Permanent and temporary exhibitions in the Refectory

The Refectory with the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple is one of the most ancient buildings in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. Its construction began in the first decades of the 16th century.

The whole complex was restored in the late 20th – early 21st centuries. The permanent exhibition titled “Antiquities of Belozersk District. History of the Region Based on the Materials of Archeological Excavations” was opened on the lowest floor of the Refectory after completion of the restoration in 2007. Different temporary displays has been housed on the first floor of the building and in the adjacent rooms since 2008. The exposition “History of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, Affiliated and Adjacent Cloisters” was built during several years and was opened in 2014. It logically continued the subject presented on the lowest floor of the Refectory.

Over 300 exhibits of the 15th – early 20th centuries are displayed in four halls. You can see unique items connected with the life of the monastery founder and gifts made by representatives of famous aristocratic families.

The first hall of the exposition tells about the monastery foundation and St. Kirill Belozersky. Kirill (his secular name was Kosma) took the monastic veil at the age of 30 in the Moscow Simonov Monastery where he spent the next 30 years of his life. According to the Life of St. Kirill, once reciting the akathistos at night, he heard the Virgin’s voice, “Kirill, leave this place and go to the Belo Ozero (White Lake), for there is a place intended for thee where thou can be saved”. Kirill looked out of the window of his cell and saw the light pointing to the north where the Belo Ozero was situated. The subject “Appearance of the Virgin to St. Kirill at the Simonov Monastery” was depicted in the icons and embroidered articles of the 17th – 18th centuries. The image of the 17th century originates from the chapel that was built by the monastery founder himself according to the legend.

St. Kirill came to the Belo Ozero together with the monk of the Simonov Monastery – Ferapont - who had gone to the trans-Volga region on a business trip before. Having found the place on the shore of Lake Siverskoye pointed by the Virgin, monks Kirill and Ferapont dug a mud-hut. Thus they founded the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in 1397. A year later, Ferapont founded another cloister 20 km far from that place and Kirill continued praying on the shore of Lake Siverskoye. The images of St. Ferapont Belozersky and Mozhaysky are also presented in the exposition.

Being a well-educated person, St. Kirill worked for the enlightenment of people. His testament, a number of precepts and 12 books from his library have come down to us. Two books and the testament are kept in the Kirillo-Belozersky Museum-Reserve. Visitors can see a copy of the St. Kirill’s will in the exhibition.

St. Kirill Belozersky died on June 9, 1427, and was buried in the monastery that he had founded, near the south wall of the Assumption Cathedral. He was canonized already in the second quarter of the 15th century.

According to the monastery legend, local icon-painter Dionisy Glushitsky created his image-portrait in 1424, three years prior to the St. Kirill’s death. At present the original can be seen in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. A special icon-case was made for this icon in the early 17th century. It was supposedly manufactured in the workshop of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and then painted by Nikita Yermolov who was invited from Belozersk in 1614. The icon-case with the copy the St. Kirill’s life-time portrait is presented in the first hall of the museum exposition.

Besides, visitors can see a chasuble made of mukhoyar (paper cloth with a touch of wool) and decorated with blue damask with stamped herbal ornament; a wooden chalice painted in red, a copper scoop in the case and a staff. All these things belonged to St. Kirill according to the legend. But the researchers date them from a later period. A wooden cross always attracts visitors’ attention in the first hall. Legend has it that it was made by the founder of the monastery himself and was miracle-working.

The image of the saint was also depicted in the works of Old Russian painting and decorative and applied arts. The icons of St. Kirill Belozersky, his spiritual teacher St. Sergius of Radonezh, disciples and followers, the shrouds for the shrine of St. Kirill with his image donated by representatives of the noble Russian families are also displayed in the exposition.

The second hall tells visitors about the life of the monastery. It was headed by the Father Superior and several elders in accordance with the established order. All monks had their duties; they were blessed to do them by a superior or a father confessor.

78 superiors were at the head of the monastery during five centuries of its history. Many of them were vivid, generous and many-sided persons. Later on former hegumens and archimandrites of the monastery were appointed bishops, archbishops and metropolitans. According to the available data, 20 Father Superiors out of 78 were consecrated and headed the eparchies, two of them became metropolitans. Four Father Superiors consecrated as bishops headed the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in the 20th century and were vicars at the same time. They took an active part in the most dramatic events of the past. You can find the list of all Father Superiors and the main events of their biographies using the information centre.

Hegumens were at the head of the monastery during two and a half centuries. In 1649, the status of the cloister changed. Thanks to the patronage of Boris Ivanovich Morozov, nobleman, closest adviser and tutor of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, the monastery was headed by archimandrites since August 1, 1649. Thus it rose in the church hierarchy.

Afanasy Kononitsin (Okruzhanin) elected Father Superior on June 1, 1648, was elevated to the archimandrite. He became the first archimandrite of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. He is famous for his donations of books to the monastery library that were mentioned as “the donation of elder Afanasy Okruzhanin” in the library inventory of 1644. One of the books is presented in the exposition. Besides, you can see some pieces of the Father Superiors’ vestments symbolizing their status: a hegumen’s nabedrennik (a square or rectangular cloth worn at the right hip, suspended from a strap attached to two upper corners of the vestment and drawn over the left shoulder) and an archimandrite’s epigonation or palitza (a stiff, lozenge-shaped cloth that hangs on the right side of the body below the waist, suspended by one corner from a strap drawn over the left shoulder). When the status of the cloister changed, its archimandrite was allowed to perform the service “wearing a white hat with a vexillum and an epigonation (the hegumens wore only nabedrenniks), with sacramental fans, blessing, things and songs”.

Separate complexes of the exposition are about the monastery economy, monks’ duties and activities in the cloister and outside the monastery walls. Visitors can see holy vessels, liturgical utensils and books in the show-cases. St. Kirill brought the first books from Moscow and wrote some of them himself. Besides, he made copying of books one of the duties of literate monks. Book copying was an important occupation of the brethren in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. One of the largest libraries was formed there. The collection of manuscripts of the 15th – 17th centuries was one of the most considerable in Russia. About 2000 books were kept in the monastery according to the inventory of 1664.

Economic activity was also very important for everyday life of the monastery: monks worked in the cook-house and the bakery, manufactured and sold candles, washed clothing. Those who fulfilled the duties of guards controlled people entering and leaving the monastery. The exhibition presents dishes and plates of the 18th – 19th centuries that were used and are similar to those that could be used by the brethren of Kirillov.

Fishing, salt extraction, manufacture of woodenware and their duty-free sale brought large income to the cloister. Some monks were to supervise the monastery services, work in the estates, salt-works and fishing. In the second hall of the exposition, visitors can see elements of the 19th-century device used for salt-making: a fragment of a large brine pan, a pipe for brine pumping, and a trough for giving brine. They were found on the salt-works grounds in the village of Nenoksa of the Primorsky district in the Archangelsk region. Fishing tackles, blacksmith’s tools and articles are displayed near them.

The third hall of the exposition presents the history of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in the 16th – 18th centuries and tells about the St. Nil Sorsky and the Ferapontov Monasteries and the Goritsy Convent.

The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery that became one of the largest in the north of Russia at the turn of the 16th - 17th centuries wasn’t neglected by the great dukes and members of the tsar family from its foundation. Grand Duke Basil III and his wife Helena Glinskaya prayed for an heir at the grave of St. Kirill during their pilgrimage to the northern monasteries. Later, on the occasion of their son’s birth, they donated 1000 rubles to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and two buildings were constructed there - the Churches of Archangel Gabriel and St. John the Baptist. Ivan the Terrible himself visited the cloister several times and it was exactly there where he wanted to seclude himself replacing tsar’s clothing with a monk’s habit. His donations made up one third of all gifts made to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery during his reign.

The Royal Doors donated by Tsar Mikhail Romanov, presents of boyar Fyodor Ivanovich Sheremetev, the Vorotynskys, stolnik Ivan Vasilievich Olferiev and his wife Vassa Olferieva, patriarch’s clerk Nikifor Shipulin and other representatives of the noble families in medieval Russia are exhibited in the show-case with the donations that the monastery received in its heyday.

A large exposition complex is about one of the most tragic pages in the cloister history – the events of the Time of Troubles in the late 16th – early 17th centuries. They began after the death of the last son of Ivan the Terrible – Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich – in 1598. The population of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and the villages belonging to it participated in those events sending people to the government forces and carrying out labour conscription for the state during a long time. Detachments of the Polish and Lithuanian invaders first appeared near the walls of the monastery in 1612.

From 1610 to 1612, the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery actively prepared for defense in case of enemy’s assaults. But neither military precaution nor discipline saved the brethren from a surprise attack. In late summer – early autumn, the invaders plundered and burnt down structures and workshops of the monastery located outside the walls. On December 5, 1612, the detachment headed by Polish landowner Bobovsky attacked the monastery, but its defenders repulsed it.

The invaders pillaged large villages in the outskirts and ravaged the neighbouring Ferapontov Monastery and the Goritsy Convent during several years. The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery was under siege since 1612. Only in 1618, the Polish and Lithuanian troops left the Belozersk region and Russia in general. The exposition presents arms from the arsenal of the monastery: helmets, a chainmail, muskets, pole axes, cannon-balls and caltrops. Many articles were found in the 1970s during the archeological excavations of the former Armoury the vaults of which had collapsed in 1786. They were restored by S.G. Burshneva, employee of the All-Russian Art Scientific and Restoration Centre named after academician I.E. Grabar, and S.M. Smirnova, specialist of the Kirillo-Belozersky Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve.

Restoration of the monastery economy and deserted towns and villages began under the Romanovs. The Royal Doors of the 17th century - an excellent work of the masters from the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin – were donated to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery by the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty – Mikhail Fyodorovich.

The monastery got considerable support during the reign of Alexey Mikhailovich – the second tsar of the Romanovs. In the 17th century, it was considered to be a secure retreat for noblemen in case of popular tumults in the capital. In June 1648, Boris Ivanovich Morozov, closest adviser and tutor of the tsar, hid out there during the rebellion in Moscow. The boyar didn’t stay in the monastery for a long time. He returned to the capital in the second half of September. The brethren coped with the allotted task and got a powerful patron. Thanks to Boris Morozov, the monastery rose in the church hierarchy: it was given a new status and was headed by archimandrites since August 1, 1649. Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich financed the large-scale construction of the second walls in the monastery – the New Town. It began in 1653 and lasted till 1682. Erection of the new fortifications turned the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery into the largest in Russia.

Under Alexey Mikhailovich and Fyodor Alexeevich, the Kirillo-Belozersky and the Ferapontov Monasteries served as a place of exile for Nikon, sixth Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus’, reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Nikon began the church reform in spring 1653. Being an authoritarian, he actively interfered in the solution of political issues of the state that led to the tsar’s discontent and the break in their relations. In 1658, he renounced his patriarchal position. The Synod officially deprived Nikon of all his sacerdotal functions and exiled him as a usual monk to the Ferapontov Monastery in December 1666. He had to give back his staff and mantle and was not allowed to be called the patriarch. In 1676, after the death of Alexey Mikhailovich, Nikon was transferred to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery under close surveillance and spent the last five years of his life there.

The historical relic is kept in the Kirillo-Belozersky Museum-Reserve - it is an armchair of Nikon, the unique thing evidencing the patriarch’s exile. There is an inscription on the bottom of the removable elbow-rests: “On March 1, 1668, this chair was made by humble Patriarch Nikon exiled for the Word of God and the Holy Church in the Ferapontov Monastery, in prison”.

The 18th century was a period of cardinal changes in the life of the country: the army was modernized; reforms were carried out in the economy, culture and everyday life; and the church government was included into the state machinery structure as a result of changes in 1700-1721. All those processes left an imprint on the development of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and the adjacent area: the period of its prosperity came to an end, the monastery values were given to the state treasury and the settlement near the monastery got a new status.

According to the decree of Peter I, bells were taken away from the monasteries to cast cannons and mortars for the needs of the army. 416 poods of the bell metal were removed from the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. Small alarm-guns and ship cannons displayed in the show-cases remind visitors of the wars of Russia during the reign of the first Russian emperor.

Among the articles and documents dating back to his reign, visitors can see sheets of the first Russian printed newspaper “Vedomosti”. It was established by the decree of Peter the Great in December 1702. The sheets of the newspaper published on February 9, 1703, were used to connect the book block with the binding covers of the book “Festival Menaion” (1706). The triangular prism with the decrees of Peter I issued in 1722 and 1724 was an emblem of legitimacy in pre-revolutionary Russia. It was crowned with a double-headed eagle and was placed on the tables of judicial and other state bodies up to the October Revolution in 1917.

The reign of Empress Anna Ioanovna is represented with her gifts - the chalice and the paten that she donated to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in 1732. It is known that the empress also gave an asterisk (a cross-shaped metal support over paten) and two plates, but they haven’t come down to us. Besides, she donated money for the construction of stone hospital chambers in the Small Ivanovsky Monastery, “for wax and incense and prayerful singing…”.

The edict of Catherine II issued in 1764 and known as “Decree on Spiritual Estates” changed greatly the life of the monastery. In accordance with it, all monastery lands were secularized, the number of monks was limited. All monasteries were divided into three ranks and began to receive small annual establishment from the state instead of the income from the estates. Thanks to its reputation and former glory, the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery was referred to the first class, was allowed to have 33 monks and to get 2500 rubles a year. The status of the settlement near the cloister changed during the reform of local government: it was granted the status of a town according to the decree of Catherine II issued on August 24, 1776. Kirillov became one of the district centres of the Novgorod province established in January 1727. The exhibits presented in the Refectory with the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple will tell visitors of the museum about all these changes in the life of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery.

Large exposition complexes are about the St. Nil Sorsky Monastery and the Goritsy Convent. The icons from the Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe affiliated to the Ferapontov Monastery before are displayed in the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple.

Two unique items – a hair shirt and beads of St. Nil Sorky - always attract visitors’ attention among the exhibits illustrating the history of these cloisters. The hair shirt knitted of scratchy wool was worn next to the skin for mortification of the flesh. It was kept in the Cathedral of the Tikhvin Icon of the Virgin near the saint’s shrine in a special glassed case in the 19th – early 20th century. Sick persons put in on to recover when praying to St. Nil. The beads that were 2 arshines (1,4 metres) long were kept next to the hair shirt. They are made of simple crude braid and look like a cord with knots – the ancient kind of the beads. When the St. Nil Sorsky Monastery was closed, the hair skin and the beads were handed over to the Kirillo-Belozersky Museum.

The shroud “St. Kirill Belozersky” notable for high-quality embroidery executed by skilful women in the Grand Ducal workshops is displayed in the stand about the Goritsy Convent. It was donated to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery by Maria Nagaya, last wife of Tsar Ivan the Terrible who died in 1584. His heir Fyodor Ioannovich was not able to reign and the younger son Dmitry was an infant. After the father’s death, the young tsarevich together with his mother Maria Nagaya was sent to Uglich where he died under mysterious circumstances on May 15, 1591. Maria Nagaya was forced to take the veil under the name of Marfa in the Nikolo-Vyksinsky Convent. In 1592, she was sent to the Goritsy Convent where two side-altars of the Resurrection Cathedral were constructed thanks to her donations. They were dedicated to St. Catherine the Great Martyr and tsarevich Dmitry. While staying in Goritsy, Maria Nagaya came to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery to pray there. The shroud for the shire of St. Kirill Belozersky was embroidered during Dmitry’s lifetime in 1587. The inscription at the bottom of the article testifies it.

We invite you to visit the exposition “History of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, Affiliated and Adjacent Cloisters” in the Refectory with the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple and to see really unique historical and art monuments.

World of Bells

Magic of Bobbins

You can see and buy Vologda lace and linen articles there.

Visitors can also ascend the bell tower (during the summer season).

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