ST. ALEXANDER-NEVSKY LAURELS
Petit Futé's opinion on ST. ALEXANDER-NEVSKY LAURELS
Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra, Russia's third most important holy place, concludes the Nevsky perspective as sumptuously as the Winter Palace inaugurates it. The monastery complex, which consists of several churches behind a pink plastered enclosure wall enhanced by a rich decoration of white pilasters, statues and colonnades, still looks good, despite the ravages of time. In 1710, Peter the Great ordered the construction of a monastery dedicated to the great Russian prince Alexander Nevsky, who defeated the Swedes in 1240, on the supposed site of his victory. The hero takes his name from the great river of St. Petersburg, on the banks of which he accomplished his exploits. Alexander Nevsky is thus Alexander of the Neva. His relics were transferred from Vladimir (near Moscow) to the monastery in 1724. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Sviato-Troitsky), built in 1790, with the sacred mission of collecting the silver shrine containing the relics, is the most grandiose of the ensemble.
In order to make this new capital a spiritual beacon of Holy Russia, Peter the Great made the monastic complex a "Lavra", in the same way as those of Moscow and Kiev. Alexander Nevsky Lavra is a kind of open-air pantheon: two cemeteries, where personalities dear to the hearts of the people of St. Petersburg are buried, extend over its territory. The Russians spend five minutes there to meditate or a whole day to pray, creating a permanent movement around the churches and the monastery park.
Saint Lazarus Cemetery (Lazarevskoye): the path leading to the monastery is bordered on the left by the oldest cemetery in Saint Petersburg; since 1710, it has been the burial place of architects from the former capital, both Russian and foreign: the Italians Quarenghi and Rossi, the Frenchman Thomas de Thomon and the Russian Stassov rest there next to the great 18th-century Russian scholar Lomonossov.
Our Lady of Tikhvin Cemetery (Tikhvinskoye): dating from 1823, also known as the "artists' cemetery", it ensures the eternal rest of Dostoyevsky, Karamzin, Zhukovsky, the composers Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin or Glinka, and the French choreographer Marius Petitpas.
Finally, the Lavra remains a centre for the spread of Orthodox faith and theology, since it houses behind its walls the Spiritual Academy, the Patriarchate's higher education establishment.
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Open every day from 6am to 8pm. Free admission.
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