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solovetsky-monastery view from north.Solovetsky Archipelago (Solovki) in the White Sea

View from north of the Solovetsky monastery. Summer 2010. View from north of the Solovetsky monastery. Summer 2010.


The Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Monastery and its numerous hermitages are situated on the islands of the Solovetsky Archipelago in the White Sea. The first monks to inhabit this place were the Reverend Gherman and Savvaty, who came here in 1429. Their cause was continued by the Reverend Zosima who was the first to settle in the place of the monastery to be. The Solovki Cloister soon became the centre of missionary work and the stronghold of the Russian Orthodox Church in the northern lands, as well as the stronghold of the Russian State being a mighty fortress in the way of Swedish, Finnish and other foreign conquerors.

The flourishing of the Monastery was due to the labours of the brethren directed by Father Superior Philip (Kolychev), the future Metropolitan and Martyr. At the times of the Hegumen Philip canals were dug out to connect numerous fresh-water lakes, grand monastery building were erected, the Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Cathedral among them.

At the end of the 16th century, at the times of the Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, impregnable walls and towers of the Cloister were built; they repeatedly beat off enemies’ assaults. The last time when the Monastery defended itself was the attack of the British Squadron which suddenly appeared in the White Sea in 1854. Under the heavy bombardment the Monastery buildings suffered enormously, but luckily not one of its defenders was injured. The enemy had to retreat.

At the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th centuries the Solovetsky Monastery was an acclaimed holy place where pilgrims from all over Russia used to come. The Monastery economy of the time was excellent. Monks were busy fishing, bone and wood carving, gardening. There was an icon painting workshop in the Monastery. They built an electric power station (one of the first in Russia) and a biological research station. The Monastery vestry treasured the contributions of the Russian sovereigns and other distinguished donators.

In 1920 the Cloister was closed, and in 1923 its buildings were used by the Solovetsky Concentration Camp of Special Designation (In Russian the abbreviated form of the Camp title was ‘SLON’, if treated as a word, it means ‘elephant’). In 1923-1939 the Solovki became the Russian Golgotha, place of martyrdom and deaths for thousands and thousands of professors of Christ. At the end of the 1980s there appeared a movement for revival of spiritual life on the Solovki. The first Russian Orthodox parish then appeared, and soon the monastery life was restored here. In 1992 the relics of the holy founders of the Monastery were translated to the Solovki.



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