Alexander Nevsky Lavra (Monastery)

The Alexander Nevsky Monastery is also known as Alexander Nevsky Laura, with laura being the highest rank for a monastery.

In pre-revolutionary Russia there were only four such lauras including the Alexander Nevsky Monastery which was awarded this rank in 1797. It was named after the great warrior, Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263) on the occasion of his canonization.

This is one of the most celebrated monasteries in Bussia — a Lama, that is, the seat of a Metropolitan, and inferior only to the Lavra of the Trinity in Moscow, and to the Lavra of the Cave in Kief; other monastic establishments are only " monaetire." Its proper name is Alexander Nevskaya Sviatotroitskaya Lavra (the Alexander Nevsky's Holy Trinity Lavra).

John Murray, 1892

The main entrance to the monastery is embellished by a graceful gate church (architect Ivan Stasov, 1783-1785), and beyond it there are several graveyards.

The cathedral, one of the largest buildings kTthe enclosure, was built in 1790 by Catherine II, and for the adornment of the interior marble was brought from Italy, precious stones from Siberia, and pearls from Persia. It contains copies of Italian paintings, and on two pillars, opposite the altar, are portraits of its two imperial founders.

The shrine of Alexander Nevsky is a pyramid of silver, fifteen feet high, weighing, with the ornaments around it, 1.5 tons of pure metal. The pyramid is surmounted by a catafalque and by angels, large as life, with trumpets and silver flowers. The sides of the structure have representations of the deeds of the saint, in silver bas-relief.

To the left of the main entrance lies the 18th-century Lazarevskoye Cemetery, the oldest in the city.

Within the precincts of St. Alexander Nevski some of the greatest and noblest of Russia's sons are buried : it is the Westminster Abbey, the Pere-la-Chaise of St. Petersburg.

John Geddie, The Russian Empire, 1900

It came into being soon after the foundation of the monastery in 1716 when Natalya Alexeyavna, the sister of Peter the Great, was buried here. Many eminent figures in Russian culture, such as the scholar Mikhail Lomonosov and the architects Andrei Voronikhin, Andreyan Zakharov and Carlo Rossi, lie at rest here.

There are only two convents in St. Petersburg: this of Smolnoi — one only in name, for the Empress Catherine's twenty nuns have long since been dispossessed by the eight hundred young ladies — and that of St. Alexander Nevsky, for monks. The latter is one of the most celebrated in Russia, a Lavra, and inferior in rank only to the "Lavra of the Trinity" in Moscow, and to the Lavra of the Cave in Kiev. Its proper name is Alexander Nevskaya Svatrotroitzkaya Lavra (the Alexander Nevsky Sacred Trinity Lavra). It is the seat of the Metropolitan of St. Peters burg, and stands at the extreme end of the Nevskoi Prospekt, where it occupies a large space, enclosing within its walls churches, towers, gardens, and monks' cells. Peter the Great founded it in honour of the canonized Grand Duke Alexander, who in a great battle here defeated the Swedes and knights of the military orders, and whose remains were brought hither in a silver coffin. Peter's successors increased the possessions and buildings of the cloister, and Catherine built its Cathedral, one of the handsomest churches in St. Petersburg. For the interior decoration, marble was brought from Italy, precious stones from Siberia, and pearls from Persia; it is further adorned with some good copies after Guido Reni and Perugino; the altar-piece, the Annunciation of the Virgin, is by Raffaelle Mengs, or, as the monk our guide assured us, by " Arphaele" (Raffaelle) himself. In one of the chapels are some pictures by "Robinsa," that is, not Robinson, but Rubens. "On Italiansky" (he was an Italian), as our worthy Father added in explanation. Pictures by foreign masters are otherwise something unheard of in a Russian church. From Robinson to the Cannibals is no great leap, and therefore we were the less frightened when our guide, pointing to a corner of the church, said, " There lies a Cannibal." We read the inscription: it was the well-known Russian general, Hannibal. The Russians, who have no H, change that letter almost always into K. On two great pillars opposite the altar are two excellent portraits, Peter the Great and Catherine the Second, larger than life. These two, as "Founder" and "Finisher," are everywhere united in St. Petersburg, like man and wife. What might have been the result had they been really so? Would he have driven her out as he did his sister Sophia? or she him, as she did her husband Peter the Third? or would Russia have gained doubly by the union? In a side-chapel stands the monument of Alexander Nevsky. It is of massive silver, and contains not less than five thousand pounds of pure metal; it is a silver mountain fifteen feet high, on which stand a silver catafalco, and silver angels as big as a man, with trumpets, and silver flowers, and a number of bas-reliefs in silver, representing the Battle of the Neva. We lighted up two wax tapers at his grave, and were pleased to see how calmly they glimmered in his honour. This kindling of lamps and tapers in Russian churches is a pretty custom; the little flame is so living a symbol of the continued life of the soul,- and, beyond all other material things, flame is the best represe tation of the spiritual. The Russians have so closely adopted this idea, that there is no interment, no baptism, no betrothing — in short, no sacred ceremony — without torch, lamp, or taper, to be thought of; fire is for them the pledge of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and hence illuminations play the most important part in their church ceremonies.

J. Kohl, Panorama of St. Petersburg

 

                           
Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербург) is the second largest city in Russia. It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. St Petersburg is often described as the most westernized city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital.It is the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million.

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