Around Volokolamsk, Moscow Oblast1b

Jon Ayres

Moscow, Russian Federation

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Some 24 kilometers northwest of Volokolamsk is the village of Teryayevo and nearby the Monastery of St. Joseph of Volokolamsk. The latter was founded in 1479 by Joseph Volotsky, a powerful political and religious figure of his time, known for his unbending spiritual discipline and dislike of heretics. His monastery became a center both for education and for charitable activity. Legend has it that Volotsky’s generosity to the poor upset local entrepreneurs by forcing up their prices. Most of the current buildings date from the 17th century, when they were decorated with strikingly colored tile friezes, notably the Assumption Cathedral’s “peacock’s eye,” created by Stepan Polubes, the famous Moscow ceramicist. Now returned to the church, the monastery has once again become an educational centre, teaching the ancient art of manuscript-writing right down to such details as traditional methods of preparing ink, and collecting bibles from all over the world. A bible museum (the largest in Russia and the third largest in the world) displays the nucleus of the collection, including the first complete printed Slavonic bible.

After the October Revolution of 1917, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was turned into a museum. The Soviet authorities destroyed all the bells and took most of the icons to Moscow. During World War II, the German army seriously ruined the cloister and, most appallingly, blew up its famous bell-tower. Although the churches have been subsequently restored, the bell-tower remains a major loss sustained by Russian art during the war. This is a photo of the Assumption Cathedral, and to the left you can see the ruins of the bell tower the Germans blew up, at one time this bell tower was the tallest man made structure in Russia.

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