A Pilgrimage to Russia is an incursion into the tales of the “Russian soul” (dusha), a concept that encapsulates all that a person is and feels. The Russian soul is always connected to the Eastern Orthodox Christian beliefs based on compassion, strength, and suffering. Or, in other words, to the ideal of Christ, who suffered and died for others.
The Russians have a healthy spirit, a spirit that has made it possible for them to overcome all the great tragedies history has thrown their way, making a pilgrimage to Russia all the more special. They are resilient and hopeful, love to share and have a contagious joy of living. Russian spirituality gravitates around the old Orthodox teachings, but also around the belief that there is always something worth living and fighting for. Most Russians are Orthodox under the guidance of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, although the country also has an important Catholic community.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
A magnificent structure that dominates Moscow’s skyline, St. Basil’s Cathedral dazzles with its onion-shaped domes and riot of colors creating an unforgettable architectural spectacle. Built as an ode to the capture of the Tatar fortress of Kazan in 1552, the cathedral has been dedicated to St. Basil the Blessed who has foreseen a fire that devastated Moscow in the year of 1547. The odd shapes and towers may seem like they follow no rules or patterns but, at a closer look, you’ll discover a fascinating symmetry. Moreover, each exterior element has a symbol, and the interior is a maze of galleries with walls adorned with floral and geometric patterns. The cathedral is the resting place of St. Basil the Blessed, whose silver casket lies in a chapel on the lower floor. This is the perfect start for your pilgrimage to Russia.
Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius Monastery, Sergiyev Posad
One of the most famous spiritual centers of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Trinity Lavra Monastery is a beloved destination for pilgrims and the home of 300 monks. A superb architectural gem, and also the residence of the Patriarch, this is the most important Russian monastery. Founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh, the monastery started its journey as a little wooden church. However, over the centuries, the modest church became a grandiose ensemble of more than 50 buildings and structures gravitating around the main church, the Trinity Cathedral that dates back to 1422 and houses the relics of St. Sergius.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg
One of the most beautiful attractions in St. Petersburg and an important pilgrimage destination, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was raised on the site where Tsar Alexander II was killed. The construction works began in 1883 and were completed in 1907. The cathedral is a different presence than most of the other important structures in the city. While most of St. Petersburg’s architecture is Baroque and Neoclassical, the Church of the Savior reinvents the Russian medieval architecture and adds a romantic aura to a superb religious site. Adorned with more than 7500 square meters of mosaics and designed by famous Russian artists, the Church of the Savior is a work of art as much as it is a holy place.
Cathedral of the Assumption, Smolensk
Perched on a hill, looking over the city of Smolensk, the Cathedral of the Assumption mesmerizes pilgrims and travelers with its enchanting presence. Dressed in gold, white, and aquamarine, the cathedral dates back to 1772 and stands on the site of an older religious site. The previous church was built in 1101 but it was destroyed by an explosion caused by the gunpowder stored in the church’s basement. The interior surprises with fascinating and detailed gold carvings and metal embroideries, and enchants Christians with the shrine dedicated to Mary Theotokos.
Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery, Diveyevo
Pilgrims visit the Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery to see the relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov and immerse into the surreal tranquility that dominates this settlement. Home to the only portrait of Saint Seraphim made when he was alive, this monastery is an oasis of serenity. Pilgrims walk along the birch-lined paths while breathing in peace and purity. The old summer church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and houses a replica of the Mother of God icon that Saint Seraphim kept in his cell. Visitors will also see the saint’s clothing and other personal belongings.