Валаам. Изображение: Анна Базилевич

“Valaam stayed on its granite, on the islands, in the woods, in the straits; with its bells, with its hermitages, with granite crosses on the forest roads, with the great silence in the calm, with the rumble of the forest and expanse in storms, with labour — for the Lord, “in the Name.” Like St. Athos — Valaam shines today.
Athos — is in the south, Valaam — is in the north. In the twilight of our time, in the coming ‘night of the world’ — we need lighthouses.”
— Ivan Shmelev, “Old Valaam,” 1935.

It’s not the first time I’m going there, I know, they’re waiting. Waits our workhouse with a well in the yard, with horses and a creaking wooden stairs, the small light monastery cell with a window to the floor, the refectory with hot leavened bread… All that seems so simple because of the immeasurable purity, impossible depth and beauty.

Валаам, фотография Анны Базилевич

Валаам, фотография Анны Базилевич

I’m going for the help, for the consolation, going for all scale and rust to be taken away from my heart with a kind and steady hand. And in the same time — I’m afraid. Maybe it won’t let all of a sudden? Maybe it won’t happen? Maybe I’m not worthy?

It let, it happened. Tiny blue “Saint Nicholas”, rocking on the treacherous and grey steel waves of Lake Ladoga, came in the calm monastery cove and moored at the wooden.

The domes of the renewed of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral shone with gentle azure. Now the scaffolding has been taken away. Go upwards, by the Favorsky stairs, even higher — leaving the white building of the hotel to the right and grey Znamenskaya chapel, further, to the very heart of the island — to worship saint Sergius and Herman. In my heart there is calm, quiet joy. I’m at home now.

How can a story, an essay, a book, contain everything that had filled my heart during the time, spent on the island? I want to give away, to present this part of myself, to share this joy with everyone, multiplying it; but words are not enough, thoughts are getting lost, memories are capturing me. Not able to share my own ones — I’ll tell you about the magnificent Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, one of the major shrines of Valaam, which was built during the hegumen Jonathan (Dmitriev). The project was made by the diocesan architects G. Karpov and A. Silin, and the young Synod architect, academician N. Prokofyev.

The foundation stone was laid on the 30th of June 1887. Old bricks from former cathedral and new bricks, made on the two Valaam brick factories were used for the construction. Granite was quarried on the islands of St. Sergiy (Puutsaari — grey) and St. Herman (Suskujansaari — red and black). A two-storey cathedral, 43 meters height with a 72-meter bell tower on the west side combines the features of both the Byzantine and Russian style. Traditional five-domed church, with helmet domes and a hipped bell tower, with brick tracery on the walls… The walls were painted by father Luca (Bogdanov), who led the monastery school of drawing and painting at the time, with monks and novices. Father Alipio (Konstantinov), who studied in the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts with the blessing of Abbot, supervised icon painting. The abbot Gavriil (Gavrilov, 1848–1910) has completed finishing of the cathedral, and personally wrote the images of cherubs. Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich participated in laying of the foundation stone of the lower (of St. Sergiy and Herman, 1892) and upper (of the Transfiguration, 1896) churches.

Валаам, фотография Анны Базилевич

Валаам, фотография Анны Базилевич

I close my eyes and remember: evening, the upper church, filled with unearthly, incredible singing, iconostasis glowing with warm gold, tension of hearts connected together, merged in supplication, thanksgiving, hope. High soaring dome of the cathedral, strict faces on the walls, kind, simple and complicated — faces around. And almost September wind behind the tall windows drives the lead waves on Lake Ladoga. The lake is rough. Valaam does not let me to the mainland, holds in his arms. A goodbye fill happen tomorrow, for another year. Difficult, sad parting will disturb my heart for a long time with rolling and peals.
This will be tomorrow, but for now: “O Gentle Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed Father, O Jesus Christ…”


From “Faith”.