A lavra or laura (Greek: Λαύρα; Cyrillic: Ла́вра) is a type of monastery consisting of a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center. It is erected within the Orthodox and other Eastern Christian traditions. The term is also used by some Roman Catholic communities. The term in Greek initially meant a narrow lane or an alley in a city.
From the fifth century the Greek term laura could refer specifically to the semi-eremitical monastic settlements of the Judaean Desert, where lauras were very numerous. The first lauras of Palestine were founded by Chariton the Confessor (born 3rd century, died ca. 350): the Laura of Pharan (now Wadi Qelt) northeast of Jerusalem, the Laura of Douka on the Mount of Temptation west of Jericho, and Souka Laura or Old Laura in the area of Tuqu' in Wadi Khureitun.
Saint Euthymius the Great (377–473) founded one of the early lauras in fifth-century Palestine. The Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (†532) in the Kidron Valley (known in Syriac as Mar Saba), is one of the most ancient and almost continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian Church.
Gerasimus of the Jordan established a similar system in the Jordan Valley in the middle of the fifth century, with 70 cells surrounding a cenobium and with monks progressing into the cells after time spent in the cenobium. Weekdays were spent in the cells, accompanied only by a rush mat, a small amount of food and palm blades with which to make ropes and baskets. On Saturdays the monks would bring their handiwork to the cenobium and receive the Eucharist together, returning to their cells on Sunday evening. Cells were left open, and those in need could take whatever they wished from a cell if it were found empty. The lavra had a priest, the lavra's contact with the outside world, and at least two ordained deacons.
Some modern Coptic authors, and they alone, already apply the specific Greek term lavra to even earlier monastic settlements from the Wadi El Natrun and even attribute the writing down of the formal rules of a lavra to the Egyptian sanctified monk Macarius of Egypt in AD 330. Unless proven otherwise by future scholarship, this opinion seems to be theirs alone.
Their claim is that the lavrite style of living has its origins in the early fourth century, by equating the creation of the first lavras with the founding of a settlement of cells in the Nitrean desert at a site known as Nitria, named for the nearby town of the same name (near Alexandria in Egypt). It was a community of 600 hermits who lived scattered over the area, reliant on the town of Nitria for bread, but with their own priest and church.
The largest and the most important Russian Orthodox monasteries have been called lavras and became subordinated directly to the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1721 they became subordinated to the Most Holy Synod.
Some notable lavras
A list of lavras of different types.
- Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople:
- Georgian Orthodox Church:
- Church of Greece:
- Agia Lavra (since 961)
- Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem:
- Mar Saba (532)
- Polish Orthodox Church:
- Romanian Orthodox Church:
- Neamț Monastery (since 15th century)
- Russian Orthodox Church:
- Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:
- Univ Lavra (since 1898)
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate):
- Order of Carmelites: Hermitical Communities
- λαύρα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- Kazhdan, Alexander P., ed. (1991). "Lavra". The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Laura Archived 2014-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
- Lewin (2005), p. 188.
- Parry (1999), p. 294.
- Monasticism, Daniel Al-Antouny (ed.)
- Parry, Ken; David Melling, eds. (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23203-6.
- Lewin, Ariel (2005). The Archaeology of Ancient Judea and Palestine. Getty Trust Publications. ISBN 0-89236-800-4.
- (in English) The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra
- Photo of "Holy Mountain" (Sviatogorskaya) Lavra in Ukraine
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. .