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11 holy places • 5 days
• Russia   • Valaam   • Monastery
The author of the route "Lavra - Zvenigorod Rus - New Jerusalem" - Miguel Palacio, head of the Association of Specialists in the Field of Cultural Routes "Shrines of Unshared Christianity", advisor to the Director General of the All-Russian State Library for Foreign Literature named after M.I. Rudomino on international humanitarian projects.


Mount Tabor

Znamenskaya Chapel

Monument to Andrew the First-Called

Transfiguration Cathedral

Gate Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Church of the Holy Trinity and “the Life-Giving Source”

Church of the Assumption of Saint Mary

Nicholas’ Skete

St. Vladimir Skete

Resurrection Skete

Skete of Prophet Elijah
Republic of Karelia, Valaam Island

Northern Athos

The Valaam monastery is located in Karelia, in the northern part of Lake Ladoga. The Valaam Archipelago has about 50 islands with a total area of 36 km2. The name “Valaam” goes back to the Finno-Ugric toponym “Valamo”, where “valo” is “light”, “oath” (according to another hypothesis - “high earth”), or to the Finnish word “valaa” which means “to cast from metal”. The dates of birth of the monastery differ: some researchers call the end of the X century as the date of birth, others call the XIV century. It is known for certain that the holy monastery was founded by St. Sergius and Herman.

Northern Athos, as Valaam is often called, was a place of pilgrimage for Russian tsars and their families, it inspired great representatives of Russian culture and science.

Valaam used to be a part of Sweden (XVIII century) and Finland (1917-1940). The monastery reached its highest bloom by the middle of the 19th century, and the most tragic period of the monastery’s history was in the 40s – 80s of the last century, when school of boatswains and cabin boys housed in the monastery walls. Later there was housed home for disabled in the monastery. Also the fish industry plant operated on Valaam. Monastic life revived in 1989, and since 1991 the monastery has the status of stauropegial.

Valaam has many holy places that are common to Christians of different faiths. This amazing corner of the earth will surely be interesting to all lovers of cultural and educational tourism: holy places located in lands with such a rich history and nature (there are about 480 plant species on Valaam), old and graceful architecture, excellent infrastructure and pleasant atmosphere are important and useful to know for everyone.

Holy places

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Stop oneMount Tabor

Tabor is a mountain 588 meters high in the eastern part of the Jezreel Valley. There was the Transfiguration of Christ. Valaam Tabor rises 30 meters above the level of Lake Ladoga. Thus, in order to get to the monastery, it is necessary to make an effort to go upstairs. Tabor is surrounded on three sides by magnificent gardens, which have been cultivated for centuries by monks.

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Stop twoZnamenskaya Chapel

From this chapel opposite the entrance to the monastery, where the icon of the Mother of God “The Sign” is located, the acquaintance with the Valaam monastery usually begins. Honor, sincere love for the Most Holy Theotokos are related to Orthodox and Catholics; in almost any Christian temple you can see the icon or the statue of the Virgin Mary. The chapel was erected in 1862 in memory of the visit to the monastery by Alexander II and members of the imperial family.

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Stop threeMonument to Andrew the First-Called

Andrew the First-Called is one of the twelve apostles. As you can know from the Gospel of John, Andrew the Apostle was first called by Jesus Christ, therefore, he is called “the First-Called” in Orthodox tradition. When the Savior’s disciples divided among themselves the countries in which Christianity was to be preached, the Apostle Andrew went to Eastern European lands. In accordance to the legend, he took a trip from Crimea to Rome via Ladoga and set foot on the islands of the Valaam archipelago. On the way Christ’s disciple visited the hills, where Kiev would be built later, and blessed them.

In 2003, relics of the Apostle Andrew were brought to Valaam from Greece. The monument to Andrew the First-Called near the Holy Gates of the monastery was sanctified in 2014 by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.

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Stop fourTransfiguration Cathedral

The main temple of Valaam is seen by everyone, who arrived to the foot of Mount Favor. Currently, nothing left from the pre-revolutionary cathedral. Fortunately, the preserved photographs by 1996 could help to recreate the original appearance of the church in general terms. There are relics of St. Sergius and Herman under the lower church of the Transfiguration Cathedral rest. The image of “Christ Pantocrator with the upcoming” is above the sanctuary. In the year of the decade of the resumption of monastic life on Valaam this icon myrrh-streamed. The list of the Valaam Icon of the Mother of God is placed nearby. Probably, St. Sergius and Herman brought the list of the “Nicopea” icon to Valaam. The upper church of the Transfiguration of Christ was built in 1896, it is lighter, more solemn and spacious, designed in Russian style. 3.5 million bricks (each weighing 7 kg), made directly on the island of local clay, were used for building.

The walls were painted by another gifted master monk Luka (Bogdanov), the head of the Valaam school of painting. In Soviet times, the abandoned cathedral slowly collapsed. The restoration began in the 80s, but only part of the wall paintings could be saved.

On August 19, 2005, on the day of the Transfiguration of Christ, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, who deeply loved Valaam, performed a great sanctification of the monastery cathedral.

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Stop fiveGate Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Peter and Paul are called the first apostles. Peter was one of the closest disciples of Christ. Young Paul pursued the followers of Christ, and after the Savior had appeared to him, he repented and was baptized. He was a great missionary, he traveled thousands of kilometers and left fourteen letters, which are known as the first monuments of Christian literature. Peter and Paul, who had difficult relationships and reconciled shortly before his death, were martyred on the same day — June 29 (July 12); their relics rest in Rome.

The Peter and Paul Church above the Holy Gates is the main entrance to the monastery, it was built at the beginning of the 19th century in the style of Russian classicism. The temple is being restored, services are held once a year - on the feast of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. The temple decoration is strict.

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Stop sixChurch of the Holy Trinity and “the Life-Giving Source”

Trinity dogma is key in all Christian denominations. It says, that God is one in essence and threefold in Persons or Hypostases (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The best iconographic depiction of the Holy Trinity is the famous image by Andrei Rublev. The church was built in 1814 on the opposite side from the Peter and Paul church. The architectural appearance of the temple is simple, but externally the temple is massive and heavy. Historically, the Church of the Holy Trinity and "the Life-Giving Source" was a hospital. A monastery hospital and a pharmacy adjoined to it.


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Stop sevenChurch of the Assumption of Saint Mary

The Church of the Assumption of the Saint  Mary was built in 1785 as a refectory church. The church has acquired its modern appearance as a result of numerous reorganizations. It reminds Pskov-Novgorod churches of the XV century: simple square building with walls cut by blades and with a small onion cupola on a thin deaf drum. During the Soviet period, the building of the Church was occupied by a village shop, nevertheless, eleven icons remained in their places in this church. The paintings were found under a layer of oil paint.

In 1994, the Assumption Church was sanctified by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II.

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Stop eightNicholas’ Skete

This monastery skete welcomes guests of Valaam at the entrance to the Monastery Bay. He was named in honor of the most revered Christian saint - St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Lycian World, wonderworker. St. Nicholas is known as a preacher of the Christian faith, a fighter with heresies, a peacemaker of conflicts, a deliverer from a vain death. Almost immediately after Nicholas’ death, the body of St. Nicholas myrrh-streamed, and pilgrims flowed to him. The relics of St. Nicholas are kept in many churches of the world. Only Moscow and the Moscow region have more than twenty churches (many of them are included to the cultural route “The Third Rome of St. Nicholas”).

A particle of the relics of St. Nicholas is also stored in the Valaam archipelago, in the skete bearing Nicholas’ name. The Valaam Island ends in the front of the skete, and there begins the Nikolsky Island, which was earlier called Krestovy.

Built in 1833 in the traditions of Russian architecture of the 17th century, the Nikolsky Church once operates as a lighthouse (a powerful lantern always burned in one of its large windows).

The Church of St. Nicholas was a favorite place on Valaam for the writer Alexander Dumas, the Father, who visited the monastery in 1858, and for Patriarch Alexy II.

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Stop tenSt. Vladimir Skete

The skete monastery dedicated to the Baptist of Russia who was Prince Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles. This holy place was the first Valaam skete, built in the modern time. The skete monastery is built in the Pskov-Novgorod manner. In September 2008, Patriarch Alexy II sanctified the Vladimir Church with a white stone carved iconostasis. This is the last church, which was sanctified by the previous Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, who died on December 5, 2008.

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Stop tenResurrection Skete

Resurrection skete is one of the points on the map of Valaam that reproduce the Holy Land. Sometimes the inspection of Valaam starts here. As the legend tells, Andrew the First-Called put up a cross.

The skete is also known as New Jerusalem and Red (all its buildings are made of red brick). It was founded in 1901; the sanctification of the upper and lower temples, combining Russian and Byzantine styles. When Finland owned Valaam, there was a monastic school on the territory of the monastery. In the Soviet years, one church was transformed into a dance floor, and another one was used for a laundry room. Since the 2000s, the complex has been reborn. Nowadays there are pilgrimage services of the monastery, accommodation for guides and refectory in the monastery territory.

The Holy of Holies of the Resurrection Skete is a copy of the Cuvuklia, the domed chapel in the Jerusalem Church of the Resurrection of Christ, better known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here is stored a particle of the Tomb of Jesus, brought from the Holy Land.

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Stop elevenSkete of Prophet Elijah

This skete is named in memory of the great Old Testament prophet Elijah, who lived in the IX century BC. Since Elijah was young, he devoted himself to preaching the One God, he worked in the wilderness, prayed without ceasing and kept a strict fast.

Only Elijah and Moses were rewarded with a conversation with Christ during His Transfiguration at mount Tabor. Along with the apostles John and Enoch, Elijah is one of those three people, who were taken alive to heaven. Traces of Elijah’s image are found in pagan religions. In the Orthodox Church, the prophet Elijah is the patron of warriors.

Skete of Prophet Elijah is located in ten kilometers from Valaam, on the island of Lembos (in Karelian - “Devil's” Island). The second name of the island is Ilinsky. In Soviet times, fishermen lived in the cell buildings of the skete. In 1967, the temple and the fraternal corps burned out (perhaps, they were set on fire intentionally to wipe the skete off the face of the earth). By the end of the 20th century, almost nothing has left.

The skete has been restoring from the ruins since 2003. In one of the visits to Valaam Patriarch Alexy II said that he would like to die in this place.


We would like to complete the journey through the common Christian holy places of Valaam with an unusual story. The tombstone of a single grave in the old cemetery of Valaam contains the inscription: “The body was buried in this place, / In 1371, the land was buried, / Magnus, the Swedish king, who perceived holy baptism, / When baptized, Gregory was called ...”. The story of the king of Sweden and Norway, Magnus II Eriksson nicknamed Smek (what means “Affectionate”), who fought against Russia twice, gave an oath to no longer attack his neighbor, broke the oath, lost an army in a shipwreck on Lake Ladoga, was followed for three days and three nights over the waves on the ship's board until it was rescued by Valaam monks. He was baptized into Orthodoxy, then he took monastic vows. Having lived on Valaam for only three days, the Scandinavian king died.

According to the official version, Magnus II died not in 1371, but in 1374, and not on a Russian monastic island, but off the coast of Norway, which does not prevent this legend from being industrial. Valaam is the corner of the planet where any person will find something close, dear and intimate as the Catholic ruler, perhaps, found it. Magnus II was under the influence of Divine grace and, as a sign of gratitude for the care and affection shown to him, took the faith of longtime enemies.

Address Republic of Karelia, Valaam Island

Schedule Please refer to the website for the opening hours

See also

Novosibirsk and Novosibirsk oblast

Tale of the land of Siberia

7 holy places • 2 days
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