Located about 70 kilometers northeast of Moscow, Sergiyev Posad is one of the Golden Ring cities and the site of the life and death of St. Sergius of Radonezh, an extremely popular eremite from the 14th century. He founded on this location a primitive, wooden monastery that ended up being razed by the Tatars shortly after his death. His tomb, however, was left intact, and around it the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius was built in the 15th century, a monastery that became the most important center of Russian Orthodoxy. Due to the monastery’s enormous wealth, a settlement of merchants (posad) also grew up around it, forming what would become the present day city of Sergiyev Posad
Visit to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. Construction on the original structure was begun by St. Sergius of Radonezh, who established a wooden monastery-fortress on this location in 1340. After his death in 1408 the Tatars destroyed it, but in 1422 construction on a replacement commenced above the tomb of St. Sergius, whose remains are kept inside the monastery to this day. Ivan III and especially Ivan the Terrible greatly contributed to the enlargement and enrichment of the monastery: its frescoes were painted by Yaroslavl masters and its iconostasis by Andrey Rublev. High defensive brick walls were erected along with many auxiliary buildings, and over time it attained the title of Lavra, given only to the most significant Orthodox monasteries, as it had grown to be the most important spiritual center of Russia. There you will see characteristic elements of the military architecture of the 15th-18th centuries, the period in which it was developed and expanded. The currently active Monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius is also home to a seminary, technological institute, and the Pilgrimage Centre, and by 1988 it was the see and residence of the Patriarch of All Russia – hence its nickname, the “Russian Vatican.” Among its numerous churches and cathedrals, the most notable and important is the Cathedral of the Trinity, housing the tomb of St. Sergius and a copy of Andrei Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity, the original of which is in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Its main dome was cover with golden guild by Ivan IV the Terrible to commemorate his victory in Kazan. The Cathedral of the Assumption took as a model its homonym in Moscow, it houses the tomb of Boris Godunov and his family. Also important monuments are the baroques Church of the Virgin of Smolensk and Church of the Holy Spirit; the impressive, 88 m tall belltower; the Refectory Church of St. Sergius, the largest in Russia. Inside the monastery’s fortified walls there are also civil buildings such as the Palace of the Metropolitan and the Palace of the Tsars, with its façade decorated with checkboard patterns. During the Russian Revolution the monastery was closed and the monks were sent to labor camps, with the monastery reopening only in 1946. The Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiyev Posad has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.