 20th centuries", containing valuable icons with an interesting history from the funds of Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve.

The Fraternal Corps is another monument of civil architecture of the pre-Petrine period. It was intended for monastic cells (lived for 3-4 people). According to the research of I.A. Stoletov, the earliest buildings, dating from the first half of the 17th century, are the entire southern part of the fraternal corps and the first floor of the northern part. The main decoration of the building is window platbands with kokoshniks. In the offices of the Brotherly Corps since 2003, Russia's first "living" restoration museum, "Defeating time", is located. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that visitors can not only see the saved masterpieces, but also observe the "sacred action" of restorers. In addition, the building houses the exposition "History of Suzdal Monasteries", telling about the famous Russian saints, whose names are associated with Suzdal monasteries, and about the special world of monastic life.

Between the belfry and the refectory church, the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral of the 16th century is located. Outside, it is decorated with a columnar belt. In the 17th century, there was an external painting on the walls. To the southeast corner of the temple adjoins the Euthymius chapel, which probably was   – in 1507-1511. In fact, it was the first stone temple of the monastery – a small commemorative church without pillar, above the grave of St. Euthymius. In the middle or the end of the 16th century, a large cathedral was added to it, and it turned into its side-chapel. The Euthymius chapel was connected by a gallery with the nearby Nativity of John the Baptist pillar-shaped church "under the bells". The transition was at the level of the second tier of the church, which confirms the preserved door in the western wall of the church, designed as a portal, but does not perform any function today. The presence of the gallery is evidenced by the sketches of the 19th century, made by Count Uvarov during the excavation of the burial vault of princes Pozharsky. We have already spoken about different versions of the appointment of this small church next to the Transfiguration Cathedral. Here we give one more version: most likely, the pillar-shaped church was used for the confession of princes, to which they passed, unnoticed for the numerous praying flock, through the gallery from the cathedral.

The walls of the Transfiguration Cathedral were painted in 1689 by an artel of Kostroma masters led by the famous Guriy Nikitin. But these creations were hidden under the murals of the 19th century. Since the beginning of the 1970s, for almost 30 years, the restoration of the original frescoes of the great Russian painter was under way. At present, most of them are freed from late entries. The walls of the chapel of St. Euthymius were also adorned with frescoes. In various scenes of the saint's life, even the choice of a place and the beginning of the construction of the Savior-Euthymius Monastery are reflected.

Monument-chapel in the burial place of Dmitry Pozharsky. To the east of the Transfiguration Cathedral, Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, an outstanding commander, was buried in 1642 in the ancestral burial vault. Together with the Nizhny Novgorod leader Kuzma Minin he headed the people's militia, which liberated Moscow in 1612 from the Polish interventionists and put an end to the Time of Troubles in Russia.

By the end of the 17th century, the tomb was abandoned – there was no one to take care of the graves of their ancestors. In 1766, on the orders of Archimandrite Efrem, the burial vault "due to dilapidation" was broken, and the tombstones were removed and used for church construction. To regain the grave of Pozharsky, in the summer of 1851, archaeologist Count Uvarov, on instructions from the Minister of the Interior, conducted excavations in the Savior-Euthymius Monastery east of the Transfiguration Cathedral. There he discovered the walls of the tomb, which was carefully examined by a special commission and recognized as the burial of D. Pozharsky. In 1885, over the grave of D. Pozharsky, a monument-chapel to the people's means was erected, designed by architect A.M. Gornostayeva.  

In 1933, the monument was destroyed, since a jail for political prisoners was located in the monastery. In 1967 the monastery was transferred to the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve, and large-scale works on its restoration began. In 1974, a monument to the national hero appeared over the burial (sculptor N.A. Scherbakova, architect I.A. Gunsta).

In 2009, the ruined mausoleum of Dmitry Pozharsky was restored with the utmost precision. At the burial site of the commander, there is a cross and a memorial plate. Near the burial place is a chapel-monument. At the opening of the monument the President of Russia D.A. Medvedev was present.

The hospital Church of St. Nicholas is a rare monument of church and civil architecture. In the building documentation of 1669 the requirements to the building were defined: the top should not be a tented roof, the building should be warm. The double arch increases the height of the temple, but can economically reduce the warm room. The facades of the church are decorated with zakomaras-kokoshniks and elegant platbands of the windows. To the temple on the first floor adjoins a two-story hospital ward with a single-columned vaulted hall – for sick monks. The staircase inside the wall, which was rare for the Old Russian architecture, led to the uninhabited upper floor.

In the hospital church since 2006, after serious modernization, the exposition "Golden Pantry" is available for visitors. There you can see unique examples of ancient sewing of the 14th-17th centuries, works of art in gold and silver by Russian masters  of different epochs, from the 12th-13th centuries and before the beginning of the 20th century. There are precious samples of applied art of the 16th-17th centuries, including icons and objects of church utensils, etc.

Prison Corps.  The Savior-Euthymius Monastery in Suzdal was known not only for the relics of St. Euthymius and his miracles. From the middle of the 18th century, the monastery has acquired a new, very sad fame. By order of Catherine II in 1766 there was established a state prison-fortress. Originally it was intended for insane religious prisoner in shackles. However, as the documents show, for 150 years of existence in the fortress there were people endowed with sound mind and memory, and they became insane for many years of imprisonment.

Initially, the prisoners were kept in two wards in the chambers of the hospital Church of St. Nicholas. Since 1823, the cell corps, which was the last major building of the monastery in 1730, has been adapted for prison. It is an extended one-story barracks building with a walking courtyard in front of it, located behind a high brick wall in the northern part of the monastery. In 1889, a special prison church in honor of the Korsun Mother of God was created at the fortress.

Prisoners were of different classes and ranks, secular and spiritual. Here passed the last years of the life of the Decembrist F. Shakhovsky and the prophetic monk Avel, who foretold the fate of the Romanov family.

The prisoner's department officially existed until January 1, 1906. But in 1923 the monastery, from which the last 15 monks were expelled, again receives the status of a prison. Until 1939 there was a political isolator in it, in which, in particular, Metropolitan P. Krutitsky, a world famous economist N. Kondratyev, one of the organizers of the famous Soviet monetary reform of 1922-1924 L. Yurovsky, former director of the State Public Library V. Nevsky, one of the ideological opponents of the methods of leadership of the ruling party M. Ryutin and many others were held.

From 1940 to 1946 years, the Savior-Euthymius Monastery turned into a camp for military – soldiers and officers who were tested after fascist captivity or escape from enemy encirclement. Since 1943 German prisoners of war, in particular, from the grouping of Field Marshal F. Paulus, who were defeated near Stalingrad, began to enter the camp. In the summer of 1943, Paulus himself was here for more than two months.

After the closure of the camp for prisoners of war, from 1946 to 1967, on the territory of the monastery housed a labor and educational colony for minors. Now in the prison building there is an exposition "Suzdal prison. Annals of a two-century history".

The Savior-Euthymius Monastery was restored by the best masters, and in 1968 it was given the status of a museum. Currently it is run by the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve. Almost all the buildings of the Savior-Euthymius Monastery house interesting thematic expositions, which were named above.

The complex of the Savior-Euthymius Monastery with all the described monuments is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Author: V. Korolkova