New Jerusalem Monastery#
17 May 2010
with kind permission of AirPano
In the 17th century, a little town located just 50 kilometers from Moscow suddenly became a stronghold of the spiritual and geographical revolution: it was supposed to become the new Holy Land of the Christians, with an exact replica of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, its topography and relics. This is how the local hills gained their names: Mount Zion, Mount Tabor, and the Mount of Olives. In addition, the Istra River was renamed the Jordan River. These were the only similarities to the Holy Land — the brutal Russian climate remained unchanged, and the little settlement near Moscow named "New Jerusalem" couldn't become the center of Orthodox Christianity.
The famous Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, an unusual person who, although being greatly misunderstood by contemporaries, played a huge role in the history of Russia. In fact, he was the author and initiator of the already mentioned changes. Among Nikon's schismatic ideas were the church reforms that permanently divided the country, giving rise to the Old Believers movement.
Patriarch Nikon was actively involved not only in the religious but also social life of the country, trying to interfere with government affairs. Alas, he crossed the line in this sphere, just as he did with the church. As a result, he was evicted from Moscow and then settled down in New Jerusalem, placing the construction of the Resurrection Cathedral under his personal supervision.
We have to give credit to the scale of the idea. The Resurrection Cathedral was supposed to visually represent the leadership of Russia in the world of Orthodox Christianity. The Patriarch ordered architects to copy the Palestinian Cathedral and, at the same time, gave them room for creativity. For example, there was the idea of building a temple with 365 chapels representing each day of the year! However, this particular idea was turned down during the construction. Nevertheless, the cathedral, decorated with hand-painted tiles and white-stone carvings, turned out to be rather whimsical. The domes of the underground church rose up from the ground level in front of the main section — the Resurrection Cathedral was crowned with a mighty dome that rests on the cross-shaped foundation; and further behind them, there was a huge stone-tented roof over the Holy Sepulchre Chapel. The tent was so big that the architects couldn't secure it well enough, and so in 1723 it collapsed.
After the two fires that followed the first incident, the cathedral underwent a major restoration, which was supervised by architect K. Blank, who implemented the design from the famous Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. By the 20th century a number of additional structures appeared in the monastery. However, in 1941 most of the buildings were damaged due to the war, and many architectural monuments were completely destroyed. Some of them were rebuilt, except for the main architectural piece — the gigantic seven-tier belfry.
Today the New Jerusalem monastery shares a ground with the art museum that is also located on its territory. The city of Istra (former Voskresensk) has always been in the shadows, silently growing around the monastery. Like the monastery, during World War II, the city was occupied and then completely destroyed during the retreat of the enemy troops. After the war, architect A. V. Schusev designed a master plan that would turn the city of Istra into a large recreational center; but industrial and scientific research fields began to develop here instead. This is why, aside for the New Jerusalem Monastery, the main "landmarks" of Istra are a baby food factory, furniture and textile factories, as well as tile, brick, and other plants. This contrast of old and new is depicted in our panoramas that were shot in the freezing (below 0°F!) winter of 2009.