What to see in Russia
Tourist attractions Goritsy
A visit to Goritsy means getting to know a part of Russia that bears little or no relation to the monumental architecture of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In fact, this small village is in a forest and the only way to get there is by boat. Fortunately, many of the Volga cruises include a stop here. You will be delighted by its brightly-painted wooden houses and, of course, its monastery.
Although Goritsy is principally a stop-off place on the way to Kirillov, it also has its own attractions. One of them is this female Orthodox convent, which is only six kilometres away from the better known and more visited Kirilo-Belozerski monastery.
In 1544, Princess Khovanskaia, who took the name of Princess Euphrosinia Statritskaya when she married Ivan the Terrible's uncle Andrey, founded this monastery. She probably did not imagine at the time that she was going to be locked inside.
Euphrosinia was one of those rebellious women who have been such awkward customers throughout history. Indeed, her first spell in "prison" was between 1537 and 1540, after instigating the uprising of the inhabitants of Novgorod, who rose up against the Muscovite princes.
After this three-year period, Ivan the Terrible's adviser finally managed to persuade him to release her, but the Tsar was not convinced. At that time his son (who would be killed at the age of eight) had not yet been born, making the son of Euphrosinia a possible heir. So, after a few years of tug-of-war, he forced his aunt to take her vows in 1563. The woman spent the last years of her life embroidering with gold thread in the monastery which you shouldn't miss if you decide to see Goritsy. She died the same year her son was killed, and was later canonised by the Orthodox Church.
One of the legends surrounding Goritsy Monastery is that one of the female bodies found on the premises in 2007 belonged to the rebel princess, but it seems that this is not the case, and that she is buried in Moscow.
In 2007, two women's bodies were found and some believe, despite the scepticism of historians, that one of them is that of the founder; however, she is widely considered to have been buried in the church of St. Michael the Archangel in the Kremlin, Moscow.
Kirillov is a much more popular destination for travellers who decide to take a river cruise on the Volga River. The Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, one of the largest and oldest in Russia, is located here.
The first thing that will strike you is its exterior and its gardens, looked after with same meticulous care as its founder would have lavished on them.
All religions have stories of saints and apparitions, and the Russian Orthodox church is no exception. The legend behind the construction of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery is that one fine day St. Cyril had a visitation from the Virgin Mary with a message to build a monastery on that very spot.
Unfortunately, this is not the only story. The official version is that the government in Moscow realised the strategic importance of the Kirillov enclave and dispatched Cyril, who had not yet become a saint.
Kirillo-Belozersky is not the only monastery in the world to have also served as a fortress, but it does have the peculiarity of never having been the object of any attack.
While it was in use, in Cyril's time, the number of people who dwelt within its walls ranged from 600-700. A little more than a quarter of them were monks, while the rest worked as craftsmen or belonged to the army.
At present the monastery is inhabited by fewer than ten monks.
One of the entrance doors to the monastery is decorated with beautiful frescoes. One in particular stands out, as it represents two angels. While one holds a scroll, the other looms threateningly with an axe. So if you decide to travel to Goritsy and enter the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, be careful. The angel with the scroll will recite your sins, and the other may decide to cut your head off if you have sinned too much. Or so another legend goes.
The same legend says that if you leave with your head on your shoulders it is because your sin has been forgiven.
Inside the monastery there is a small area devoted to one of the most impressive collections of icons in the world. The display is complemented with an exhibition of antiquarian books, other works in stone and pictures.
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