Monday, March 11, 2013
Alexander Svirsky Monastery
While I was excited to visit the Alexander Svirsky Monastery even before the trip started because it would be unlike anything I had ever seen, I did not realize just how amazing of an experience it would be. Initially it felt odd to have to wear a long skirt and headscarf in order to be allowed onto the monastery grounds as a woman, but seeing every woman around me in the same thing made me quickly forget and I liked it because it “made me feel Russian.” As our guide took us around and talked about the various buildings, it struck me that the monastery was built before my own country was even founded. The idea of history in Russia is much deeper and further reaching than it is in the United States. We got to see beautiful frescoes that were hundreds of years old yet still completely breathtaking, and it was very moving to see how evident our guide’s sincere passion about and belief in what she was teaching us was when speaking about the frescoes and using them to tell the story of Jesus. We also listened to four local men sing traditional church songs that were so moving that it almost brought tears to my eyes. I also loved seeing the iconostasis in the church because while my history class had made it sound quite interesting, seeing one in person blew me away with how impressive it was. Despite the fact that I do not practice Orthodoxy, it was still a very spiritual and moving experience to explore the monastery, take some holy sand, and see the body of Alexander Svirsky of which some parts are still uncorrupted by time and wear. It seemed so characteristic of the Russian heartland to be able to drive for hours and see nothing but trees and then come across this beautiful monastery, then drive many more hours before coming upon another sign of human existence.