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Simonov Monastery, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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The Simonov Monastery was founded in 1371 by the monk Fyodor, a nephew of Sergei of Radonezh, the 14th century Russian monastic reformer and later patron saint of the Moscow principality. The monastery's impressive fortress walls resisted many enemy attacks until the complex was sacked by rebel Poles during the 16th century Time of Troubles. It was rebuilt in the 1640s with even thicker walls and soon became known as 'Moscow's Sentinel" and one of the city's mightiest defensive outposts. During Soviet times the monastery suffered the same fate as ecclesiastical buildings and institutions all over Russia and was almost entirely destroyed to make way for the building of a car factory, football stadium and a palace of culture to keep the factory workers entertained. Today little remains of the monastery but a few haunting remains and a sad reminder of the Communists' disregard for Russia's incredible religious history.

The site's most impressive feature is a 250-meter long section of the monastery's fortified wall, which originally extended for 655 meters in total, crowned with three massive stone towers. Fyodor Kon, designer of the original walls of Moscow's Bely Gorod, is believed to have created the Dulo Tower on the corner by the river in the 16th century, with its tiers of windows at staggered intervals. Later architects added the archers' gallery and the tower's tent-roofed spire, similar to those added to the Kremlin towers in the 17th century. The Solevaya and Kuznechnaya towers are rather reminiscent of enormous mushrooms, their white stalks capped by brown spires. The monastery complex still houses a Refectory-Church, which previously contained a workshop that turned out busts of Lenin but which now produces icons. Originally six churches were contained within the monastery, the oldest dating as far back as 1405, but five of them were blown up in a single day in 1935 by the Soviet authorities. Today religious life in the monastery has revived a little and services are now held for deaf people, in which the Old Slavonic liturgy is signed for the congregation. More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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