Friday, September 10, 2010

Russia, Day 5: Kostroma

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On our fifth day, we disembarked at the city of Kostroma, which was founded in the 12th century. It reached its peak of importance in the 15th century, when it was the third largest city in Russia, after only Moscow and Yaroslavl. Today it is a modern city with a population of 300,000.

Our first stop was the Monastery of St. Hypatius, a huge complex at the confluence of the Volga and Kostroma Rivers. The monastery was founded in 1330 by the former Tartar murza (minor nobility) Chet, who converted to Orthodoxy. The Godunov family (including Boris) are descendants of this figure, and thus the family burial plot is located there.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (above) was constructed in the mid-17th century by the Godunov family in imitation of the contemporary Moscow architecture. A team of 19 of the best iconographers were assembled in 1685 and completed the entire church in one summer.

Inside the cathedral, a small side chapel was being renovated, again with Byzantine-style iconography much like we see in Greece today.

In the main part of the cathedral, near the iconostasis on the right-hand side, sits a hand-carved wooden structure that served as the tsar's throne. The one you see in the photo above is an exact replica; the original is in a museum in Moscow.

We were then taken into the monastery's impressive museum, which primarily featured icons and liturgical objects from the 16th-18th centuries. Above is one of the icons on display there.

The last thing we visited inside the monastery was the Romanov house, which is where the family was living when Mikhail was chosen as the tsar who would end the Time of Trouble. You can see the colorful house in the photo above. Inside is a small museum dedicated to the family.

Above is another photo from the inside of the huge monastery complex. Returned to the Church in 2002, the monastery currently has 10 monks.

Unfortunately, this was one of the rare days on our trip when the weather was poor -- rainy and overcast. The photos from the day suffered because of this.

Here we are leaving through the Catherine gates, which were built for the visit of Catherine the Great.

We then headed next door to visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture. In the 1950s, the Soviets decided to construct a dam for hydroelectric power. They moved the houses in that area and reassembled them in this area, forming them like a traditional Russian village along one central street. The buildings range in date from the 17-19th centuries, including two churches.

Above is a photo of one of the two churches. This one is has two altars. The church on the bottom floor is dedicated to the Holy Protection of the Theotokos, the one on the top floor to the Prophet Elijah. The church was originally built in the 16th century, but underwent major renovations many times, through 'til the 19th century.

That's me in front, trying to see if we could go inside.

We had free time to explore this open-air museum at our pace, and I went with Steve and my friend Fr. Romilo, a Serbian monk of Hilandar Monastery who is currently studying at Oxford. Fr. Romilo speaks a little Russian, so we spent quite a long time in this house speaking with the woman in charge of caring for it. She explained that 10 peasants would live in this small house. It's built of aspen and fir logs and was originally covered with straw, and dates to the beginning of the 19th century.

The main room of the house. Notice the icon corner to the right. I've heard that Russian novels foreshadow the bad characters by noting that they do not make a bow toward the icon corner when they enter a house.

The stable was located inside the house, for shared warmth during the long, cold winters. Here's a view from the stable out to the next house.

Here, Fr. Romilo is standing on the bridge in front of the church of the Gracious Savior, built in 1712. It is described as a typical model of the framework type of an old wooden church. The roof is covered with birch bark.

We then had a little free time in Kostroma. Unfortunately, it was raining, so most of us just went to a market to stock up on supplies for the boat. While there, however, Fr. Romilo and I had an interesting encounter with an elderly Russian woman, who insisted on giving us each 100 rubles (about $3) and asked us to pray for her. She was eagerly anticipating Christ's return and was anxious to ask us about this.

The group then headed to the Theophany Women's Monastery, which houses an orphanage, a school, and a care facility for the elderly. Many of the 100 nuns here work as doctors, nurses, and teachers there.

This was also the site of the Theophany Cathedral, which features the famous 800-year-old Feodor icon of the Mother of God (see above), the icon used to bless Mikhail Romanov when he became the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty. We were blessed to venerate it.

Inside this box are small pieces of the relics of all the Optina elders. There were many, many such boxes throughout the churches we visited, full of small particles of relics of a vast number of saints.

Our next stop was the Church of the Resurrection on the Debra, built in 1651 (see above). According to tradition, this is how this church was built: The merchant Cyril Isakov found a barrel of gold among the goods received from London in exchange for canvas. To this merchant's amazement, his English trading partners told him to use the money for a project pleasing to God. It was this money, then, that built the church.

We ended the day with dinner with the Archbishop of Kostroma. In the photo below, he is offered us a toast welcoming us to his diocese. The photo above is of our first dish -- a translucent jelly with mushroom and carrot inside. Mother Nectaria told me this is a traditional delicacy, and is time-consuming to make.

For more photos from the day, click here.

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