Land of St. Simeon
|A bend of the Tura River|
Wondrous is Siberian land with her royally calm, magnificent nature. The austere and beautiful land -- century-old cedars, mighty spruce, slender larches, smooth river curves, the purest springs, fields with high rye. One does not want to talk here, but to pray, be silent, to listen and to glorify the Creator. Here before the amazed wayfarer the living book of God's wisdom is opened. The soul is sezied by a strange feeling, and to the heart comes the nostalgia for the heavenly Fatherland. Perhaps, it is precisely the reason that in the XVII century a great saint of God came here from central Russia -- St. righteous Simeon, the wonderworker of Verkhoturye and all Siberia. His entire brief ascetic life passed here; here the Lord has glorifed His chosen man by marvellous miracles.
Before the revolution there existed a wonderful route in the land of Verkhoturye, when a pilgrim in the course of his journey would be able to visit several sites a day connected to the life and feats of righteous Simeon. Now this good tradition is being revived again. According to the historical logic, the pilgrimage in the land of St. Simeon should begin from Merkushino village where he spent his life and where in the end of the XVII century his imperishable relics were found; then to visit the venerated Cross by the rock from which the St. Simeon liked to fish; to visit the churches in the villages of Kostyleva and Putimka built on the spots where the procession of transferring his holy relics from Merkushino village to the town of Verkhoturye would stop on the way in 1704, and finally the pilgrimage could be ended by venerating his holy relics contained in the oldest in Ural St. Nicholas monastery of Verkhoturye.
|Pilgrims on a Ferry across the Tura River. 1913|
The Village of Merkushino located 50 km east of Verkhoturye has earned a reputation as the Pearl of the Urals. A small Church of St. Simeon was erected here in 1886 at the site of the finding of his relics. A bright and spacious gallery connects the church with the magnificent Cathedral of St. Michael the Archstratigos. Due to the astonishing natural landscape that surrounds the church buildings Merkushino was one of the most beautiful villages in the Urals in the late 19th century.
Before the Revolution of 1917 St. Simeon was a saint venerated all over Russia. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims used to come to Merkushino and Verkhoturye every year. Grand Duchess Elizabeth (Elizaveta Feodorovna) also visited this area. Members of the Royal Family were known to venerate the Righteous Simeon praying in front of his icon and asking for his intercession in difficult times.
|The Church Complex in the Village of Merkushino|
Under the Soviet rule this holy place was desecrated and stayed abandoned for many years. Nowadays, there is a metochion of our Convent. Through our own efforts and with the support of our benefactors the entire church complex has been restored from ruins.
Today, as in the past, many believers come to ask for the intercession of St. Simeon.
Rock at Site of Ascetic Deeds of St. Simeon
|Rock on the Bank of Tura River|
There is a big rock, which protrudes slightly from the river at one of the peaceful curves of the Tura. This is the place where St. Simeon used to pray and fish. Pure and sincere prayers of this holy man made the place holy itself. It is as if time stops here soothing one’s soul.
|Construction of the Church of All Saints of Siberia|
There had been a small chapel built on the bank of the river after the glorification of this righteous man. Nowadays there is a veneration Cross, which had been erected at the site of the chapel, and a new wooden church dedicated to All Saints of Siberia has been built nearby. The church is supported by our monastery.
Church in the Kostyleva Village
|Church in the Kostyleva Village|
In 1704 the relics of St. Simeon were transferred with a procession from Merkushino to Verkhoturye. A local fool-in-Christ, Kosma, followed the procession on his knees the entire way. Getting tired he would stop and say, “Brother Simeon, let’s have a break!” and the coffin with the relics would miraculously stop moving by itself. Chapels and churches were built later at the sites of those stops. One of those is a small church in the village of Kostyleva. Almost entirely destroyed after the Revolution, it was rebuilt by our convent with the support of our benefactors. And the monastery campus was built nearby following the same architectural style.
Church in Putimka Village
|Destroyed church in the village of Putimka|
One of the sites where the relics of St. Simeon miraculously stopped during their translation from Merkushino to Verkhoturye is near an old village of Putimka that existed before the Revolution. There used to be a small church of St. Nicholas there. The ruins of that church had been given to our convent. There is already a plan for rebuilding the church and for construction of a small monastery complex that will include a sisterhood building, a church store, an entrance arch and a portress' office. We are also planning to have a small community of our sisters there, whose obedience would be to serve the needs of pilgrims.
We would like to believe that there are compassionate people, who would like to contribute to the cause of restoration of another holy site at the wonderful path between Merkushino and Verkhoturye.
City of Verkhoturye
|Cathedral of the Elevation of the Cross at the Monastery of St. Nicholas|
The city of Verkhoturye is the crown of the holy sites in the land of St. Simeon. The city was founded in 1598 and it was originally the first capital of Siberia. This was also the place where the first stone church building east of the Urals had ever been built. It was the Cathedral of the Life-Giving Trinity surrounded by a high stone wall. This entire architectural ensemble is known today as the Verkhoturye Kremlin. Shortly after its foundation, the city was decorated by two monastic communities, a male (St. Nicholas) and a female (Protection of the Mother of God). In 1704 the healing relics of Holy Righteous Simeon were translated to Verkhoturye from the village of Merkushino. In the late 19th century a group of monastics from Valaam arrived at the monastery. Their spiritual knowledge helped improve both the physical and the spiritual life in the monastery. They became the teachers of the unceasing Jesus prayer.
|Shrine with the Relics of St. Simeon|
In the early 20th century the Monastery of St. Nicholas was one of the centers of pilgrimage in Russia. Up to 120,000 pilgrims would come here every year. The magnificent Cathedral of the Elevation of the Cross that could fit 8,000 believers was built to accommodate the pilgrims that came to venerate the relics of St. Simeon.
In the Soviet era there was a juvenile penitentiary in the monastery walls. In 1991 the building was returned to the Orthodox Church and in 1992 the relics of St. Simeon were brought back to the monastery. Nowadays pilgrims from all over Russia once again come to venerate this holy man of the Urals.