Russia Valaam Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery June 22-25, 2019
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There are monasteries in the Russian land whose wondrous light attracts pilgrims from all over the world: the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, Optina of the Deserts, Diveevo… In this series, Balaam occupies a special place. Surrounded on all sides by water, remote from the worldly bustle, it seems to be created for a quiet, contemplative monastic life.
Located in the northern part of Lake Ladoga, 22 km from the mainland, the Valaam archipelago has about 50 islands with a total area of 36 square kilometers, the largest of them is the island of Valaam (27.8 square kilometers), next to it are located about. Skytsky, Predtechensky Island, Yemelyanovsky Island and many other small islands. The distance to the nearest Karelian city of Sortavala (old name Serdobol) is 42 km, to Priozersk-about 60 km, to St. Petersburg-more than 220 km.
The coastline of Valaam is cut by numerous straits, channels and bays, which gives it a special attraction, distinguishing it from many other Ladoga islands. The water area of the archipelago, due to the structure of the lake’s currents, is least affected by the waters of the tributaries and can be considered as a reference for the central part of Ladoga.
The Valaam archipelago has a rare and amazing beauty of nature. On a relatively small territory, there are about 480 species of plants inherent in various natural areas, more than 200 species of birds are found, moose, hares, squirrels, and foxes live. On the deserted islands of the archipelago, you can see the rookeries of the Ladoga seal listed in the Red Book, here you can catch salmon, palia, whitefish, grayling and other valuable fish species.
The sheer cliffs that take on the mighty Ladoga waves, and the quiet peace of the inland lakes, the age-old firs and pines that resist the cold winds, and the discreet beauty of the bright alleys and gardens, the harsh grandeur of the pristine northern nature and the originality of the architectural ensembles — all this gives Valaam a unique appearance of one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
But the earthly beauty of these places is also a visible reflection of the beauty of the unearthly, spiritual. For all Orthodox people Valaam is unthinkable without its ancient monastic monastery, which for centuries was the spiritual center of Orthodox Russia and was rightfully called Northern Athos.
Modern historians date the first mention of the island of Valaam to 800 BC. At that time, there was a huge idolatrous temple on the island, where human sacrifices were offered to the gods Veles and Perun. This is how the ancient one could find it Balaam the Apostle Andrew The First-Called. Monastic tradition says that the holy Apostle Andrew The first-Called, the enlightener of the Scythians and the ancestors of the Slavs, arrived from Kiev to Novgorod, along the Volkhov River reached Lake Ladoga, and then-Valaam, where he blessed the mountains on the islands with a cross or an apostolic rod. This tradition is recorded on the first pages of the “Tale of Bygone Years” or the Chronicle of St. Nestor (the beginning of the XII century).
Tradition tells us that it was the pagan priests who first listened to the apostle’s sermon and received baptism, and then destroyed the temples with their own hands. On the site of the destroyed idols, the disciples of the Apostle Andrew installed a stone cross, and after centuries, the brothers of the Valaam monastery entered their “way of the cross”.