History

Russia’s Recreation of the Holy Land Constructed Near Moscow 

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A Russian replica of Medieval the Holy Land was Created Near Moscow’s New Jerusalem Monastery. Russian Palestine was conceived as a means to capture the Holy Land, otherwise inaccessible to an ordinary Russian person of the seventeenth century.

Today it is difficult for us in principle to understand why such an idea arose – to build a copy of the Holy Land near Moscow. But we live in a different world, where you can open the Internet, and without getting up from the couch, examine any sight in detail. And if that’s not enough, then, in the end, you can get on a plane and just fly to the right place to touch everything with your hands.

The people of the 17th century did not have any photographs, or even reliable pictures of Palestine. What the land the Savior walked on looked like, they could only guess. The wooden model of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher brought to Russia was considered an incredible value, because it practically allowed a person to touch the gospel history. From this came the idea to create a kind of icon on the ground.

If an ordinary icon seeks to capture the holy ascetics of the Church, then the Voskresenskiy (Resurrection) Monastery on the Istra River was conceived as a means to capture the Holy Land, otherwise inaccessible to a normal Russian person of the seventeenth century.

Not only the monastery complex itself but also the surrounding area was to become such an icon. The nearby hills were named Mount of Olives and Mount Tabor, and the nearby settlements were also given names from the gospels. According to the original idea, Russian Palestine was to become a complex system of objects, sometimes located dozens of kilometers from each other.

Of course, the builders did not try to make an exact copy of the Holy Land: firstly, it was technically impossible, and secondly (and this is perhaps more important) they sought to create an icon with deep symbolism, not the most realistic picture. Therefore, if in Israel you need to go 147 kilometers from Jerusalem to Mount Tabor, then in the Moscow region, it’s only half a mile with a fairly leisurely step.

The construction of the monastery began in 1656 by the personal order of Patriarch Nikon. New Jerusalem was his favorite brainchild. Nikon saw it as the future residence of the Patriarchs – not far from the royal capital, Moscow, but still a little aside, to emphasize once again: the Church and secular power are close, they have many common tasks, but still, they exist in parallel and should not mix.

Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich also liked the idea of the monastery, especially since the time for such a project was not chosen by chance. The Muscovite kingdom was reborn again after the Time of Troubles at the beginning of the 17th century; the civil war, foreign intervention, and years of devastation were over and left behind.

The country again tried to comprehend itself, to find its place in the world. Moscow was the capital of the largest and most influential Orthodox state in the world, and therefore the Moscow kingdom saw its main mission as protecting the Orthodox world. At that time, political goals were not separated from spiritual ones, and here, not far from Moscow, on the banks of the Istra River, the Tsar and the Patriarch saw a place for a new spiritual capital not only of Russian Orthodoxy but also of worldwide Orthodoxy.

Alas, a difficult fate awaited the New Jerusalem Monastery, just as the fate of its founder turned out to be difficult. In an effort to improve church life, and correct church books and liturgical traditions, Patriarch Nikon acted too harshly, and sometimes even in a very tough style.

The result of this was a terrible church schism in the 17th century, the consequences of which have not been eliminated to this day. Nikon himself fell into disgrace with the Tsar and was removed from the Patriarchate by the decision of the Great Moscow Assembly. He did not have time to complete the idea of the New Jerusalem, although the construction of the monastery continued even after the deposition of its founder.

In addition to its special symbolism, the monastery is also interesting for its unique architectural style. Moscow baroque is a very short period in the history of Russian art, when the Western trends of the late 17th century had already penetrated Russia, but the imminent reforms of Peter the Great had not yet swept away the old Moscow traditions: West and East were intricately combined with each other. However, it is useless to write about it; you just need to see it.

In the 20th century, before the war years, the monastery was practically destroyed by the Western-sponsored Bolshevik anti-Christ pogroms. For many years, New Jerusalem was preserved by the efforts of enthusiasts and employees of the museum organized here. But it was possible to carry out its restoration only in the 21st century. Today, the monastic life of the hermitage has also been revived; new buildings for the museum have been built. YOU CAN SHARE THIS STORY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. 

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