Russia is the country of thousands churches. Most of them are very old and historical. Some of the churches in the country have the same name, usually after a saint. Arkhangela Gavrilla (Archangel Gabriel) is one of the saints whose name is taken for temple. There are about 52 Arkhangela Gavrilla Churches around Russia, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The one we will talk about, though, is the one in Pereslavl-Zalessky. What makes it special and why it is not to be missed when you visit the city?
The church of Arkhangela Gavrilla in Pereslavl is a part of a monastery. Nikitsky Monastery – the monastery of the Pereslavl diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, is located on the northern outskirts of the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky on the shore of Lake Pleshcheev. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Russia, dedicated to St. Nikita the Pillar: here her relics rest and faith remains.
The History of the Monastery
Until the 16th century, the monastery lived on its own. Around 1515-1521, the Pereslavl deacon Eustathius, after his healing at the relics of the reverend, erected a wooden Nikitsky church dedicated to the Pereslavl miracle worker (this building is not preserved). In 1521, Uglich Prince Dmitry Ioannovich gave the monastery to a village near Uglich. And in 1528, by the order of the Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily the Third, a stone Nikitsky Cathedral was built on the site of the monastery on the site of the old wooden Nikita church dedicated to the early Christian martyr.
The heyday of the monastery began under Mother Superior Vassian, when the son of Vasily the Third, Ivan the Terrible, turned his attention to it. He prepared the monastery as a reserve oprichnina fortress – in case the Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda ceases to be a reliable fortification. More than once he and his family made pilgrimages to the monastery. In 1560-1564, on the orders of the tsar, a new cathedral building was erected – the five-domed church (the old building from the time of Vasily the Third became the southern aisle of the monastery of Nikitsky). Ivan the Terrible came to the consecration of the cathedral. One of his contributions was a massive bronze chandelier for the church, and his wife Anastasia Romanovna presented the church with an embroidered image of Nikita the Pillar made by her own hands. This 16th century temple is preserved to this day. At the behest of the king, other buildings were erected here – the refectory church, the gate church of St. Archangel Gabriel, walls and towers – unfortunately only some of them are preserved to this day. Ivan the Terrible supplied the monastery with estates and established a general residence.
The architectural ensemble of the Nikitsky monastery
There are several buildings built within the walls of the monastery, as well as on the outside. The whole buildings are called the ensemble of the Nikitsky.
1. Cathedral of the Great Martyr Nikita
It was built in the center of the monastery territory at the behest of Ivan the Terrible. Its southern chapel is a temple built by Vasily III in 1520 was, in fact, the first stone building of the monastery. Its top was added during the construction of a new large cathedral.
The cathedral was subjected to numerous reconstructions. Once the eight-pitched roof was converted into a four-pitched roof, for which the zakomar arches were cut and the appearance of the cathedral was greatly simplified. The middle dome is unusually large, so next to it, far from the smallest side chapters seem quite small. In the late 1980s, the central dome suddenly collapsed; but a restoration work has been done.
2. The refectory with the Annunciation Church
In the western rooms of the second floor of the chambers was where Peter I probably stayed during his first visits to Pereslavl. The refectory with the church was greatly rebuilt in the 17th century. By this time, the exterior decoration of the church and the refectory represented the era very well; but, in the first and second tiers, the decor of the building is different. Especially interesting are the window frames of the second tier of the apse, which differ in small details.
3. Tent bell tower
Adjacent to the refectory, it is located between the Nikitsky Cathedral and the Annunciation Church. The pillar is octagonal, decorated with horizontal bands. The area for bells and ringing, covered with a tent with embedded “rumors”, is surrounded by wide arched openings.
4. New bell tower
The gateway, in three tiers, was built in the first decades of the 19th century. The temple of the Arkhangela Gavrilla (Archangel Gabriel) was built in it. The bell tower is much higher than the old one and sustained in the traditions of its time, which is very different from the rest of the ensemble.
5. Stone chapel
Behind the tented bell tower, deep in the monastery courtyard, stands a stone chapel on the site of the pillar of the Saint Nikita, built in the 18th century.
6. Walls and Towers
The walls of the monastery, like many other buildings, were erected by order and with the help of Ivan the Terrible. There were three fights in the walls: upper, middle and lower. The walls were made of bricks fastened with a special mortar, and large boulders were laid in the foundation. Protruding forward from the walls of the tower, loopholes that allowed shots to be freely fired to the distance from one tower to another.
Being an ancient monastery, Nikitsky Monastery offers a journey in time with its entire ensemble including the bell of the church of St. Arkhangela Gavrilla. Believers go here not only to see the beauty but also to pray. For them who are interested in the ancient Russian architecture, visiting the monastery is definitely a must when visiting the region of Pereslavl-Zalessky.