Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery
Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery (Иосифо-Волоколамский монастырь, Волоцкий Успенский Иосифов монастырь in Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

) is a monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 for men, located 17 km northeast of Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

, Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast
Moscow Oblast , or Podmoskovye , is a federal subject of Russia . Its area, at , is relatively small compared to other federal subjects, but it is one of the most densely populated regions in the country and, with the 2010 population of 7,092,941, is the second most populous federal subject...

. In the 15th and 16th century, it rivaled the Trinity
Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. The monastery is situated in the town of Sergiyev Posad, about 70 km to the north-east from Moscow by the road leading to Yaroslavl, and currently is home to...

 as the most authoritative and wealthy monastery in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. It was frequently referred to as lavra
In Orthodox Christianity and certain other Eastern Christian communities Lavra or Laura originally meant a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center...

, although there was no official corroboration of that status.

Early history

Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was founded in 1479 by Joseph Volotsky
Joseph Volotsky
Joseph Volotsky — also known as Joseph of Volotsk or Joseph of Volokolamsk ; secular name Ivan Sanin — was a prominent caesaropapist ideologist of the Russian Orthodox Church who led the party defending monastic landownership.He is a saint ; his memory is celebrated on 9 September and 18...

. Originally under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Novgorod
Archbishop of Novgorod
The Archbishop of Novgorod is the head of the eparchy of Novgorod the Great and is one of the oldest offices in the Russian Orthodox Church. The archbishops have, in fact, been among the most important figures in medieval Russian history and culture and their successors continued to play...

, following a dispute with the local prince, Fedor Borisovich of Volokolamsk, Joseph appealed to grand Prince Vasilii III and the metropolitan to take the monastery under direct control. This led to a dispute between Joseph, the grand prince, and the metropolitan on the one hand, and Archbishop Serapion I of Novgorod (r. 1506-1509) on the other, since according to canon law a monastery could not be removed from a bishop's authority without his permission and Serapion had clearly not granted permission. The grand prince and metropolitan convened a church council, headed by Joseph's brother, the bishop of Rostov, which deposed Serapion and confined him to the Troitse-Sergeev Lavra, where he died in 1516.

Over the next several decades, the monastery became the center of his disciples, or Josephinians, and played a key role in the political and ecclesiastic life of the 16th-century Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. It was also a stronghold of struggle against the opponents of church landownership and heretic
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

s. Its vaults were used as a prison for dissenters. The famous inmates included Maximus the Greek
Maximus the Greek
Maximus the Greek, also known as Maximos the Greek or Maksim Grek , was a Greek monk, publicist, writer, scholar, humanist, and translator active in Russia...

 (who spent 14 years there), Vassian Patrikeyev
Vassian Patrikeyev
Vassian Patrikeyev, also known as Vassian Kosoy was a Russian ecclesiastic and political figure and writer...

, Feodor Kuritsyn
Feodor Kuritsyn
Feodor Vasiliyevich Kuritsyn was a Russian statesman, philosopher and a poet.As a government official and a diplomat, Kuritsyn exerted great influence on the Russian foreign policy in the times of Ivan III. In 1482, he was sent to the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus to conclude an anti-Polish...

, Feodosii, Archbishop of Novgorod (1542-1551) who helped in compiling the Velikaia Mineia Chetii of Makarii
Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow
Macarius was a notable Russian cleric, writer, and iconographer who served as the Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia from 1542 until 1563.-Early life and work on the Menaion:...

 and helped draw up documents for the Stoglav Council, Metropolitan Daniel
Daniel, Metropolitan of Moscow
Daniel was Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia in 1522–1539 and representative of the belligerent ecclesiastic circles interested in alliance with the princely authority....

, and Tsar Basil IV. Joseph Volotsky, Metropolitan Daniel, Archbishop Feodosii, and Malyuta Skuratov
Malyuta Skuratov
Grigory Lukyanovich Skuratov-Belskiy , better known as Malyuta Skuratov was one of the most odious leaders of the Oprichnina during the reign of Ivan the Terrible....

 are among many notables buried within monastery walls.
In the 1560s, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was the second largest landowner in Russia, with more than 30,000 desyatinas of arable land
Arable land
In geography and agriculture, arable land is land that can be used for growing crops. It includes all land under temporary crops , temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow...

s in its possession. Several smaller priories, dependent on the monastery, were founded on these lands. Within the principal cloister, three ponds were kept full of fresh water. After the Assumption Cathedral was constructed in brick in 1486, the great icon-painter Dionisius
Dionisius was acknowledged as a head of the Moscow school of icon painters at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. His style of painting is sometimes termed "the Muscovite mannerism"....

 was summoned to embellish its walls with frescoes. An enormous octagonal bell-tower was constructed in 9 tiers in the 1490s. At that time, it was the tallest structure in Russia. Its design heralded that of Ivan the Great Bell Tower
Ivan the Great Bell Tower
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower is the tallest of the towers in the Moscow Kremlin complex, with a total height of . It was built in 1508 for the Russian Orthodox cathedrals in Cathedral Square, namely the Assumption, Archangel and Annunciation cathedrals, which do not have their own belfries...

 in the Moscow Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin , sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River , Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square and the Alexander Garden...


During the Time of Troubles
Time of Troubles
The Time of Troubles was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601-1603, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third...

, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was actively engaged in helping the government of Basil IV in his struggle against Ivan Bolotnikov
Ivan Bolotnikov
Ivan Isayevich Bolotnikov was the leader of a popular uprising in Russia in 1606–1607 known as the Bolotnikov rebellion . The uprising was part of the Time of Troubles in Russia.-Biography:...

's rebels. The Polish hetman
Hetman was the title of the second-highest military commander in 15th- to 18th-century Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which together, from 1569 to 1795, comprised the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, or Rzeczpospolita....

 Prince Rozynski lost his life besieging the monastery in 1611. After the siege, the monks captured a lot of Polish cannons, which were later used for festive fire works.


At the end of the 17th century, the monastery was reconstructed in the fashionable Naryshkin style. The new walls, completed by 1688, featured nine sharp-coned towers of stone. A golden-domed church was built over the main gates to the monastery in 1679. A church of similar design was added in 1682 to the spacious refectory
A refectory is a dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminaries...

, currently the oldest building in the complex, dating from 1504. The new Assumption Cathedral replaced the old one between 1682 and 1689. Its exterior was elaborately decorated with coloured tiles, and a marvellously carved iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

 was installed in the interior.

Recent history

After the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 of 1917, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was turned into a museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

. The Soviet authorities destroyed all the bells and took most of the icons to Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

army seriously damaged the cloister and blew up its famous bell-tower. Although the churches have been subsequently restored, the bell-tower remains a major loss sustained by Russian art during the war.

External links

Article on the monastery featuring many photographs.
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