Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad

Cultural criteria: ii, iv
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1993

Sergiev Posad (from 1930 till 1991 – the city of Zagorsk) is a small city situated 70 kilometers north-east of Moscow. It emerged around the ancient monastery - the Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius that during several centuries played a large part not only in religious, but also in political and cultural life of Russia.

The secluded hermitage (place of praying) was founded in the middle of the XIV century in the thick of the forest near Moscow by the Rostov boyar’s son Bartholomew, who came to be known as Sergius of Radonezh afterwards. In the XV–XVI centuries the hermitage began to transform into a big and influential monastery. The location on an important strategic route to the Russian North was contributing to its strengthening and inclusion in the general system of Moscow’s defense. A heroic page in the monastery’s history became its months-long defense from Polish interventionists besieging it in the early ХVII century.

The monastery gradually became a biggest feudal-landowner. In 1744 it was given an honorary name of Laura. In 1782 a settlement around the monastery is declared a city called Sergiev Posad.

The architectural ensemble of the Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius was created little by little during almost six centuries and includes over 50 various structures.

The first stone structure of the Laura is the Trinity cathedral. It was raised in 1422–1423 over Sergius of Radonezh’s coffin, in place of previous wooden church. For its construction the eminent architects were invited, who imparted the cathedral all typical features of the early Moscow architecture. This is a cross-domed church having four internal piers, built of hewn white stone blocks; it is notable for small dimensions and modest fretwork.

For interior painting of the Trinity cathedral the eminent painters of the day Andrei Rublev and Black Daniel were invited, who directed the artel of icon painters Just for this cathedral Andrei Rublev painted his famous”Trinity” that was here till 1929 and then transferred to the State Tretyakov Gallery (in the cathedral there is its copy). Andrei Rublev and masters of his circle also created many other paintings, including three rows of iconostasis. Unfortunately, subsequently the paintings and interiors of the cathedral were demolished very much.

In the second half of the XVI century the ensemble of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius was enlarged by the Cathedral of the Assumption, as well as fortress walls and towers. The Cathedral of the Assumption in the central square of the monastery was built from donations by Ivan IV the Terrible, and by his order it must have repeated the aspect of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Moscow Kremlin but being somewhat scaled-up. It was a massive five-domed church built of bricks and not of stones like the Kremlin model. In the XVII century it was painted by Yaroslavl masters, and this painting has preserved its original form to our time. Subsequently the cathedral was also reconstructed more than once. In 1606 the Russian tsar Boris Godunov with his wife and son were buried here.

The fortress stone walls with towers, imparting the monastery an appearance of an impregnable fortress, were built only in ten years (1540–1550). Later they were reconstructed more than once. Now their total length is 1,120 meters, with height being from 7 to 15 meters.

In the XVII century the architectural ensemble of the monastery continued to become more complex by means of new structures appearance. They include hospital wards with the Church of Zosima and Savvatiy, the Gateway Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist and Tsar's Chambers, i.e. stone tsar’s palace in the Laura. This is also a splendid refectory – this hall was meant for holiday dinners and state receptions of tsar and the upper clergy. Experts consider this building an excellent model of “Moscow baroque”.

In the XVIII century a fine five tiers belfry emerged here, whose project was created by the eminent Moscow architect D.V.Ukhtomsky. The white 88 meters belfry is a sort of a uniting center of the whole monastery ensemble giving logical completeness to it.

In 1920 the Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius was announced museum; since 1940 this is a State Historical and Art Reserve Museum. Apart from architecture, a unique collection of the Old Russian painting and applied art of the XIV–XVII centuries are of enormous value. Many Russian writers of the time were creating here, keeping a chronicle, carrying on a correspondence and collecting ancient books, the icon painting and artistic crafts were developing here as well. Works of Russian art of the XVII–XIX centuries are also of great value. On the territory of the Laura there are Moscow ecclesiastical academy and seminary.