Spaso-Prilutsky Dimitriev Monastery
The Russian North is the promised land of our monasticism, ours, the northern, Thebais. Many renowned ascetics asceticised here, there are many places significant for the spiritual life of the Russian people in this region. And one of them is the Spaso-Prilutsky Dimitriev Monastery.
In 1368, the founder and abbot of the Nikolsky Pereyaslavsky monastery, the Monk Dimitri, left the monastery he had built and set off to the north, “to the cold sea.” The monk was burdened by the respect that the people of Pereyaslavl showed him, and he wanted to serve God in the remote northern forests, where no one heard his name. He embarked on a long journey together with his devoted student Pachomius.
The monks wandered for a long time, until they finally came to the Lezha River (the right tributary of the Sukhona). This place – twenty versts from Vologda and close to the Avnezhskoe village (now the village of Voskresenskoe, Gryazovetskiy region) – greatly liked the Monk Dimitri and seemed to him convenient for life. Having built a hut here, the mentor and disciple soon set about building a wooden church – in the name of the Resurrection of Christ. But the Monk Demetrius did not have to linger near Avnegi for a long time. The locals, being pagans, disliked him. His presence with them confused them. When they came to him, they said (you have to give them their due, rather politely): “Father, your stay here is displeasing to you and to us.” Dimitri and Pachomius had to leave the place they liked and move on.
In 1371, they came to Vologda (“and came to Vologda, and the city is decorated with many churches”). Here the monks were treated in a completely different way than in Avneg, showing them the most cordial hospitality. According to legend, some time after the arrival of St. Dimitri lived in a tanner’s house on the left bank of the Vologda River. Here he, obviously, had the idea to arrange a cenobitic monastery in the vicinity of Vologda. As the life says, he was very concerned that “the common life of the monks did not go from the great Volga river even to the sea.” “And love the reverend place, on Prilutsa (that is, in the bend of the river) so it is denominated, separated from the city by three strides; and abie (immediately) put up the cross in that place and bless him.”
The place chosen by St. Dimitri for the construction of the monastery, belonged to “the well-known husband Elijah and Isidor Vypryag”. The Life notes that they gladly gave their land to the monks and, moreover, trampled down the winter grain, which was almost ripe, so that construction could begin immediately.
The first wooden church and cells were built very quickly. Residents of the city, delighted that now they will have “their own” monastery, willingly donated for the construction. Someone gave money, someone – a tree, someone – other items needed in the monastic life. Already on August 1 (old style) 1371, the church in the name of the All-Merciful Savior of the Origin of the Honorable Trees of the Life-Giving Cross was consecrated. And “the monk began to live here relentlessly.”
The news of the new monastery spread throughout Russia. People began to come to the Monk Demetrius, wishing to receive tonsure. Many went to Vologda from Pereyaslavl, where the elder had long been known and loved. I heard about the monastery “on Prilutsekh” and Prince Dmitry Ivanovich (who had not yet managed to become Donskoy). He, too, was very fond of the Monk Demetrius, the godfather of one of his sons. Thanks to the donations of the prince (and his heirs), the monastery grew and strengthened rapidly, although, of course, it could not be called rich at that time.
By the beginning of the 1390s, the Monk Dimitri felt that his strength was leaving him and he did not have long to govern the monastery. He gathered the monks around him and said to them: “A great sinner in my wicked deeds, I am already exhausted and departed from this temporary living, and I bless you instead of me to be abbot to my spiritual son Pachomius. Obey him in all good deeds, as to your father.” … The monk died in February 1392.
As pointed out by St. Demetrius, Pachomius became the second abbot of the Spaso-Prilutsk monastery. He was a worthy successor to his teacher and reigned in the monastery for several decades. Hegumen Pachomius died, presumably in the middle of the 15th century. After him, the abbots for some time were elected from among the brethren, and then began to be appointed by the tsar or the Holy Synod and appointed to the abbots and archimandrites by the Vologda bishops.
The importance of the Spaso-Prilutsky monastery as a northern outpost of the Moscow principality, especially in the context of the struggle with Novgorod for the northern lands, was well understood by Dmitry Donskoy and his successors. This cannot be disregarded when we talk about the rich deposits and estates that the Moscow princes endowed the monastery with. Deeply venerating St. Dimitri Prilutsky (for example, in 1487, John III took with him the icon of the monk on a campaign against Kazan), they at the same time had in mind their geopolitical interests. In this sense, the glorification in the monastery of the saint who suffered from the strengthening of the Moscow princes is extremely interesting. We are talking about the Monk Ignatius Prilutsky, the son of the appanage prince of Uglich Andrew, brother of John III. From his adolescence, the Monk Ignatius (in the world – Ivan) languished in the Vologda prison together with his brother Dmitry. And on the verge of death he was tonsured. And on the day of the saint’s funeral, the Lord manifested miracles through his remains, thereby, as it were, showing that Russia will not be alive by a single strengthening of statehood.
In the 16th century, the monastery reached its peak. Ivan the Terrible especially valued him and set him up as an example – along with the Trinity-Sergius Lavra and the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery – as a monastery where strict monastic life is combined with external splendor and wealth. It is known that at one of the moments of his uneven reign, Ivan the Terrible planned to move the capital of the state to Vologda, and therefore the Prilutsky monastery was for him a kind of “reserve court abode”.
Already in 1918 it was searched. Some of the buildings were occupied by the Red Army for their needs, but services were held in the Spassky Cathedral for some time. During 1919-23, the monastery property was constantly confiscated “to help the starving,” and soon the eviction of monks began. In the summer of 1924, the monastery was closed. The return of the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church took place in 1992.
Since the 1960s, on the territory of the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery there has been a unique monument of Russian medieval architecture – a wooden church in the name of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The “homeland” of this church is the Alexander-Kushtsky monastery, founded in the 15th century by St. Alexander Kushtsky. It was located in a low-lying area on the banks of the Kushta River, two kilometers from its confluence with the Kubena. The monastery was never rich or especially famous (especially in comparison with the Spaso-Kamenny monastery, which was eight miles away from it), but for some time it was assisted by the princes Dimitri and Simeon Zaozersky, who owned the lands around Lake Kubenskoye and revered St. … Alexander as a great ascetic. The monastery had two churches. The wooden Assumption Church was built in the middle of the 16th century, after a terrible fire that destroyed almost all of the monastery buildings. Thus, it is one of the oldest buildings of this kind in the entire Russian North.
Over the past sixteen and a half years, a lot of work has been done to restore the monastery.
Fortunately, the architectural ensemble of the Spaso-Prilutskaya monastery has been completely preserved. In the middle of the 20th century, some buildings were even restored, but since the use of churches for liturgical (as they said, “cult”) purposes was not supposed, they were restored accordingly.
Now the churches have new iconostases, the roofing on the walls and towers has been repaired, the monastery courtyard in Vologda is being restored – a temple in the name of St. Dimitry Prilutsky at Navoloka. This church was built in the middle of the 17th century – but according to legend, at the very place where St. Demetrius upon arrival in Vologda.
In the Prilutsky Monastery, the tradition of monastic church services is maintained: every day a full circle of services is performed here in accordance with the ancient rite, Prayer is the main activity of monastics, but the brethren do not miss other things either: there are several workshops in the monastery, with the help of which it provides its own (and not only their) needs. In particular, there is a candle workshop, where candles are made both for the monastery itself and for other churches of the Vologda diocese. There are carpentry, sewing, icon painting and restoration workshops.
Since 1994, the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery has been holding classes for the protégé department of the Vologda Orthodox Theological School. More than half of the current clergymen of the Vologda region are graduates of the local school and, accordingly, are associated with the Prilutsky monastery, where they spent years of teaching.
Archbishop of Vologda and Veliky Ustyug Maximilian (Lazarenko) is the abbot of the Spaso-Prilutsky monastery, and the abbot, hegumen Dionisy (Vozdvizhensky), leads the daily life of the monastery.
Every year the Spaso-Prilutsky monastery is visited by many pilgrims. As a rule, the programs of the pilgrim bureaus provide only a brief acquaintance with the shrines of the monastery, but those who want to stay longer in the monastery can stay – with the blessing of the abbot – in the hospice.