The Zagorsk State Historical And Art Museum—Reserve
The Zagorsk state historical and art museum-reserve is one of the largest depositories of home works of fine and applied
art in this country. Situated in the territory of the Trinity-St.Sergius monastery — the 15th-l8th centuries architectural
ensemble — the museum was founded after the Revolution: on April 20, 1920, the Soviet of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom)
published a special decree "On turning the historical and art values of the Trinity-St. Ser-gius Monastery into museum."
Signed by V. I. Lenin, the decree became one of the important documents of the Soviet power in the field of culture and an
illustration of the tireless concern of the young Soviet republic for preservation of art monuments.
Lenin's decree was preceded by selfless work of many historians and architects, invited by the People's Commissariat
on Education to the Commission on preservation of cultural heritage of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery. The Commission
was formed in October, 1918. For several years it took care of the monastery treasures.
In different periods the Commission members were famous figures of home culture like Yu. A. Olsufiev, P. A.Florensky,
P.N. Kaptercv; restorers and museum workers T. A. Alexandrova-Dolnik, N. D. Protasov, A. N. Svirina; architects A. A. Kesler
and I.E. Bondarenko, artists V.D.Derviz, M.V.Boskin, V.LSokolov, V.l.Khrustachev, and D. M. Gurcvich from local authorities.
They did a lot of research, organized exhibitions, published catalogues and advertized the museum all over the country.
In a year and a half they managed to register all works of art and describe them; they also provided that they were safe
and restored. They set up new expositions from the monastery funds and for the first time people could see treasures hidden
from them for centuries. During the time of its existence the Commission managed to publish a lot of editions on the former
monastery collections, among them scientific inventories and monographs, guidebooks and articles in magazines and miscellanies.
Uniqic exhibitions of the Russian art from Middle Ages to 1917 arranged by the Commission became important events in
the artistic life of the country. Later those exhibitions formed the basis for the permanent exhibitions of the future museum
The Commission's functions were further on carried out by the Board and Academic council of the museum, when it ceased
to exist in 1925.
The second period in the museum life was noted by the improvement of its structure, by the greater scope of research
and restoration works and by considerable enrichment of the funds.
The collection of the museum was replenished in the prewar decade owing to professor A. A. Alexandrov's collection ,
the collections of the museum of local lore, and the museum of handicrafts. In those years the present profile of the museum
finally took shape. Its main points were the Old Russian art, the art of the 18th-early 20th centuries, folk art of the 17th-early
20th centuries, handicrafts and Soviet decorative and applied art.
In accordance with the Sovnarkom resolution of February 1, 1940, the whole architectural complex within the fortress
walls was proclaimed a museum-reserve. Immediately after that a group for repairs and restoration headed by architect 1.
V.Trofimov started its work, which they did not stop even during the war.
Like the whole country the workers of the museum courageously faced the war. The museum expositions were displaced in
no time under the supervision of its director I.Z.Ptitsyn. As early as in August 1941 the most valuable exhibits were evacuated
to Solikamsk. The director of the museum could not accompany the echelon to the place of its destination; he just saw it
to the Moscow railway station. Soon he was killed in the battle. It was the museum worker N.M.Prasolova who evacuated the
exhibits and preserved them in the war time. In spite of the very hard conditions and severe frost (—40 °C), she and her
colleagues from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the museum of pottery "Kuskovo", and the museum-studio of
sculptor A. S. Golubkina fulfilled their civil duty and preserved the national
Not all the museum items, however, could have been evacuated deep into the country. Part of them, that remained in Zagorsk,
was safely kept by the new director Z. Ya. Shvager and the head of the folk art department I. F. Kazakov, the latter, not
long before that, managed to bring the possessions of "Abramtscvo" memorial estate to town.
The monastery was adapted to the war conditions in autumn 1941, when the fascists were rushing to Moscow. Thus, the domes
of its cathedrals were camouflaged, and the loopholes of the walls were turned into the weapon emplacements.
Restoration of the ancient paintings and architectural monuments started as soon as the war was over and the museum values
were brought back. The main problem was the lack of qualified specialists, therefore, it was decided to train them in the
museum. That is how the Art School of Builders and Restorers appeared on the territory of the former monastery in 1945.
From 1952 the museum workers started to collect pieces of folk and Old Russian art in different regions of Russia. The
very first expeditions — to the ancient villages around Zagorsk and Moscow — brought the museum dozens of valuable items.
In 1967 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Revolution the museum opened an exposition of decorative and
applied art after 1917. Workers of the museum maintained contacts with artists, selected art pieces at the workshops where
they were made, held exhibitions, such as "The Porcelain of Verbilki ", "The Soviet Faience", "The
Stonework of Russia", "Modern Ceramics of Russian Federation", "Russian Glasswork". Many of the
exhibits were bought by the museum and added to its collections.
It was in the 1960s that the profile of the museum was finally formed. Its collections show the rise of home applied
art in the 19th-20th centuries.
The museum regularly arranges exhibitions to demonstrate more of its collections. Among them — "The Russian ceramics
of the 19th-early 20th centuries", "Dymkovo toy", "Handicrafts of Sergiev posad", "Russian
ceramics of the 17th-early 20th centuries." Some works of art from Zagorsk have been recently exhibited in many cities
of this country and abroad — in France, Japan, FRG, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Mongolia.
The museum continues to do the research work. Its main trend is a thorough study and descriptive of its rich collections.
As a result, a lot of art pieces formerly unknown to the scientists enter the scientific scope. Information on these works
is being published in monographs, articles and catalogues.
The major task faced by museums today is to preserve and create anew the original look of buildings, icons, the needlework
and the jewelry pieces, ruined by age or distorted by later alterations. Thus, as early as in 1920s a special workshop
on needle works and fabrics was formed and attached to the museum. Reopened in 1945, it now exists (within the section on
fabrics restoration) as a branch of the applied art department of the All Russia Research and Restoration Centre named after
academician I.E. Grabar. Skilled restorers M. P. Ryabova, A. N.Belyakova, T.A. Goroshko have for many years been doing a
lot of work to return to life thousands of items from the collections of the USSR museums, the Zagorsk museum being among
Since 1920 the museum has been doing much to restore its collection of icons. The results of this gigantic work, started
by N. A.Baranov, arc demonstrated at the special regular exhibitions, like the latest one "Old Russian painting of
the 15th-17th centuries. New discoveries in restoration.", held in 1980-82.
Along with the works of fine and applied arts the museum preserves and studies the monuments of the remarkable architectural
ensemble. Repair and restoration of architectural monuments have been started since 1950s by architect V. I.Baldin and continue
Since 1969 Zagorsk became a tourist centre and was included into the list of the "Golden Ring" towns of Russia.
Every year lots of visitors come to the museum. At present more than seven hundred thousand tourists both from this country
and abroad annually come to the museum to sec the remarkable works of art it houses.
The structure of the museum, nowadays composed of five departments and ten expositions continues to improve. The museum
started to restore the Stables of the 18th century. In future it will be occupied by the department of Soviet fine arts.
The Church of Holy Friday and the Presentation into the Temple will soon be turned into museums too. Arrangements are made
to open some other branches of the museum. It is supposed to rebuild the already existing premises so that there is more
room for expositions.
The Trinity Monastery is connected with the most important events in Russian history. For more than six centuries it
had been standing at the Northern approaches to the city, and many times it blocked the way for enemies of Rus.
The middle of the 14th century when the monastery was founded was one of the most complicated periods in the development
of the Old Rus state. It was at that time that the process of unifying of the Russian lands had started, and the struggle
for national independence against the hated Horde yoke began. Moscow played the leading role in that struggle. The new monastery
at the Radonezh land governed by prince Andrei Serpukhovskoy, Ivan Kalita's son, had to implement the policy of the great
prince in that region. Perhaps that was the reason why the monastery was situated so close to the centre of the principality—the
town of Radonezh. It is also worth mentioning that the monastery founders, the brothers Sergius and Stephen were children
of the Radonezh residents. Their parents were the boyar Kirill and Maria, who once escaped from the ruined Rostov.
The brothers built a small wooden cell and a small church an the Makovets hill, where the rivers Vonyuga and Konchura
flow together; later it became the place of worship for the Russians.
The "Life of St. Sergius", compiled about 1418 by the famous Russian writer Epifani Premoodry and rewritten
by Pakhomi Logofet in the 1430's tells about the first years of the monastery.1 We learn from it that soon after
the monastery was founded, its territory expanded, people came to the place and settled down there. In 1355 the monastery
rules were adopted, according to which all the monks were to have common property, work together and take the same food.
This opened a new page in the monastery construction. By that time its territory had four sides which was the oldest of
all known constructions of this type, widely spread in building of monasteries and fortified towns in Rus.2
The monastery had a fence made of the sharpened logs. On the perimeter of the fence there were kitchen gardens and cells,
that surrounded the small church and refectory. Thus, the monastery began to resemble a small well-fortified town.
As early as in the first decades of its existence the monastery acquired great authority and influence, because its
Father-Superior supported the policy of the Moscow prince Dmitri Ivanovich. Sergius of Radonezh became the prince's spiritual
preceptor he christened his children, took part in settling the intestine debates. He would often appease apanage princes,
as he understood that only together the Russians could resist Tatar Hordes.
The second half of the 14th century saw considerable changes in the political life of the Nord-Eastern Rus. It was gaining
more and more independence from the Golden Horde. Prince Dmitri Ivanovich even refused to pay the regular tribute to it.
The conquerors power over Rus was threatened, therefore, the Horde ruler temnik Mamai launched a great campaign against Rus.
Having gathered gigantic military forces, he moved towards the Russian frontiers in the summer of 1380. However, he faced
there-sistence of the united All-Russian army, not the disconnected detachments and home guards as he expected. Moscow became
the centre of the struggle against the Horde yoke. The main forces of the country united around Moscow.
Before the decisive battle with Mamai prince Dmitri came the monastery to have Sergius of Radonezh's blessing for a
feat of arms. Two monks-warriors - Alexander Peresvet and Andrei Oslabya were sent with the prince by the Father-Superior.
The Russian armies acted quickly and resolutely, making the Tatars fight in unfavourable conditions. The historic battle
on the Kulikovo field started with the single combat between the heroes Peresvet and Tcmir-Murza.
The long-awaited victory over the enemy became the triumph of the Russian military art. Prince Dmitri Ivanovich showed
himself an outstanding general of his time. Therefore, soon after the battle he was nicknamed Donskoy.
One cannot overestimate the importance of the Kulikovo battle. It started the last, all-Russian period of the struggle
for the country's liberation from the invaders and established once and for all the Moscow authority as the political and
military centre of Russia. Besides it strengthened the influence of the great victory inspirers — Sergius of Radonezh and
his monastery. However, the Russian dearly paid for the victory: tens of thousands of people perished at the Kulikovo field.
To pay homage to their memory Dmitri Donskoi specially came to the Trinity Monastery.
Although Mamai was defeated it took yet another century for Russia to get rid of the yoke. In 1408, during one of the
raids to the Russian lands Khan Edigei, the new ruler of the Horde, managed to come close to Moscow, but failed to conquer
it. On the way back the Tatars discovered the Trinity Monastery hidden in the forests and
raised it to the ground.
The monastery was rebuild only in the time of Sergius' disciple and successor — Father-Superior Nikon, who did a lot
for the economic and political rise of the cloister.
After Dmitri Donskoi's death, his son, the great prince Vasili the First continued to struggle against
invaders. It was
under his guidance that the Moscovites repulsed the attack of Edigei. In the time of Vasili the First the political influence
of Moscow spread over the major part of the North-Easten Rus; the territory of the great principality expanded.
The situation in the country, however, was complicated by lack of unity within the Moscow state itself. The
princes seriously opposed the centralization of the country and triggered off feudal war. This happened in the time of the
great prince Vasili the Second. His uncle, prince Yuri of Zvenigorod, who fought against him, conquered Moscow twice. But
he did not manage to retain the capital, because Moscow boyars did not support him. After his death his sons, princes Yuri,
Vasili Kosoi and Dmitri Shcmyaka, continued to fight with the great prince.
The Trinity Monastery saw a tragic page of the feudal war. It was there, that in 1446 Dmitri Shcmyaka captured Vasili
the Second, brought him to Moscow and made him blind there hence Vasili the Second's nickname "Temni" ("The
Blind"). However, the great prince gathered the forces that remained loyal to him and managed to return the thrinc.
Dmitri Shemyaka was exiled, and his death in 1453 put an end to the feudal war that lasted for a quarter of a century.
By the middle of the 16th century when Russia was about to become a
centralized state, many theological heresies appeared
as a protest against feudal oppression and expansion of the monastery landownership.
Many heretics were exiled to the Trinity Monastery, among them the Moscow metropolitan Zosima, their protector and an
outstanding publicist and philosopher Maxim Grek — irreconcilable antagonist of the monastery landownership and an irate
expose of the church vices. Maxim Grek, who died in 1556, was buried near the Northern wall of the Church of the Holy Ghost.
The intensive growth of the monasteries landowner-ship continued during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The tsar
the Trinity Monastery. He made rich money contributions to its treasury and gave it many remarkable works of the Old Rus
Ivan the Terrible considered it important to create a united system of the defensive fortifications. In a very short
time he surrounded the capital by a ring of powerful fortresses, such as Tula, Kolomna, Zaraisk, Kashira and the Trinity-St.
Sergius Monastery, whose territory was by that time considerably extended. Its new stone walls that replaced the former wooden
ones, were fortified with powerful towers (1540-1550). The tsar frequented the monastery and watched the fortification works.
At that time the monastery could influence the political life of the country. No wonder then that Ivan the Terrible
specially came to the monastery in 1564 for the monks to advise him and introduced the oprichnina no sooner
than he enlisted their support.
The Trinity Monastery preserved its privileges during the reign of tsar Boris Godunov, who came to power in 1598, after
the death of tsar Fedor Ioannovich. The remains of Boris Godunov and his family were brought to the monastery after the
dethronement of False Demetrius the First, the impostor.
The situation in the country complicated in 1606 to 1607. False Demetrius the Second became the new placeman of the
Polish and Lithuanian interventionists. In summer 1608 he approached Moscow and stayed in the village of Tooshino (hence
his nickname was "the Tooshino thief"). In September, 1608, a numerous army headed by the voivodas Sapega
and Lisovsky approached the Trinity Monastery, the "Northern gates" of the capital. Invaders hoped to occupy
the monastery and thus to cut off the Northern way to Moscow.
A detachment headed by the tsar's vividness stayed in the monastery to defend it from the enemy. Well-fortified, provided
with arms and ammunition, the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery was a real stronghold. For sixteen months, monks and inhabitants
of the neighboring settlements were beating interventionists back. The heroic defense of the monastery-fortress was described
by a contemporary of those events — the monastery cellarer Avraami Palitsyn in his "Story".
The defenders of the fortress covered themselves with everlasting glory. Their heroic deed added another glorious page
to the history of the Russians fight for freedom.
The siege of the monastery was raised as late as January 1610. Nevertheless Russia
remained under the yoke of the foreign
invaders for a long time. In 1618 the invaders approached the monastery again. They had no courage to repeat the siege and
asked for an armistice, which was finally signed in the monastery-ruled village of Deulino.
The long siege badly affected the monastery. But the heroic victory of its defenders promoted its authority and growth
of its lands and wealth. In the 17th century the monastery became a big landowner. Peasants' yards it owned were greater
in number than those belonging to the tsar's family and the Patriarch.
At the time the monastery was rapidly restoring its fortifications and building new villages and slobodns.
At the end of the 17th century the monastery again found itself in the centre of the armed struggle. In 1682 young tsareviches
Peter and Ivan and tsarina Sophia were for two months hiding there from strelets rebels.
However, the troops loyal to the tsar's children soon put down the rise. Its leaders, princes Khovansky, were executed
in the monastery village Vozdvizhenskoye.
In 1689 tsarina Sophia hoping to pave the way to the throne decided to stir up a rebellion with the help of the
and some boyars. Peter, her brother, was warned of the danger in time. In the night of August 9, accompanied by loyal troops,
he once again hurried to the monastery for refuge. Soon he was joined by the patriarch, regiments of the nobility, and boyars.
Even some strelets started to come to the monastery to give up.
Peter cruelly suppressed the rebellion. Tsarina Sophia was shut up in the New Maiden Nunnery, and many of her supporters
were either executed or exiled.
Thus the monastery for some time became a residence of the young tsar, and therefore gained still more influence.
Economic measures of the tsar's government in the late 17th- early 18th centuries, aimed at partial secularization of
the monastery lands, had hardly infringed interests of the Trinity Monastery: as any feudal sovereign, tsar Peter I needed
support in strengthening of absolutism.
When empress Elizabeth I came to power, the monastery still remained under the tsar's patronage and expanded its domain.
In 1744 according to a special tsar's edict it was honored with the highest title of lavra. The great flow of pilgrims promoted
the vast commodity market for products of modern craftsmen: engravings on wood and bone, gold needlework. The Sergiev toys
and toys of the 19th century craftsmen from the former monastery village Bogorodskoye gained great popularity in the 19th
In the 40's of the 19th century Sergiev posad started to produce porcelain; by the end of the century the town opened
a silk-weaving mill.
Keeping place with the rest of the town the Trinity Monastery built several profitable houses and founded a number of
enterprises for rent: paper-mills, a brick-yard and a printing house.
On the eve of the 20th century the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery restored the name of the richest land and money owner.
Revolutionary riots reached Sergiev posad as early as in 1905 when first rallies and demonstrations, and fights with
Black-Hundreders took place there. Forty policemen and Cossak squadron were sent to the town at the monastery request to
The Revolution opened a new page in the life of a quiet town in the Moscow region and the ancient Trinity Monastery.
Soon after the revolution, in 1922, Sergiev posad became the major town of the Moscow district. In 1930 the town was given
the name of Zagorsk in memory of Vladimir Mikhailovich Zagorsky, the Party activist, who was killed by a bomb of terrorists
in Moscow, 1919.
The present-day Zagorsk is a big industrial and cultural centre of the Moscow region with plants and factories, АН-Union
and branch research institutes. New micro-districts are being built with due regard to historical buildings. The ancient
view to the monastery, which at present is under state protection, stands out more vividly against the background of modern
The architectural ensemble of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery is one of the unique phenomena of Russian architecture
. It is a big complex of constructions belonging to different periods and styles. Its monuments are connected with many interesting
pages from the history of this country.
The earliest monument of the ensemble is the Trinity Cathedral — the first stone construction of the monastery, built
in 1422-1423 under Father-Superior Nikon, the disciple and successor of Sergius. The cathedral was built at the expense of
prince Yuri of Zvenigorod, the son of Dmitri
Donskoy, "to praize" Sergius and in memory of his great services to the country. When the construction works were
over, the remnants of Sergius of Radonezh buried in the wooden Trinity Church were brought to the Trinity cathedral. Thus
the cathedral became one of the first memorials of Moscow Rus.3
According to the tradition, tombs with remnants of saints were covered with an embroidered pall with their images. The
oldest from all the known palls with Sergius' image, created in 1420's, belonged to the Moscow school of needlework. The
school was known for its interest to show high morals and deep inner world of a person. High cheek-bones, slanting eyes on
the assymetric face — the sketch of the pall was evidently painted from life.
In 1585, by the order of tsar Fedor Ioannovich and tsarina Irina Godunova, the tomb with Sergius' remnants was covered
with a silver shrine. Made by craftsmen of Moscow Kremlin Armoury it is a beautiful piece of chasing. A chased golden frame
on the shrine is now in the collection of the museum. The frame is decorated with twenty nielloed spangles along the edges,
and on the top — with two 15th century Byzantine cameos.
The Trinity Cathedral is built of the Myachkov limestone mined in the Moscow region, according to the archirectural
scheme of the cross-cupola church construction with four pillars. The Trinity Cathedral reflects certain features of Vladimir
and Suzdal architecture. On the whole it is a new type of church construction that entered the history of Russian architecture
as a monument of the Moscow Rus art of building. For many years architects followed the same pattern when constructing a
A small cubic tri-apsidal cathedral is put on a high scale. Three ornamental rows divide the walls into two unequal
parts. Each of the facades is completed by ogee zakomaras with kokoshniks behind them and a tower-shaped
dome above. Perfectly proportioned powerful dome-drum with ten window openings and unusual incline of walls to the centre
make the building look higher.
Strange as it may seem the unusual prototype of the Trinity Cathedral allegedly was the silver censer of the Father-Superior
Nicon. An unknown craftsman made it as a cubic cathedral with gilded zakomaras Historians think the censer resembles Rozhdestvensky
Cathedral of the St. Savva-Storozhevsk Monastery.
The censer is an original fusion of elements of architecture and applied art; architectural forms here arc made by jewellry
instruments and means.
To paint the iconostasis and the murals of the Trinity Cathedral Nicon invited two outstanding icon painters Andrei
Rublev and Daniil Chorny. Together with their apprentices they started painting icons and frescoes when the construction
Unfortunately, not all they had done can be seen today. Thus, the original murals of the cathedral and even the new frescoes
that replaced them in 1635 were partly destroyed. Historians think that the latest murals could repeat murals by Rublev.4