Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery

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Coordinates: 55°43′41″N 36°48′58″E / 55.728°N 36.816°E / 55.728; 36.816

A group of three 17th-century churches
The ashlar palace of Tsar Alexis and the katholikon from 1405

The Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery (Саввино-Сторожевский монастырь, "the Storozhi monastery of St. Savva") is a Russian Orthodox monastery dedicated to the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. It is the preeminent landmark of Zvenigorod, a town 48 km west of Moscow.

In 1398, Prince Yuri of Zvenigorod asked Savva, or Sabbas, one of the first disciples of Sergius of Radonezh, to come to his capital city and set up a monastic abode on the Storozhi Holm (Watching Hill). St. Savva of Storozhi was interred in the white stone cathedral of the Virgin's Nativity in 1407.[1] This diminutive, roughly hewn church still stands, although its present-day exquisite look is the result of a 1970s restoration campaign. The frescoes in the altar date back to the 1420s, but the rest of the interior was painted in 1656. A magnificent iconostasis in five tiers and the Stroganov School royal doors were installed in 1652.

In 1650, the pious Tsar Alexis selected the Zvenigorod monastery as his suburban residence. An ashlar residence for the tsar and a smaller palace for his wife date from the early 1650s. Alexis had the churches encircled with stone walls and towers, patterned after those of the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra. Particularly noteworthy is a large belfry, erected in four bays in 1650 and crowned with three tents and a clocktower. A new gate church was consecrated to the feast of the Holy Trinity in 1652.

After the death of Feodor III, who spent much of his reign at his Zvenigorod palaces, the monastery declined. On September 12, 1812 the Italian corps of Eugène de Beauharnais defeated Wintzingerode's squadron of light cavalry under the monastery walls. The skirmish is described in the memoirs of Prince Sergey Volkonsky and Count Alexander von Benckendorff.

In May 1918, when the Bolsheviks tried to seize the relics of St. Savva, several persons were shot dead. The monastery was ransacked and pillaged, including the tomb of Saint Savva, made of gold plated silver, then the monks were chased out and finally the cathedral was left to ruin. In 1985, the compound was assigned to the Danilov Monastery in Moscow. St. Savva's relics were returned to the monastery in 1998.

Both major churches used to be entirely covered with frescoes and until the revolution had the old icon screens of five levels. Only a few fragments of the original frescoes have survived the Soviet period.[2]

Director Andrei Tarkovsky filmed the first and final scenes of his 1972 film Solaris at a dacha near the Monastery of St. Savva of Storozhi.[3]

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