The Valaam archipelago is located in the northern part of Lake Ladoga in the Sortavalsky district of the Republic of Karelia. According to findjobdescriptions, the islands are 22 km away from the coast. The archipelago includes more than 50 islands with a total area of 36 sq. km. Valaam Island is the most popular among tourists. Its area is 27.8 sq. km, length – 9.6 km, width – 7.8 km. It is believed that the name of the island comes from the word “valamo”, which in translation from Finno-Ugric means “high land”. According to other assumptions, its name comes from a consonant phrase, translated as “bright land”. The island was visited by Emperors Alexander I and Alexander II and members of the imperial family. Poets, writers and composers, inspired by the extraordinary nature of Valaam, composed their best works, Valaam, made by famous artists, are now a national treasure.
The island can be reached from the city of Sortavala, which is located 42 km from it. Tourist boats and boats run from here to Valaam . The very path from Sortavala to Valaam is a whole excursion, during which you can see small islands covered with forests, sheer cliffs, bays, straits and inter-island lakes. Local sunsets of extraordinary beauty will remain forever in memory.
In 1999, the archipelago received the status of a natural park, which was named the natural park “Valaam Archipelago”. Its area is 24.7 thousand hectares, most of which falls on water spaces. The park was created to protect the unique natural complexes of the island of Valaam and adjacent islands, as well as for the organization of tourism. The largest of the islands adjacent to Valaam are Skitsky, Predtechensky, Nikonovsky, Divny and the Bayevy Islands group. Many of the islands are connected to each other by bridges. There are more than 480 species of plants, about 10 species of mammals and more than 120 species of birds. Most of the islands are covered with relict coniferous forests with a predominance of pine. In addition, over the years, monks planted entire groves of cedar, larch, arborvitae, chestnut, oak, ash and fir, which are so atypical for these places. The park offers excursions to the main natural attractions of the Valaam archipelago, rocky shores with colonies of gulls and terns and rookeries of the Ladoga ringed seal, which is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, as well as visiting Museum of Nature. The museum tells about the flora and fauna of the islands, about the history of the formation of Lake Ladoga and its current state.
But not only nature attracts tourists, the main attraction of the island Valaam, and the archipelago as a whole, is the Valaam stauropegial monastery.
Tradition says that the Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first to reach these places. He went here from Veliky Novgorod to enlighten the Scythian and Slavic lands and spread Christianity here. Andrew the First-Called installed on one of the heights of Valaam stone cross, on which the monastic skete is now located. The presence of people on the archipelago from ancient times is also indicated by the preserved ancient masonry and stone roads several tens of meters long.
900 years after Andrew the First-Called visited the island, the Greek missionaries Sergius and Herman visited the island. They founded a monastic brotherhood on the island. The time of foundation of the Valaam Monastery is not exactly known. According to one version, it is believed that it was founded in 1407. Gradually, wooden structures and outbuildings were erected here, monks from other lands began to arrive here, and by the 16th century there were about 1000 of them. The Valaam Monastery was considered quite rich in those days. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was destroyed more than once by the Swedes and as a result was completely ruined. This led to the desolation of the island.
The monastery was restored at the beginning of the 18th century under Peter I. In 1720, the wooden Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior was erected, and later other churches, cells and utility rooms were built. In 1754, a major fire broke out in the monastery, which destroyed all the buildings. New construction began in the second half of the 18th century. Then the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, new cells, the Assumption and Nikolskaya churches and the gate church in the name of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul appeared.
The 19th century was marked by rapid stone construction. Most of the buildings were erected under Father Damaskinos, who became rector in 1839. He attracted not only monks to the construction, but also experienced St. Petersburg architects. Under Father Damascus on Valaam began to actively engage in animal husbandry, gardening, gardening, fishing and handicrafts. Moreover, all this was done not only for consumption, but also for sale.
From 1811 to 1917, the archipelago was part of the Finnish Principality of the Russian Empire. By the beginning of the 20th century, the monastery was a whole state, where about 1000 monks lived. There were strict laws in the monastery – the monks who entered the monastery never again left the archipelago. The Valaam Monastery was even used as a place of detention for convicted clergy. After the revolution, Finland, and with it the Valaam archipelago, separated from Russia. In this regard, services in Finnish began to be held here. Due to the turbulent political situation, the archipelago gradually began to acquire defensive structures. During the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940, all the monks left the islands and took everything of value to Finland. As a result of the war, the archipelago was ceded to Russia. Later, the complex of religious buildings fell into disrepair – valuable architectural monuments were given away for household needs or simply dismantled. Only in 1989, several monks came to Valaam, who began the revival of the monastery. The architectural complex of the monastery and the entire island were declared the property of the peoples of Russia in 1992.. In the same year, the Valaam Monastery was transferred to the possession of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The monastery complex is located in the northern part of the island of Valaam on the top of the hill near the Monastyrskaya bay. It was finally formed by 1862. The buildings of the complex were built of brick, which was made here on the island. A granite staircase and a larch alley lead to the monastery from the bay. In plan, the monastery buildings are two quadrangles, consisting of several rows of cells and churches. One of these quadrilaterals is placed in the other. First you get to the holy gates, over which stands the Church of Peter and Paul. Through them you pass to the second quadrangle, inside which stands the main cathedral of the monastery – the five-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior. On the lower floor of the cathedral is the Church of Sergius and Herman. It is believed that the remains of these saints lie under the vault of the cathedral.
Night services in the lower cathedral church are very popular – twilight reigns here, and the original chants of the choir of the Valaam monks are very different from ordinary church singing. The upper temple in the name of the Transfiguration of the Lord is open only to monks. Near the cathedral are the winter Assumption and summer Nikolskaya churches. To the west of the Transfiguration Cathedral there is a three-tiered bell tower with thirteen bells. The last and largest bell weighing 14 tons – “Apostol Andrew” – was installed in 2005. The outer row of cells includes the Church of the Life-Giving Spring and the Trinity Church built on top of it. These churches were erected at the monastery hospital. In addition, on the territory of the monastery you can see a refectory, a rich library with books about monastic life and a hotel.. It is worth noting that photography is strictly prohibited on the territory of the monastery. Also, special requirements are put forward for the clothes of tourists. Women must be covered with a covered head, the maximum closed upper part of the body and in skirts, and men – in trousers, but in no case in tracksuits.
The central monastery estate adjoins the ancient monastery cemetery, at the corners of which there are towers with trumpeting angels. Nearby is the Igumen cemetery, where the abbots of the monastery are buried, starting with Father Damaskin. Near the cemetery is the Church of the Reverend Fathers.
At the pier in Monastyrskaya Bay, where all tourists arrive, you can see the chapel consecrated in the name of the icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow”, the Annunciation Chapel, the building of the carriage and stable house, the monastery garden and vegetable garden. A hotel complex is located on the shore of the Monastyrskaya Bay, near which there is a stele with the names of members of the imperial family who visited the monastery, and a chapel in the name of the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, erected in honor of the visit to the monastery by Emperor Alexander II.
In the past, there were 13 sketes on Valaam and nearby islands, now there are 6. Nikolsky Skete is located 1.5 km from the monastery complex at the very exit from the Monastery Bay on the small Nikolsky Island. It is considered one of the most beautiful hermitages of the archipelago. Wooden bridges are laid to the island through small straits. The skit was founded in the 18th century. The local monks carried out customs inspections of those arriving in the archipelago. From those times, the customs building has been preserved near the pier, next to which stands a granite cross of 1861. The current St. Nicholas Church was erected in 1853 on the site of a wooden chapel from 1809 and a lighthouse. She stands at the top of the hill. The church was built in the traditions of Moscow architecture of the 15th-16th centuries. Inside the temple, there are paintings that tell about the life of Nicholas the Wonderworker, the patron saint of sailors and travelers, made by monks. The cell building of 1853 with the house church of John of Damascus has also been preserved on the island.
Between Monastyrskaya and Bolshaya Nikonovskaya bays the Main Monastery Road is 6 km long. Small roads are laid from it to the northern coast, which lead to the rest of the hermitages of the archipelago. The skete of All Saints (White Skete)
is located 3 km from the monastery estate in the northern part of Skitsky Island. This is the largest and oldest skete of the archipelago, it was arranged by Abbot Nazarius in 1789-1793. The road to the skete passes through picturesque places that Shishkin captured in his paintings. From the island of Valaam across the Vladimirsky bridge, next to which a stone worship cross is installed, it continues to Skitsky Island. Gradually, the road turns into an oak alley leading to the skete. The Skete of All Saints was completely rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century, 8 cell buildings and the Church of All Saints appeared here. All skete buildings are painted white, hence its second name – White. The interior of the church is painted by Valaam masters. The skete has always been distinguished by the severity of the charter, and to this day it is strictly forbidden to enter the Church of All Saints without the blessing of the rector. Smolensky Skete is located on the cape in the western part of Skitsky Island.. It was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, therefore it is the youngest hermitage of the archipelago. In 1917, a stone church and a wooden cell building were built on the site of an old wooden chapel, but they were destroyed in the 1930s. Today, construction has begun anew in the Smolensky Skete.
Opposite the Smolensky Skete across the strait on a rocky promontory stands the Konevsky Skete. It began to be erected in 1858, when a chapel was brought here from Predtechensky Island. The current skete church is the smallest in Valaam. It was built on the site of a temple destroyed in the middle of the 20th century.
In 1901 Father Mauritius returned from Jerusalem. After the trip, he decided to equip on Valaam some kind of holy city. The sketes under construction and many places received new biblical names. The newly rebuilt Resurrection skete began to be called New Jerusalem, the mountain on which it was erected was called Zionskaya, the rocky ridge located nearby on the shore of Malaya Nikonovskaya Bay is Mount of Olives, and its foot is the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Gethsemane Skete was built.
Skete of Gethsemane 5 km away from the monastery estate. It stands on the Main Monastery Road at the foot of Mount Eleon, where a fir alley leads from Malaya Nikonovskaya Bay. The second name of the skit is Yellow. He became the last in the project of creating a “Russian Jerusalem” by Father Mauritius. The Gethsemane Skete consists of two cell buildings, the Church of the Assumption (1911), which appeared due to the addition of an altar to the chapel in early 1906, and the chapel of the Ascension of the Lord. This complex is unique in that it is completely wooden, and all buildings are created in the same style and color scheme. The Chapel of the Ascension of the Lord was established in 1906 on the top of the Mount of Olives. Near the chapel there is an observation deck with a breathtaking view of the bay. Igumen lakes are located not far from the observation deck. This is a group of three lakes.
The Resurrection Skete stands at the end of the Main Monastery Road near Bolshaya Nikonovskaya Bay. In addition to the second biblical name New Jerusalem, the name Red was assigned to it. The skete was founded on the site where, according to legend, Andrew the First-Called, who spread Christianity in the northern lands, erected a cross. The chapel on the site of the modern skete appeared in 1846 and was consecrated in the name of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called. A stone church appeared in its place in the period from 1901 to 1906. It looks a bit like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The lower church of St. Andrew the First-Called contains a marble grotto, in which a particle of the “Holy Sepulcher” was once kept, brought by Father Mauritius from Jerusalem. The upper temple is consecrated in the name of the Holy Resurrection of Christ. All the icons in the temple were painted by Valaam monks, only the image of the Mother of God of Jerusalem was transferred from Moscow. Also on the territory of the skete are two cell buildings and a refectory. A granite staircase carved into the rock leads from Bolshaya Nikonovskaya Bay to the skete. Today, the skete houses the monastery’s pilgrimage service, book and icon shops, where you can buy postcards and souvenirs.
Predtechensky Island is located at the exit from Bolshaya Nikonovskaya Bay. On this island, 5 km from the monastery estate, there is the Forerunner Skete.. The first chapel appeared here in 1855, however, according to legend, the monks have led a skete life on the island since ancient times, this is also evidenced by its former name – Sernichan, which means monastic. The chapel was lit in the name of John the Baptist. In 1858, a wooden Church of the Transfiguration of the second half of the 17th century was transported from Staraya Ladoga to the island. It was rebuilt in the 19th century. At the base of the church, a lower warm temple was built in the name of the Three Saints, and a wooden cell building was built nearby. Today, the church is in a deplorable state, restoration work is underway here. The skete has a strict charter and is not accessible to pilgrims.
On the Holy Island off the northeastern coast of Valaam, 8.5 km from the monastery estate, there is a skete of St. Alexander of Svir. It was founded under Father Damascene in honor of Father Alexander, who lived here in the 15th and 16th centuries. Initially, in the 18th century, a wooden worship cross and a chapel were erected on the island. From those times to the present day, only a cross with the date “1759” has been preserved, which is the most ancient landmark of the archipelago. Dilapidated cell buildings, utility rooms, a hexagonal well and a wooden gallery along the coast have survived from later buildings. The skete is not accessible to pilgrims.
To the south of the island of Valaam on the island of Emelyanovsky stands Avraamievsky Skete. It was named in honor of the Monk Abraham, who was baptized and tonsured on Valaam and later spread Christianity in Russia. The skete was founded under Father Damascus, and the first church appeared here in 1873 on the site of a wooden chapel.
Off the eastern coast of Valaam is the island of Lembos, on which Ilyinsky Skete stood at the end of the 19th century. Now you can see here only a ruined pier, a larch alley, the foundation of the skete church and the largest well on Valaam. The island has long attracted artists.
In addition to religious buildings in the southern part of the island, you can see the remains of the Mannerheim Line – a complex of defensive structures of the early 20th century, built by the Finns to deter a possible offensive by Soviet troops. Abandoned pillboxes and a guidance tower on Oboronny Island survived from the structures.
In 1979, the Valaam Research Church-Archaeological and Natural Museum-Reserve was established on the island of Valaam. The exhibition halls of the museum are located in the gate church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and in the carriage and stables shed not far from the pier. Here you will see icons from different times, household items, both of the Valaam Monastery and the peasantry of the Northern Ladoga region, as well as products of the main crafts of Valaam.
You can visit the Valaam archipelago through the pilgrimage service of the Valaam Monastery. To do this, you need to apply in advance, which is better to do through a travel company. There is a hotel complex on the island of Valaam, in addition, it is allowed to put up tents on the island, but after registering with the local forestry.