The Novo-Tikhvin Women's Monastery
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Site Updates:

30 August 2023
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a story A book about general Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev appeared

24 November 2022
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a talk by schema-archimandrite Abraham Invincible weapon appeared

29 August 2022
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a story The events of the sunny August appeared

13 June 2022
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a story Faithful for good. A monument to prince Dolgorukov, general Tatishchev, sailor Nagorny, and boatswain Sednev appeared

Hand-painted icons by the sisters of the Monastery

The monastery in the lens of National Geographic

The life of the monastery stands out at a new angle in the pictures of Ludvig Gerd. The photographer of the popular magazine "National Geographic" shared his impressions from visiting the monastery.

– Over the last three decades, on assignment as a photographer for National Geographic Magazine, I repeatedly visited Russia and some of the other former Soviet republics. During this time I witnessed a huge transformation, not only in the political system and the economical realities but also in the people’s attitude towards faith. Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, a spiritual void became apparent. It was soon followed by a search for traditional Russian values that had not been tainted by 70 years of totalitarian rule. The strong re-emergence of faith in Russia prompted me to propose a story on the Russian Orthodox Church to National Geographic Magazine, and I was glad when my editors approved the idea; and I am still thankful to Patriarch Alexiy II for his blessings.

Amongst the first places I photographed was the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Yekaterinburg. Before my visit, I had been under the assumption that life in a Russian convent would be secluded, with little or no connection to the outside world. To be honest, I would not have been surprised to run into naive, ivory-towered and unrealistic views. While my assistants and I were fondly greeted when we arrived at the convent, I also sensed reservations towards this worldly western intruder who – with his camera and interpreter – expected to be present at even the most intimate moments in the convent’s life. After a few days, I was gradually accepted by more and more sisters and soon I even felt warmly welcomed.

The longer we stayed the more I was moved. Sincerity of faith was evident in the solemn morning prayers; the hard work was demonstrated in the art classes; the talent and dedication showed in the icon painting; and happiness and excitement overcame students when feeding the birds. I was stunned how easily the sisters were able to bridge the gap between traditional spirituality and modern life with its new technology, when two sisters ordinarily took wrenches and other tools and started serious repairs of a loom.

However, the difficulties of photographing in a monastery are obvious. A prayer is a personal dialogue with God. It does not lend itself to the presence of a person with a camera. My regret: not having had the opportunity to capture more quiet moments of personal contemplation in a more intimate setting.

In the end, I was deeply moved by what I saw, and my initial expectations were turned upside down. Hopefully, you find that my pictures portray life in the convent honestly and respectfully, and that it was worthwhile to endure my intrusion. The publication in National Geographic and other magazines around the world is designed to serve the truth and spread the knowledge about the Russian Orthodox Church. After all, I want my images to touch the soul and broaden the mind.

It was fascinating experience to portray life in Russian Orthodox Church. On the long run, I would love to continue this body of work and I am currently looking for funding to turn it into a photo book.

The Photoalbum

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All of the icons on the site are painted by the sisters of the monastery

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