Usually called Posad in everyday life, Sergiev Posad is a provincial town of 100+K people. Apart from spirituality, there're some other aspects it boasts - chemicals, fireworks and agriculture.

But despite the Posadians' high educational and mental level, living standards here are worse among other sub-Moscow towns due to political pretences. Many locals work in Moscow, so Posad may impress as a residential area with a lot of garbage around. You'll inevitably see beer plastic bottles and cigarette butts thrown in the streets.

Behind the Orthodox Vatican facade and even in Posad City (a business area by the terminal stuffed with trade centers), many shabby houses stand spoiling the picture. If you really wanna see Posad, put up with its drunkards and beggars.



Sergiev Posad is famous for its wooden craft and souvenirs. Antique stores offer old postcards, pictures, books, icons and balalayka (a traditional string instrument). A better option is checking out the Vernisage, a souvenir market down the Lavra gates. Starting as wooden counters by the restaurant area, after the underground passage there're salesmen's tables with souvenirs like matryoshka, painted eggs, chainlets, mini-icons, boxes and all sorts of folk trade.

Modern artists create many new styles of nesting dolls. Common themes include animal collections, portraits and caricatures of famous politicians, musicians and popular movie stars. Matryoshkas featuring communist leaders became very popular with Russians in the early 1990s. Today some Russian artists specialize in painting themed matryoshkas as to specific subjects, people or nature.

To bring cameras inside the Lavra, you must buy a pemission (an excursion CD is included though). Or you can pass free by just hiding your cam. Inside the Lavra there're some churchware stores as well. 



One can easily get from Moscow to Sergiev Posad. Sergiev Posad's transport hub is its busiest area.

Trains leave from the Yaroslavsky Terminal (the Komsomolskaya subway station) every  0.5-1 hour, rarer in lunch time. They take 1.5 hours and about €3 one way. This railroad line goes further through Alexandrov, Rostov the Great, Pereslavl-Zalesky to Yaroslavl. Through a window you can see great inside views of Russian countryside. But note that a commuter train is a mid- and low-class transport full of curious and drunk seatmates. If in a hurry, taxis are available behind the terminal.

A more comfortable transport is bus from the ВДНХ (VDNH) subway station departing every 10-15 min. For about the same price as train, it goes for 1 hour. The bus tickets are sold on board.  



In Sergiev Posad tourists can dine at various spots.

The terminal offers McDonald's and a Kroshka-Kartoshka (Potatoe Baby) chain restaurant nearby with local cuisine like baked potatoe, cucumber salads and garlic bread. Cafes here are the last option due to their poor hygiene and heavy cigarette smoke around.

By the Lavra you'll find decent summer open-air cafes with beer and shashlyk (grilled meat). Premium restaurants Rusky Dvorik, Nichego Lichnogo (Nothing Personal) and Dachnaya Zhizn (Cottage Life) opposite the Lavra provide the best view and English-speaking staff.

Even inside the Lavra (at the gateway) 2 cafes serve hungry tourists. Anyway at any time you can find take-away food for spontaneous street meals like most Russians do.

Gethsemane Chernigovsky Skete

The (Gethsemane) Chernigovsky Skete (1843-7) is the Lavra's eastern hermitage 3km. A famous Moscow holy fool Philippushka who had been drifting in European Russia for 10 years as a pariah came to the Lavra and moved to the place to dig an underground reclusory like that of the Kiev-Pechyory Lavra. The caves were dug till 1851 when they included a cave temple as a wooden dugout and underpasses with monastic cells. The central cave was for prayer to become the Archangel Michael Cave Temple.

In 1852 the cave temple was donated the Chernigov Icon of Godmother. By legend, in 1869 it healed a paralized peasant woman and later showed over 100 miracles and healings. The Skete's elder was Rev. Barnabas visited in 1905 by Tsar Nicolas II for advice and blessing. Barnabas used to console people even though predicting Bolshevic terror and Orthodox revival.

The architectural ensemble center is the 5-dome Chernigovky Cathedral (1886-97) with the cave church underneath. Its 5-tier belfry rises amid the neighborhood almost equally with the Lavra's one.


St. Savva Spring

Behind the Lavra there's a lowland spring of St. Savva of Storozha

Savva was St. Sergius' close disciple and very ascetic assistant. For 6 years after St. Nikon Savva ran the monastery as abbot. Like St. Sergius, he prayed intensely until a water spring came out of the hill. After his death in 1406 St. Savva's relics cured the sick and exorcized evil spirits. Sometimes his spirit came to monastery inhabitants who prayed for his help.

The St. Savva Spring is accessed by a wooden path and has a traditional bathing hut nearby. Though religiously cosidered holy, its water may not be so pure due to local drainage, epidemiologists warn.


White Pond

A traditional rest spot for Sergiev Posaders is the White Pond downtown between the Lavra, its hotel, the Museum and the avenue. It's the oldest basin here.

By legend, Peter the Great used to shoot the pond ducks. Now the White Pond is famous for its swans living in a central booth and shot only with cameras. 

St. Sergius Sky

This heat balloon fest is a top Sergiev Posad event and a major nationwide professional contest. Happening outside the Lavra on Sergius' nameday (July 18) and the weekend ahead, it features about 10 colorful airships of incredible shapes. Beside a traditional moneybag, the fest's highlight is the Matryoshka balloon. At night the balloons even become illuminated.

I advise timing your Sergiev Posad visit to St. Sergius Sky to watch this magnificent annual sight.



Accomodation in Russia which has a long way to become tourist-friendly is rather expensive. So be ready to pay €50+ for a hotel room.

The best Sergiev Posad hotel is stone-and-wooden Rusky Dvorik (Russian Court) 5 min from the Lavra. Located in a quiet old street, this hotel-restaurant complex boasts a provincial atmosphere with European comfort.

The Pancake Hill features Aristocrat, a red-brick premium hotel with a panoramic downtown view. A convenient middle-class accomodation is Gnyozdyshko (Cosy Nest) Hotel at the car terminal.

Still the cheapest hotel here belongs to the Lavra and stands in the Red Army ave., by the center. A perfect pilgrim choice, the Lavra Hotel is a modest place with strict religious rules - no smoking, drinking, cursing and debauchery. 

Eternal Fire

In a park down the Konchura valley with massive trees stands the Eternal Fire above the Unknown Soldier Grave. It's a granite semi-circle monument with a constant flame in the center.

On May,9 (the Russian V-Day) people lay flowers, the authorities put wreaths and World War II veterans gather here to commemorate Soviet soldiers killed by the Nazi. The memory of our motherland defenders lives as long as the Eternal Fire burns.

Wedding couples also frequent the monument as a modern ritual.


Pancake Hill

The Pancake Hill (Blinnaya Gora) is Sergiev Posad's top photo scene as a natural amphitheater site and a social spot for youth. Half way from the transport hub to the Lavra, it provides a grandiose view of the Lavra walls and peaks wrapped in trees opposite the Konchura river.

Most tourist photos from Sergiev Posad feature the Pancake Hill with its white fence. Behind it stand traditional though run-down 19th-c. wooden houses. On summer Saturdays visitors may also be lucky to witness a local wedding on the hill .


Smolenskaya Church

On the outside wall of the monastery stone kitchen, constructed in the 15th century by the eminent Russian architect V.D. Yermolin, there was an icon, "Our Lady of Smolensk", carved in stone. When in 1730 a monk whose arms had been twisted by rheumatism was ardently praying in front of it, a miracle took place — he was cured. In honour of this miraculous healing the Smolenskaya Church was erected on the kitchen site by Empress Elizabeth's order in 1746–8. The construction was sponsored by Duke Razumovsky. The richly decorated miracle-working icon stood in the gilded carved iconostasis right of the Royal Gate.

In 1920–30 the iconostasis was lost. Instead an iconostasis from a destroyed Moscow church was installed here in 1956. The iconostasis was designed by architect Uhtomsky. It's contemporary to the church and of the same style.

The Smolenskaya Church has no columns inside and all its inner space is open up to the dome. Murals were painted here in the 19th century. At present the miracle-working icon "Our Lady of Smolensk" is at the local museum. A plaster copy of it (bigger in size) is in the altar recess outside the church. The grave of Nicholas, a Petersburg Metropolitan, is in the church crypt.


St. Nikon

St. Sergius' successor as monastery abbot was St. Nikon (1355-1426), 1st among his disciples, from Yuriev-Polsky (half way between Rostov and Radonezh). He came to the Trinity Monastery at a very early age, that’s why St. Sergius put him under the guidance of his disciple St. Athanasius, the abbot of the Theotokos on the Mountain monastery in Serpukhov. In 1375 St. Nikon returned to the Trinity Monastery and became St. Sergius' closest coworker. Half a year before his death, St. Sergius entrusted the monastery leadership to St. Nikon and vowed himself to silence. He was monastery abbot until his death. 

St. Nikon rebuilt the entire monastery destroyed during the invasion by Han Edigey in 1408. In 1422 the holy relics of St. Sergius were discovered during the construction of the Trinity Cathedral. St. Nikon commissioned the famous iconographers Andrey Rublev and Daniel the Black to paint the cathedral. The work was finished by 1425. 

St. Nikon was buried by the southern wall of the Trinity Cathedral, where a church dedicated to him was constructed in 1548, a year after his canonization. The church was rebuilt in 1623. At its western wall there is a chapel called Serapion’s Tent, constructed above the tomb of St. Serapion, a Novgorod archbishop.


Tsar Chambers

The Tsar Chambers were erected in the late 17th c. By its outside appearance the edifice matches the Refectory Church. It was used by pilgrims from the royal family. In the 18th c. the Chambers vaults were decorated with fine stucco and carvings.  

The Church Archaeological Museum and the Holy Virgin Intercession Church are situated inside the Chambers. The wall paintings were created in 1987–8 by the iconographers of the local Icon Painting School

The church above the gateway, dedicated to the St. John the Baptist's Nativity, was built in 1693–9. At present confessions for pilgrims and exorcism are performed in it every morning.

Patriarch Chambers

The Patriarch (ex-Metropolitan) Chambers (1687–92) were built instead of the former superior cells. Nowadays, Patriarchs of Moscow and all Russia stay here during their visits to the Lavra. 

The top storey hosts a home church with the Holy throne consecrated in 1949 in St. Filaret the Pious' name.

The Patriarch Chambers adjacent to the Refectory Church were built simultaneously. Its facade made in baroque in 1778 formed the southern side of a small cosy square. The main entrance is decorated with columns which capitals support a balcony with an elegant forged lattice.

The top-storey front rooms feature rich baroque moulding and arch murals made in 1777–8 and old tile stoves with a vegetable ornament.

Chapel over the Well

The Chapel over the Well is a dizzying structure carved with flowers, vines and blue arabesques, built over a spring discovered in 1644. The colorful tent-like canopy over the cross-shaped fountain which receives water from the spring was built in 1872. 

The Chapel over the Well was built in the late 17th-c. over the spring which shot up while repairing the Dormition Cathedral porch. Many pilgrims were cured by this water and people took it to the sick to heal them. The 1st was a blind monk whose eyesight returned due to this miracle-working water. Till this day thousands of pilgrims use this water for cure and consolation in their troubles. 

Refectory and St. Mica Church

By the 18th-c. the monks had considerably grown in number and the old Refectory couldn’t satisfy monastery needs. Instead a new Refectory with a church dedicated to St. Sergius was erected by Peter's order in 1686–92. The church was consecrated by Patriarch Adrian, the last pre-revolutionary Patriarch of Russia, in memory of the 300th anniversary since St. Sergius’ death. 

The building of Moscow baroque style is 85 m long. Open galleries run along its perimeter, with long flights of steps leading up to these galleries. The church building catches the eye with a 4-color design of its façade, creating an illusion of faceted relief-work, as well as with the richness of its elaborate colorful stucco and carvings. They make a perfect match for the Refectory architecture. Although rather spacious (510 m2), its vaults don’t need any intermediate support. The Refectory walls were painted and renovated several times. Last time the church was painted in 1911.

The veneration of the Mother of God was central in the life of St. Sergius. Every night he sang hymns in honour of the Holy Virgin and at the end of his life he and his disciple St. Mica had a privilege of Her visit. She came to his cell with the apostles Peter and John by her side. The Holy Virgin promised to protect the monastery and watch over it. In memory of this appearance a small gem-looking church was constructed in 1734. People connect it with the name of St. Mica, as the church stands above his grave. On the commemoration day of St. Mica, May 6/19, a liturgy is celebrated here.


is a village 4km north of Sergiev Posad famous nationwide as a place of signing ceasefire between Russia and Poland whose troops were standing the same distance opposite. In 1618, after unsuccessfully sieging Moscow with the Trinity Monastery and anticipating a hungry winter, the Poles asked for peace. Russian representatives brought the talks to Deulino instead of the monastery which fortifications the Poles intended to secretly explore. The Deulino peace treaty conciliated the 2 countries for 14.5 years.

Deulino has 1 stone church, the Savior Church (1850-3) by the village cemetery and pond sponsored by its members and the Lavra granting 30K bricks.  


Moscow Theological Academy

The Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary is the highest instutute of the Russian Orthodox Church stemming from the Slav-Greek-Latin Academy (1685). The pious Empress Elizabeth who often visited the Trinity Monastery founded the Seminary in the Tsar Chambers in 1742. The Academy trains Orthodox priests.

In 1814 the Theological Academy was transferred from Moscow to the Lavra, and a new complex of buildings for school needs appeared. Its yellow classroom building was erected in 1839 and got a 3rd storey in 1884.

At present the Tsar Chambers belong to the Academy. Academy access is for its students only. 


The Belfry (1741-69) is the Lavra's tallest building 88m high and reputed as Russia's most beautiful bell tower. Built as to classic architecture canons, the Belfry impresses with its excellently chosen 5-tier proportions, orderly elegance and harmonically compatable wall plane and arch spans. It's crowned with an unusual shell-shaped accomplishment. The clock with chimes was installed in 1905.

The Belfry was designed by architects Shumakher and Ukhtomsky, and it’s one of the tallest in Russia. It replaced the 17th-c. bell tower. Its heaviest bell weighed 65 tons. The bell choice by their tone and sound was considered superb. Before the revolution there were 42 bells. In 1930 all the big bells were thrown down and destroyed. Till 2002 there were only 23 bells. On September 4, 2002 two new Moscow-cast bells (35,5 and 27 tons) were lifted up to the 2nd tier in presence of Patriarch Alexy II. The 3rd called Tsar (72 tons) was cast in Petersburg in 2003. 

The Belfry is the monastery's latest prominent building, a finale of the unique architectural ensemble. It dominates the Assembly Square as if uniting its other constructions.

Hospital Wards

The Hospital Wards with the St. Zosima & St. Savvaty (Sabbatius) Solovetsky Church (1635-7) are a rare existing example of medieval civil architecture. Between the 2-storey Hospital Wards stands a steepled church - unique for the Lavra. It's also the only church here built simultaneously with the surrounding stone wards hosting the monastery clinic. The church features orderly proportions and expressive facade decoration with plenty of green glazed tiles.

The Assembly Chambers with the St. Zosima and St. Savvaty Church were constructed by monastery cellarer Alexander Bulatnikov who had come to the Lavra from the Solovets Monastery. Before 1917 the building was used as a hospital for sick monks and an almshouse for the old and disabled. The church is seemingly patterned after the no-more existing Pokrov Cathedral of the Solovky. Now this complex also hosts the Lavra vicar ward. 

Assumption Cathedral

The Assumption (Dormition) Cathedral (1559-85) is the Lavra's biggest church. The monastery's current walls were built in the mid-16th century, as was the Assumption Cathedral rising in the complex's center. Its 4 blue onion domes around a larger gold one may look familiar - they were inspired by the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. 

In the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who had a particular veneration for St. Sergius, the monastery was surrounded by a stone enclosure topped by 12 towers. After conquering the Tartars and the kingdoms of Kazan and Astrahan, the tsar began building a large and beautiful church for the Assumption of the Mother of God. The walls, pillars and vaults are covered with frescoes about the Church history. Most of the wall frescoes are dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. On the pillars there are images of the most highly venerated saints of the Orthodox Church. The cathedral's magnificent frescoes were created in 1684 by 35 painters in 100 days. The frescoes cover the area of 500 m2. The 5-tier iconostasis consists of 76 icons dated back to the 16–17th-cc.. The celebrated 17th-c. painter Simon Ushakov, a royal isographer, took part in creating the iconostasis. 

The Assumption Cathedral consists of 2 temples with the holy relics of St. Filaret (Drozdov † 1867) and St. Innokenty (Veniaminov † 1879), Moscow metropolitans. By the western wall, to the right of the entrance, you can see the tomb of Makarius (Bulgakov † 1882), a Moscow metropolitan who created many outstanding works on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and dogmatic theology.

Holy Spirit Church

In 1476 on the site of the wooden Trinity Church (1412) by St. Nikon, master builders from Pskov invited for the construction work in the Moscow Kremlin erected a new 1-domed church, dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Under the dome the builders placed an open belfry. In 1608–10 during the Polish siege this church was used as a watchtower. 

The Holy Spirit Church and the Trinity Cathedral form an ensemble. The frescoes in the Holy Spirit Church were executed in 1655, but in the middle of the 19th century they were replaced by oil paintings. The iconostasis was carved of rosewood by Lavra woodcarvers in 1866. In the church there are 2 temples with the holy relics of St. Maximus the Greek († 1556) and St. Anthony of Radonezh († 1877). St. Maximus the Greek was one of the most erudite men of his period who wrote many theological and polemic works. He died in the monastery and was buried here. In 1988 he was canonised. Since 1770 Moscow metropolitans were abbots of the monastery. St. Anthony was the monastery vicar in 1831–77 and canonised in 1996.



Atheistic communists closed the Lavra for 1919-46. In 1919 Sergievsky Posad got a town status and a new name of Sergiev to be later renamed into Zagorsk (1930) after Vladimir Zagorsky, a Moscow party secretary, assasinated with a bomb thrown by his political opponents. The site was so charged with history that even Stalin couldn't bring himself to raze it, though its monks were sent to labor camps after the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin even allowed the monastery to reopen after World War II as the spiritual center of the emasculated, state-monitored Orthodox Church of the Soviet era.

Posad's oldest churches stand SE of the Lavra, at the hill foot meeting tourists 1st. 

The churches of the Entry of Our Lady into the Temple and of St. Paraskeva, Martyr surnamed "Friday" replaced a wooden parish church of the Service settlement. The Entry Church (1547) was sponsored by a boyar Habarov, the Friday Church (1547) with a 17th-c. chapel over the St. Paraskeva well - by the Trinity Monastery.

Sergievsky Posad

In 1782 the adjacent suburbs and villages were united into a posad (settlement) with the name Sergievsky. The major capital constructor here was the Lavra erecting hotels, hospices, stores and lodgings around the monsatery. They served inflowing pilgrims especially after a convenient highway (1845) and railroad (1865) with Moscow were set up.

The town economy also served the monastery. Great pilgrim demand for devotional articles drove the manufacuring of crosses, candlesticks, icons and so on.

Trinity Sergius Lavra

In 1744 Empress Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna) thanked the monastery for helping her father by granting it the highest church rank of lavra, thus making it in fact Russia's top monastery.  In the mid-18th c. the Sergius Lavra was the biggest landowner in land and people. It possessed over 2K km2 of land and 106K serfs in 15 provinces and 45 towns.

In 1764 the Lavra was dispossessed of all its lands due to church secularization (land nationalization). The state took on maintaining the "staff" of 100 monks and 100 priests.


Trinity Monastery

The monastery baptized Ivan the Terrible, the notorious Russian tsar. He fortified it into a solid fortress to defend Moscow. In the 1550s a thick wall with brick-and-stone towers substituted the wooden fence.

In 1606 the well-famed though short-termed Russian Tsar Boris Godunov with his family were buried by the Dormition Cathedral.

In 1608-10 the Trinity Monastery survived a siege by 30K Polish invaders for 16 months. This feat of arms spread the word about its defenders and won it immense prestige.

Peter the Great kept maintaing its status as a royal fortress. In 1689 he hid inside the monastery during the streltsy (royal guard) riot in Moscow.

St. Sergius of Radonezh

Sergiev Posad formed around the Trinity Monastery founded in 1345 (1337 by some evidence) by St. Sergius highly respected in medieval Russia. He entered Russian history as a Moscow prince associate in uniting Russian lands, but firstly as a monk preaching and implementing non-posession and diligence. 

St. Sergius was born of wealthy Rostov boyars on May 3, 1314. On the 4th day a local priest baptized the child naming him Varfolomey (Bartholomew). From his childhood he grew accustomed to solitude and sought his salvation through prayer, fasting and work. In the early 1330s they moved to the Radonezh village south of the future monastery. In 1337, at the age of 23, after his parents’ death, he decided to leave for the desert together with his elder brother Stefan (Stephen). The brothers chose to found their hermitage in a clearing surrounded by a thick forest on a low hill, later called Makovets (a term often used to indicate a hill top). They built for themselves a cell and a small church dedicated to the Lifegiving Trinity. That was the birth of the Holy Trinity Monastery which later served as a source of pride and inspiration to Russians.

His hermit life was very difficult and required a good deal of perseverance and will. Stefan could not take the rigours of winter and the scarcity of food. He preferred life in an urban monastery and left Varfolomey for Moscow.

For about 2 years Varfolomey remained alone in the desert, and in silence and prayer he prepared himself for his monastic vows. After taking them with the name of Sergius, he lived even more austere ascetic life in solitude, reading the Bible, working in his garden and unceasingly praying.

Despite the distance of his hermitage, word concerning the exemplary ascetic life of St. Sergius soon spread everywhere and pious monks began coming to him in search of guidance. Later farmers and town dwellers used to come from all over for St. Sergius' blessing and advice and then settled in the monastery area. The Tartar yoke weighing heavily on the country caused its ruin and forced people to leave the most exposed regions and seek refuge in wilderness.

"…One night while St. Sergius was praying, he heard a voice calling his name. He was greatly surprised and, having read his prayer, he opened the window to see who had called him. A miraculous vision appeared before him. A great light coming from heaven made the night as bright as day. Once again a voice called him saying, “Sergius, you pray for your children and the Lord has heard your prayer. See how many monks have come together in honour of the Holy Trinity to be guided by you”. Then the saint saw a multitude of birds that were not only on the wall of the monastery, but also in the clearing surrounding it. The voice said: “The number of your monks will be as the number of the birds, and it will not decrease if they follow your path”."

Having become monastery abbot, St. Sergius did not change anything in his life and continued to work for all. He remembered the words of Christ, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mt. 20:28 ). He was not only a father but also a servant to all those who came to him, giving an example of humility and work. St. Sergius officiated every day, and he himself prepared alter bread, grinding wheat and making dough. He also prepared food, made boots and habits for the monks, carried water form a spring and left a bucket at each monk’s cell. He himself built 3 or 4 cells for other monks. He spent the night praying, eating only a little bread and water and never spent an hour without working. 

Numerous miracles took place and many people were cured by St. Sergius' prayers. Gradually he became famous all over the country. Many pilgrims as well as suffering and poor people came to him for consolation. In his lifetime already he was revered as a saint. 

For a long time the number of the monks was limited to 12. Then new candidates arrived and the community began to grow. The saint refused no one the right to enter the monastery. Among his disciples and followers there are about 70 canonised saints. In central and north-eastern Russia they founded about 50 monasteries, which became centres of Orthodox piety and spiritual enlightenment.

In 1355 the Trinity Monastery accepted communal regulations for every aspect of monastic life. The new order and more monks restructured the whole cloister. Scattered cells changed into a strict wooden settlement of 3 zones - public, residential and defensive. This scheme still exists today. 

In 1380 Moscow Prince Dmitry (of Don) came to seek St. Sergius' blessing before leading his army for the Orthodox faith and liberation of Russia from the Tartar yoke since 1237. With this encouragement the grand prince won a great victory over the Tartar han Mamay on the Kulikovo field on September, 8. It was the 1st major Russian victory against Tartars. After that Moscow princes became Trinity Monastery patrons.

St. Sergius entrusted his holy and pure soul to God on September 25, 1392. St. Sergius' apotheosis in 1422 marked a new stage in the monastery history with a solemn laying of the Trinity Cathedral over his grave.

Toy Museum

The monastery produced wooden toys as far back as Sergius's time, for local kids and visiting royalty. In the 19th century the town became the center of the matryoshka workmanship, and now many rare nesting dolls and other wooden toys are on display and for sale at the town's Toy Museum (Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm). If you have time and energy, wander south of the monastery around the Kelarsky Pond, a popular spot for amateur artists in summer.

A matryoshka or a Russian nested doll (often incorrectly called a Babushka doll - babushka means a grandmother) is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other. It's a derivative of the Russian female 1st name Matryona - a very popular name among peasants in old Russia. The name in turn is related to the Latin root mater (mother), so is closely connected with motherhood and the doll has come to symbolize fertility.

A set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure which can be pulled apart to reveal another figure of the same sort inside. It has in turn another figure inside and so on. The number of nested figures is usually 5 or more. The shape is mostly cylindrical rounded at the top for the head and tapered towards the bottom, but little else - the dolls have no hands (except those painted). Traditionally the outer layer is a woman dressed in a sarafan. Inside it contains other figures that may be of both genders, usually ending in a baby that does not open. The artistry is in the painting of each doll which can be extremely elaborate.

Matryoshkas are often designed to follow a particular theme, for instance peasant girls in traditional dress, but it can be anything from fairy tale characters to Soviet leaders.

Matryoshkas date from 1890 likely to have been inspired by souvenir dolls from Japan. However, the concept of nested objects was known in Russia, having been applied to carved wooden apples and Easter eggs - the 1st Fabergé egg (1885) had a nesting of an egg, a gold yolk, a hen and a small ruby pendant, now lost.

The story goes that Sergey Malyutin, a painter from a folk crafts workshop in the Abramtsevo estate of a famous Russian industrialist and arts patron Savva Mamontov, saw a set of Japanese wooden dolls representing Shichi-fuku-jin (the 7 Gods of Fortune). The largest doll was that of Fukurokuju (a happy, bald god with an unusually long chin) and within it nested the 6 remaining deities. Inspired, Maliutin drew a sketch of a Russian version of the toy. It was carved by Vasily Zvezdochkin and painted by Malyutin at the Children’s Education Workshop-Salon in Abramtsevo. It consisted of 8 dolls: the outermost was a girl holding a rooster, 6 inner dolls were girls, the 5th doll was a boy, the innermost – a baby.

In 1900 M.A. Mamontova, Savva's wife, presented the dolls at the World Exhibition in Paris and the toy earned a bronze medal. Soon many other places in Russia started making matryoshka.
During Perestroika state leaders became a common matryoshka theme. Starting with the largest, Mikhail Gorbachev, then Leonid Brezhnev (Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko almost never appear due to the brevity of their respective terms), then Nikita Hrushchyov, Josef Stalin and finally the smallest, Vladimir Lenin. Newer versions start with Dmitry Medvedev and then follow with Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin.

History and Art Museum-Reserve

The Sergiev Posad State History & Art Museum-Reserve houses an impressive collection of jewel-encrusted robes, gems and icons from past centuries.  

The museum consists of 4 departnents. The 14-19th-cc. Lavra Sacristy (by the Trinity Cathedral, open 10am-5.45pm except Mon, Tue and last Fri monthly) displays precious donations of Russian princes, tsars and noblemen to the monastery - unique collections of icon and ornamental embroidery, painting, jewelry art, mini-sculptures. More unusual garments and exhibits are on the 2nd floor.

The Kony Dvor (Horse Yard) historical & architectural complex (3 min north of the gates, open 10am-5.45pm except Mon, Thu and last Wed monthly) presents the district's pre-history, its 18-21th-cc. applied and decorative art and Russian village.

The Exhibition Hall (open 10am-5.45pm except Tue, Thu and last Wed monthly) exhibits fine art in the main building opposite the Kony Dvor.

The Local History museum (5 min from the Lavra, open 10am-5.45pm except Mon, Tue and last Thu monthly) features 20th-c. Sergiev Posad - exhibitions about the tsar period, the 1930s, World War II years and other aspects of modern town life. 

The ticket costs about €3. Permission to take photos also costs a fee. Anyone wearing shorts won't be let in. The ticket offices close an hour before the exhibitions.

Trinity Cathedral

The Trinity Cathedral (1422-3) is a rare remaining sample of early Moscow white-stone construction. The traditional cross-building church with 4 internal pillars features a modest size, carved decor, multitiered finishing, gables (zakomara) and corbel arches (kokoshnik). 

The Trinity Cathedral hosts Sergius' relics. It boasts several works by Andrey Rublev, Russia's best icon painter. Many pilgrims come to Sergiev Posad just to see his iconostasis masterpiece, Old Testament Trinity. The monastery's version is a copy - the original now hangs in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery. The cathedral started a trend with its use of kokoshniks, the pointed arches that became a defining feature of Moscow church architecture in ensuing centuries.



The Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra (Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra) is an architectural ensemble of churches, chapels and cathedrals within fortress walls and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The monastery in the Red Army ave. (Krasnoy Armii) is open daily from 8am to 6pm. The churches are publicly open Monday through Friday.

The Lavra is a unique monument of the 16–17th-cc. fortress architecture. The walls have 3 tiers, the towers - up to 6 tiers. The 1st tier was built by Tsar Ivan IV in the 16th c., the 2nd and 3rd — in the 17th c., after the Polish siege.

This magnificent 14th-c. monastery is the jem of the Golden Ring drawing pilgrims from around the country and abroad. It's also the only town on the historic Golden Ring that's a comfortable 1-day trip from the capital. The Golden Ring is a set of towns NE of Moscow that formerly comprised the Zalesye region. Its early-medieval towns also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserving the memory of Russian history milestones. Called "open air museums" and featuring unique monuments of Russia's 12–18th-cc. architecture, they include kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia's famous onion domes. The Golden Ring includes Pereslavl-Zalesky, Rostov Veliky, Uglich, Rybinsk, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Gus-Hrustalny, Suzdal, Vladimir and Alexandrov (the nearest to Sergiev Posad by train).


Hi! I'm Konstantin, a 29-year-old Russian living in Sergiev Posad, the holiest and most beautiful Orthodox town. 70km NNE of Moscow, it's famous for the Lavra - a monastery complex with golden domes and white walls.

My mission here is promoting Sergiev Posad abroad due to its poor ad. When the authorities are too lazy for leveraging its huge potential, who's gonna attract tourists if not an energetic local!? So I can guide English-speaking tourists all over here. Please feel free to phone or email me for details.

I'm well-educated and experienced in teaching English and touring people. I graduated from the Moscow Linguistic University with an honors specialist degree in linguistics & intercultural communication.