Sviyazhsk Monastery of the Assumption of the Theotokos

Egor Aleev/TASS

This monastery, which is as old as the Kazan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, was founded in 1555 by Archimandrite Hermann (Sadyrev-Polev) of Smolensk, who would later serve as the Archbishop of Kazan. The same architects who built the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow and the Kazan Kremlin, built this monastery: Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryai. The style is also the same, echoing the architecture of Pskov and Novgorod, augmented in the 18th century with Ukrainian baroque features (note the flower-bud dome of the Church of the Assumption).

The buildings of the monastery are concealed behind the white stone walls, erected in the late 18th century. The oldest structure on the compound is the 1556 St. Nicholas refectory church with its 43-metre bell-tower.

In the Church of the Assumption, built in 1561, of particular note are its amazing 16th-century murals, one of which depicts St. Christopher with the head of a horse. The icons from the Church of the Assumption are on display at the National Museum of Representational Arts in Kazan.

The monastery complex also includes the two-story archimandrite building, the school, and the friar building, all built in the 17th through 18th centuries.

Following the 1917 Revolution, the monastery was used, in succession, as an NKVD prison, a timber industry base, and a mental institution of a prison colony type. The monastery was returned to the believers in 1997.