In addition to chartering the monastery and arranging for its construction, the monk blessed Prince Dmitry Donskoi as he left on his 1380 campaign against the Tatars, who had raided and dominated Russian territory for 140 years at that point. Dmitry’s victory at the battle of Kulikovo Field didn’t completely overthrow the “Tatar Yoke,” but it did mark a turning point. According to medieval records, St.Sergius otherwise stayed out of politics and only blessed Donskoy after assuring that he had exhausted all peaceful means.
The site was for centuries home to the Old Testament Trinity, the best-known work of Russia’s most famous iconographer, Andrei Rublev. The original now hangs in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, but a copy is in its place in the iconostasis of the monastery’s Cathedral of the Assumption.
The monastery also holds the tomb of Boris Godunov—and others of his noble family—who ruled Russia as regent from 1585-98, then as tsar until 1605. He was the brother of Ivan the Terrible’s wife, and his regency followed the death of that ruler, whose eldest legitimate son, Ivan the Bellringer, was mentally incapable of running the country. It was long rumored that Godunov murdered another son of Ivan the Terrible, causing the first line of Russia’s tsars, the Rurikids, to die out, thus leading to uncertainty about the succession in the Time of Troubles. The idea of the murder became the subject of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov.
IF YOU GO
The site is about an hour northeast of Moscow, on the main route to Yaroslavl, easily accessible by road or rail. You’re likely to find many more pilgrims than tourists. Please remember the dress codes for visiting religious sites in Russia: Men, no shorts or tank tops; women are additionally advised to bring a scarf to cover head and shoulders.
My recent series of postings on Russia is no indication of sympathy for the trend of gushing over Putin/Russia from certain American political circles. The timing is mere coincidence.
I'm taking the rest of August off. See you September 1!