The sketes of Valaam island

Skete is one of the forms of monastic life. Its main point is that some experienced cenobites adopt a severe regulations and live in a secluded place. There are other forms of monastic life besides sketes. These are eremitical and hostel ways of life. It has historically formed that on Valaam a man searching for salvation in disavowal of the world, started his way in a monastery (hostile form), then moved to sketes, and later after abbot’s blessing become a hermit. But in the Monastery of the Savoir and Transfiguration the latest and the most difficult level of the monastic life is not practiced – it was abolished by Father Superior Damaskin.

The skete of St. Nicholas (1,5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The skete of St. Nicholas The skete of St. Nicholas The skete of St. Nicholas

Steamships coming to the island from Sortavala, pass between the rocky shores of Skitsky and Nikolsky islands. The skete of St. Nicholas with its picturesque church appears before the passengers on the left.

Nikolsky Island was developed by monks in XVIII century. At that time fisher-men villages and a wooden cross were standing there. The chapel of St. Nicholas Wonder-Worker was built at the place of the cross. Nikolskaja church was built at the place of the old chapel in 1853. It is situated at the top of a small hill. It was designed by A.M. Gornostajev, whom Father Superior Damaskin invited to the island. The walls and the hipped roof are painted by monks of the monastery. The main topic of the paintings is life of Nicholas Wonder-worker.

Twelve monks lived in the skete. They practiced fishing and customs inspection of the pilgrims – it was prohibited to bring alcoholic beverages and tobacco to the island.

A memorial cross (1861) and small wooden customs office are located near the pier. The community lived in the cell building (1853, restoration in 1988), where the church of Ioann Damaskin is situated. In the 50-ies some wooden buildings from different regions of Valaam were brought to the island.

There is a road from Valaam to the skete of St. Nicholas, which was made in XVIII century. First it passes through Valaam, then along the wooden footbridge from island to island.

The skete of All Saints (3 km from the farmland of the monastery)

This is the oldest and the largest skete on Valaam. It is built on the second large island of the archipelago – Skitsky Island. It is possible to get there by Big Monastery road. It passes by the channel by a bridge, which connects the lake with Monastyrskaja bay. In XIX century a wooden chapel of Our Lady of Vladimir was placed near the bridge. One and a half km to the right there is a memorial cross (1854). A huge pine, which I. Shishkin painted, is growing nearby. An oak alley leads to the skete’s entrance. To the right there is the chapel of cross sufferings (1842). The road leads to the gates of the skete’s territory.

This was the most severe in its instruction skete of the monastery. The monks of the skete didn’t eat meat, milk and fish, pilgrims could come here only a few times a year. The skete was built in 1793. In the middle of XVIII century a wooden chapel of St. Alexander of Svir was built here. In XIX century the skete was totally rebuilt. Instead of separate houses 8 cell buildings appeared, the chapel was removed with a two-storied cathedral of All Saints. The buildings, the fence and the towers are white that’s why the skete is sometimes called White. The interior of the church is painted by the Valaam artists.

This skete is functioning. The visits to the skete are regulated by special rules. Women can enter the territory of the skete once a year on All Saints’ Day. Male pilgrims need the permission of the Father Superior to visit the skete.

The skete of Smolensk (2,5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The skete of Smolensk The skete of Smolensk The skete of Smolensk

The skete of Smolensk (1917) is situated on Skitsky Island. In 1855 a wooden chapel of Smolensk icon of Our Lady was built here. In 1917 a stone church and a wooden cell building were constructed.

The Gethsemane skete (5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The Gethsemane (Yellow) skete is situated on the cross of two roads. One of them leads to the farm, the other is Big Monastery road - the central farmland of the monastery.

Father Mavriky, who visited Jerusalem in 1901, brought a part of the Lord’s coffin and biblical geographical names appeared on the map of Valaam. The Resurection skete was called New Jerusalem on the Sion Mountain.

Leshevoe Lake got the name of the Dead Sea and the channel connecting it with a lake was called Jordan River. A rocky ridge on the shore of Nikonavskaj bay became Eleon Mountain, its bottom was called Gethsemane garden. At the foot of the Eleon Mountain a garden was made, pines, oaks and maples were planted.

The complex of the Gethsemane skete includes two cell buildings (for 8-10 people), In 1906 a chapel, which was later called the Church of Assumption, was built here. A path to the chapel of the Lord’s Ascension, which is also yellow with a blue roof, goes from the church.

To the north from the Gethsemane skete leads а silver fir alley, which ends at the shore of Nikonovskaja bay. It used to be a pier here, to which the ships with pilgrims landed. The left shore of the bay goes to the water, the right one looks like a high wall. At the bottom of the rock (the foot of Eleon Mountain) a road to the pier was made in the beginning of XX century. There is a light memorial cross near the road. It is easily seen against a background of brown rocks.

In 1911 at the top of Eleon Mountain the chapel of Ascension was built. A path made in the rocks leads to the chapel. The chapel along with the cross is easily seen from the bay. One of the most beautiful views of Valaam – the view of Nikonovskaja bay opens from the observation window.

The Ressurection skete (6.5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The skete is located 800 meters from the Gethsemane skete. Big Monastery road goes right to it. The skete is situated at the top of a hill above Nikonovskaja bay. In 1846 a wooden chapel of St. Andrey was built here. In 1901-1906 at the place of the chapel a two-storied church, which looked like the cathedral in Jerusalem, was built.

The church is the center of the skete. It is a good guiding point for ships, which comes to Valaam from the west. The entrance is a porch with four columns, which are joined with arcs. Under the porch there is the entrance to the lower church of St. Andrey. There is a "kuvuklia" there – a grotto of grey marble, in which a part of the Lord’s coffin is placed.

The upper cathedral of Resurection once was very bright and ceremonial. The altar of the church was removed to Finland and partly destroyed. The restoration of outside of the church has been recently made.

In summer concerts of church motets are held here.

The complex of the skete includes two cell buildings and a refectory, in which tourist groups have a dinner. Houses of the skete are taken by Pilgrimage service, which organizes excursions.

The skete of st. John the Precursor (5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The skete of St. John the Precursor is situated on the island of the same name. A legend tells that the skete mode of life appeared on the island long ago. At first the island was called Sirnichan, which in Karelian language means "monastic". In 1855 on the highest point of the island a wooden chapel of Ioann the Precursor was built. From that time the skete bears this name. In1858 Father Superior Damaskin brought ancient church made by Valaam’s Enoch’s in XII century to the island. It replaced the chapel. In the foundation of the church a lower cathedral was made. It was blessed in the honor of the Three Saints. A two-storied cell building was constructed near the church. The skete was surrounded with a fence.

The monks of the skete lived according to a very severe regulations, which prohibited any ferial food all the year round. Pilgrims were not allowed to visit the island. A famous writer V. Leskov wrote about the island: "It is the island of perpetual fast, silence and prayer". The regulations are still obeyed in the skete.

It is possible to get to Predtechenskiy island by a steamship, which makes a half an hour cruise along the northwestern shore of Valaam archipelago.

The skete of St. Alexander of the Svir (8,5 km from the farmland of the monastery)

The skete of St, Alexander of the Svir is located on Svjatoy (Holy) island. From 1474 till 1504 Father Alexander, who founded the monastery on the Svir River, lived in a carved cave. In honor of the Father a wooden chapel was built ion the island in the middle of XVIII century. In 1855 the church of St. Alexander was constructed. A few years ago it burned down. A granite monument commemorating the visit of the metropolitan of St.Petersburg, cell buildings and houses still remain. A wooden gallery is made along the shore of Ladoga Lake.

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