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Kamenny Monastery- the first stone monastery of the Russian North

David Goran

Situated on a small eponymous island in the very center of the Kubensky Lake, in Ust-Kubinsky District of Vologda Oblast, about 500 kilometers north of Moscow, Kamenny Monastery (literally “Savior on Stone”) is considered the first stone temple in the north of Russia and one of the first in this region.

The lake is known for its inclement weather and frequent storms so it is believed that during one such storm in 1269, Duke Gleb of Beloozero was cast ashore on this island where he found a small community of twenty-three hermits.

The first stone monastery in the Russian North. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The first stone monastery in the Russian North Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

It is located in the center of Lake Kubenskoye on a small island 120 by 70 meters in size. Photo Credit

It is located in the center of Lake Kubenskoye on a small island 120 by 70 meters in size  Photo Credit

 

It was founded in 1269 by the Grand Prince of Belosero Gleb Vasilkovich, and it played an important role in expanding orthodox beliefs. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

It was founded in 1269 by the Grand Prince of Belosero Gleb Vasilkovich, and it played an important role in expanding orthodox beliefs Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

When the Prince learned that the hermits were poor and couldn’t afford to have a church, he ordered to build a church in the name of “Transfiguration of Our Saviour” and wooden cells. But it wasn’t until two hundred years later that a four-pillared stone cathedral was erected on the island.

The monastery was quite rich, owning seven larger villages, four average villages, and 98 small villages, in addition to two salt pans in Totma and two branches in Vologda. The only post-medieval buildings on the island were an inn and two lighthouses, built for the needs of the monastery in the 1870s.

By the 16th century, the monastery had declined to obscurity. Photo Credit

By the 16th century, the monastery had declined to obscurity Photo Credit

 

Saviour Cathedral before its demolition in the 1920s. Photo Credit

Saviour Cathedral before its demolition in the 1920s Photo Credit

In 1925, the Soviet government closed down the monastery and the buildings were adapted to a youth detention center for minor delinquents but this establishment proved a failure and by 1937 the colony was shut down and the island has been deserted ever since.

Financed by the Russian program Heritage, a restoration work on the monastery began in 1991 and it was undertaken by Vologda resident Alexander Nikolayevich Pligin, his family, and all their volunteer assistants. Since 1995 the island has been frequently visited by the acting bishop of Vologda and Veliky Ustyug, Maximilian.

In 1937, the colony was shut down and the island has been deserted ever since. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

In 1937, the colony was shut down and the island has been deserted ever since Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

The monks’ cells were handed over to the Provincial Department for people’s education and converted into a settlement for juvenile delinquents.

The monks’ cells were handed over to the Provincial Department for people’s education and converted into a settlement for juvenile delinquents Photo Credit

 

Established in 1260 on an island in Lake Kubenskoye, about 500 kilometers north of Moscow. Photo Credit

In the winter, there are just a few people living there, maintaining and restoring it Photo Credit

Today, the monastery is considered one of the main pilgrimage centers of the region.

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As of 2015, the only building marking the spot of the historic monastery is the church belltower from the 1540s, which is now being repaired by a team of enthusiasts from Vologda and Moscow.