St. Sergius Trinity Monastery

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

St. Sergius Trinity Monastery


the largest Russian monastery, located 71 km north of Moscow, in present-day Zagorsk (seeZAGORSK).

The St. Sergius Monastery was founded in the mid-14th century by Sergius of Radonezh (seeSERGIUS OF RADONEZH). Between 1540 and 1550 a 12-towered stone wall was built, turning the monastery into a mighty fortress. (The wall, which was reinforced in the mid-17th century, now measures 10–14 m in height and 5.5–6 m in width.) In 1561 the superior at the monastery received the rank of archimandrite, a rank higher than that held by the superiors at all other Russian monasteries. In 1744 the monastery was designated as a laura (seeLAURA). In 1742 a seminary was established at the monastery, and in 1814 a theological academy was founded there.

The St. Sergius Monastery played an important role in the history of northeastern Rus’. It supported the unification policy of the grand princes of Moscow and took part in the struggle against the Tatar-Mongol yoke. From 1608 to 1610, during the Polish intervention, the monastery withstood a prolonged siege by the armies of the Second False Dmitrii (see). It helped organize the first zemstvo volunteer corps and the people’s volunteer corps of K. M. Minin and D. M. Pozharskii.

From the 14th through 17th centuries the monastery was a major cultural center. Writers who lived and worked there included Epifanii Premudryi, Pakhomii Logofet, Maksim Grek, and Av-raamii Palitsyn. The painters Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chernyi lived and worked at the monastery, as did the engraver Amvrosii. The monastery had one of Russia’s largest libraries. There was a large scriptorium, and the monks compiled chronicles. Throughout its long history, the monastery’s sacristy was enriched by contributions of magnificent icons, jewelry, and embroidery.

The St. Sergius Monastery was a major feudal landholder, owning 16,800 peasant households at the end of the 17th century. In 1763 it owned 214,000 desiatinas of arable land (1 desiatina = 1.09 hectares) and 106,500 serfs in 15 provinces. It carried on an extensive trade in grain, salt, fish, and articles made by artisans at the monastery. Its great income enabled it to pursue monumental building projects, attracting the best architects and craftsmen in the country.

In time, a picturesque grouping of more than 50 buildings and other structures occupied the monastery grounds. Of particular note are Troitskii Cathedral (white stone, 1422–23, iconostases by Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chernyi) and Uspenskii Cathedral (1559–85; frescoes, 1684). Dukhovskii Church (1476), which was built by architects from Pskov, has a pillared belfry under the drum of the cupola. Also noteworthy are Piatnitskaia Church (1547, beyond the southern wall), Vvedenskaia Church (1547, also beyond the southern wall), the five-cupola Church of St. John the Baptist (1699), the Church of the Prophet Micah (1734), and the Smolensk Church (1745–48, baroque style). Other important structures are the hospital wards with the tent-roofed Church of SS. Zosima and Savvatii (1635–38), the royal chambers (late 17th century), the richly carved white-stone refectory with the Church of St. Sergius (1686–92, Naryshkin style, on a high platform and with an open promenade), the monks’ dormitory (17th to 19th centuries), and the metropolitan’s chambers (main facade, 1778). A five-tiered baroque bell tower (1740–70; architects I. Schumacher, I. F. Michurin, and D. V. Ukhtomskii; height, 88 m) is the crowning element of the architectural group.

After the October Revolution of 1917, a historical art museum was established at the monastery (1920); since 1940 the museum has been a museum-preserve. The museum houses a large collection of Russian painting and applied arts of the 14th through 17th centuries, a collection of Russian folk art from the 17th through 20th centuries, and a collection of applied art from the Soviet period (including paintings, lace, embroidery, glass, ceramics, and carvings in wood, bone, and stone).

A comprehensive project for the restoration of the architectural complex of the monastery has been developed and is now being carried out.


Baldin, V. I. Troitse-Sergieva Lavra. Moscow, 1958.
Trofimov, I. V. Pamiatniki arkhitektury Troitse-Sergievoi Lavry. Moscow, 1961.
Troitse-Sergieva Lavra: Khudozhestvennye pamiatniki. Moscow, 1968.
Zagorskii istoriko-khudozhestvennyi muzeizapovednik [guidebook, 4th ed.]. Moscow, 1975.
Baldin, V. I. Arkhitekturnyi ansambl’ Troitse-Sergievoi Lavry. Moscow, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.