June 17, 2012

0251 RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) - Alexander Nevsky Monastery - part of Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments (UNESCO WHS)

The Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Saint Petersburg is undoubtedly the most important between the numerous places of worship that have Alexander Nevsky as patron saint, because it was built by Peter the Great in the place where he believed that took place the Battle of the Neva in 1240, but especially because it hosts the relics of the saint. He was only 19 years when defeated the Swedes, and 21 when he defeated the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights, and became even during his lifetime a symbol of the Russians resistance against the invasions from the North. His veneration as a saint began soon after his death (in 1263, at the age of 43 years), he being canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.

The monastery was conceived by Peter the Great as a charitable, correctional, educational and medical establishment, according to his idea about a utilitarian use of the monasticism. The original building was erected of wood between 1712 and 1713. In 1724, a new church, designed by Italian architect Domenico Trezzini, was consecrated, and was named Church of the Annunciation of the Holy Mary. The relics of the saint, patron of the newly-founded Russian capital, Saint Petersburg, were brought to this church from Vladimir Monastery of the Nativity, in a journey that took several months.

In 1750 Empress Elizabeth ordered that a silver sarcophagus be built to shelter the holy relics. The sarcophagus (made from a ton and a half of silver) was moved to the new Church of the Holy Trinity in 1790, but in 1922 the soviets confiscated it and relocated it to the State Hermitage Museum, where it remains until today (without the relics, which were returned to lavra in 1989). In 1797 Emperor Paul transformed the seminary of the monastery into a academy, and gave the monastery its current rank - the highest in the Orthodox hierarchy - and name: the Alexander Nevsky Lavra of the Holy Spirit.

The Alexander Nevsky Lavra was a residence of the capital's ecclesiastical authorities and a place of pilgrimage for the Imperial Family, who made rich donations. Among the most precious objects kept in the sacristy were St. Alexander Nevsky's crown. By the beginning of the 20th century the territory of the monastery complex was home to an impressive 16 churches. Today, only five survive: the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Lazarus, the Church of St. Nicholas, and the Church of the Holy Mother of God, the Joy of All Those who Mourn, which is over the monastery gates.

Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments, about which I wrote here.

About the stamp
The stamp, depicting Ryazan Kremlin, is part of the series Russian Kremlins, about which I wrote here.

Alexander Nevsky Lavra - Wikipedia
Alexander Nevsky Lavra (Monastery) (Saint Petersburg) - World Walk

Sender: Anna / Galaktianna (postcrossing) RU-988785
Sent from Pskov (Pskov Oblast / Russia), on 28.05.2012
Photo: V. Melnikov

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