The Olginsky Convent

The monastery near the source of the Volga has its own history. It began with the construction of a stone church in the village of Volgo-Verkhovye. At the initiative of the inhabitants of the Volga cities, who wanted to celebrate the spiritual significance of the beginning of the great Russian river, a stone church began to be built on voluntary donations in the village of Volgo-Verkhovye. Great help was provided by the All-Russian Society of Saint Olga.


In the town of Ostashkov, a county construction committee was established to build a church near the source of the Volga, Archimandrite Pakhomiya, the rector of the Nilo-Stolobensky Desert, was appointed chairman. April 17, 1902 he signed a contract with the architect, master of stone works from Ostashkov Ivan Nikolaevich Surovkov, who in the late XIX - early XX century, were built many churches in the Upper Volga and stone houses in the city.


The stone church on the source of the Volga was very beautiful. The main throne is the Transfiguration of the Savior, the right side-chapel is dedicated to the holy princess Olga, the left one - to John the Baptist. Five-domed temple was built in pseudo-Russian style, the main throne was consecrated on April 23, 1920. The building project was completed in 1904 by the Tver architect Victor Nazarin. The preserved engraving of the design drawing of the cathedral clearly shows that the stone temple of the source of the Volga repeats the forms of the Moscow Pokrovsky Cathedral on Red Square, better known as the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed (1555-1560).


The desire to repeat on the source of the Volga the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed from the Red Square of Moscow was not accidental: this stressed the spiritual relationship of the famous cathedral of the Russian capital with the church at the beginning of the great Russian river.


The project of interior decoration of the temple is interesting - unfortunately, because of the revolutionary events it was not realized. The paintings of the walls of the Transfiguration Cathedral were dedicated to the famous and beloved Russian saint - the princess Olga of Equal-to-the-Apostles, whose grandson, Prince Vladimir of Kiev, baptized Rus in 988. In the iconostasis it was intended to place all the faces of the saints who come from the posterity of the first saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, and to observe the complete historical accuracy in the depiction and arrangement of the charitable offspring of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Duchess of Russia. It can be assumed that the creators of the project of murals in the Volgo-Upper Church could repeat the theme of "the tree of the Moscow Grand Duke Dynasty", represented in the wall paintings of the Golden Chamber and the Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, and the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow. We can say that the Transfiguration Cathedral on the source of the Volga was to become a sacred place of memory about those people who glorified the land of Russia. The popular consciousness connected the source of the Volga and the beginning of the Christian history of the Fatherland. The Savior-Transfiguration Cathedral was built by local masters. Here, they made a brick and burned it in a local way in floor furnaces.

Undoubtedly, the erection of the shrine-temple on the source of the Volga became an important event in the spiritual life of Russia. Therefore, it becomes clear why in 1906 in the Volga-Upper Church a women's monastic community gathered at the church, which did not have a monastery, but lived in peace, observing all the rules of monastic existence. In 1907, by decree of the Tver Consistory, the women's community was established at the source of the Volga; it was headed by the "petty bourgeois Vera". The newly-opened community with the permission of the parishioners of the village of Svatova acquired an old wooden church, which was transported to the Volga-Upper. So began a new monastery on the source of the Volga. Then, on the initiative of the monastic community, they began to build a wooden church in the name of St. Nicholas, the project was carried out by the Tver architect Victor Nazarin. The local peasant Vasily Zabelkin from the village of Zentsovo of the Khotoshin Volost has built Nikolsky Church. And the church was consecrated on July 27, 1908. This one-headed high wooden cage-type temple, which was a lot in Russia, has survived to this day; it was restored in the late 1970s.


In 1909, from the Verkhnevolzhskaya Preobrazhenskaya community, a common monastery was founded at the Ostashkovsky district of the Tver diocese. The abbess determined the abbess of Faith. In 1912, this monastery began to be called the Volgoverkhovsky Olginsky female cenobitic monastery.


Priests and deacons served in the temples of the monastery, who received salaries from the monastery and lived in the village of Volgo-Verkhovie. So, in 1917, Father Vasily Danilov served in the Olginsky monastery. The clergy at the source of the Volga sought to get clergymen, even from remote places of Tver and Novgorod lands.

In prayers and great works the life of the inhabitants of the monastery on the source of the Volga passed. This is most strikingly evidenced by a letter from the director of the Imperial Women's Pedagogical Institute, O. Platov, to the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, dated 1912: "With my own eyes I saw worldly poverty, I know for sure the good works and habits of the monastery's sisters. and an empty place ... they struggle with all their might and can not complete their temple, live without a fence and are satisfied that they themselves will work. "


The monastery received support from the treasury - land and forest land; from the assistant of the dean of the Tver monastery hegumen Vitaly - a silver cross with an ark for enclosing a part of the holy relics of Princess Anna Kashinskaya; from the peasant village Volgo-Upper Yefim Volgin - the land. From the archives it is known that on April 30, 1911, the abbess Vera went to Moscow "to accept the sacrificed icon."


Sisters of the Olginsky Monastery managed to do a lot. Their monastery has become not only a spiritual, but also a cultural center on the source of the Volga. The monastery had a library, its collection included, in addition to liturgical books, historical, scientific literature, textbooks. The library was constantly replenished.


A lot of attention was paid to the education of peasant children. They took the girls from poor families and orphans to full maintenance in the monastery, taught them to read and write, and needlework and the ability to lead an uneasy farming. When the girls grew up, they left the monastery, fully prepared for life in the world, got married, and, of course, the knowledge and skills received in the monastery helped them build family relationships and raise children.

In 1907, the monastery's Volgo-Verkhovsky School of Literacy was opened, in 1911 it was transformed into a parochial school. The school taught clergymen, as well as the nuns of the monastery. In December 1914, on the recommendation of the Ostashkov branch of the Tver Diocesan School of the Abbess of the Olginsky Monastery, Vera received the "honorary title of guardian of the Volgo-Verkhovsky Parish School." For this school in 1907 was built a small one-story wooden house. The library of the monastery provided the necessary materials for studying textbooks. Children were taught not only literacy, but also farming. In 1916, they built a vegetable garden. Volgo-Verkhovsky Olginsky monastery was small, poor; the basic means of the sisters went to construction. But, despite this, the monastery was engaged in charitable activities. In the wooden church of St. Nicholas during all the years of the monastery's existence, donations were collected in favor of widows and orphaned children from clergymen's families. The Volgo-Verkhovsky Monastery invested money in various societies and committees: the Society for Assistance to Poor Pupils of the Tver Diocesan Women's School, the Committee of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the Water Rescue Society, the Society for the Zealots of History, the General Directorate of the Russian Red Cross Society and others. The monastery was awarded a monastery on the source of the Volga River and the construction of a church in St. Petersburg in honor of the 300th anniversary of the reign of the Romanov dynasty; charitable society that prepared for the holiday of the 100th anniversary of the victory over the French in the Patriotic War of 1812. In the monastery many sisters were engaged in needlework: sewed, knitted lace, made homespun linen cloth and much more. Therefore, for the wounded Russian soldiers in the First World War, the nuns sewn underwear, for which the abbess Vera and the sisters received a letter of thanks from the guardian of the Silver Red Cross community.


Undoubtedly, the prayers of the nuns of the Olginsky monastery, their tireless work, wide charity, strengthened the community and helped to organize their own monastery. In a very short time, except for the stone Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral, the wooden Nikolsky church, fences, a one-storey wooden refectory with a kitchen was built on the north side; on the south in 1907 - two-storey wooden cells of the abbess and sisters; in 1910 - a two-story house for sisters and visiting pilgrims, and nearby - the school building. On the territory of the monastery in the northeastern part there were a farmyard, stables and sheds for livestock and crews, a grain barn. In 1911, a wooden bath was built on the eastern side.


Construction was carried out not only in the Volga-Upper, but also on the lands belonging to the monastery.


The sisters of the Volga-Verkhovsky Olginsky monastery successfully and economically conducted farming. The main expenses were the purchase of food for the monastic meal. The abode acquired only the most necessary.

From its income, the monastery paid salaries to priests, allocated money for school maintenance, paid local peasants who did various work for the monastery. A separate article was provided for charity: assistance to the Orthodox in the Caucasus, fees for the spread of Orthodoxy among the pagans, the All-Russian Society of the Memory of the Russian Army who fell in the First World War, the maintenance of widows and orphans of spiritual rank, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to the Holy Sepulcher. The largest income Olginsky monastery received from the sale of livestock, as well as from the State Commission tickets for an unlimited loan of the second 5% loan. The monastery received very little from donations, prayer services and church services, as well as from the leasing of the mail building.


As elsewhere in Russia, in a solitary monastery on the source of the Volga, everything changed after 1917. Abbess and sisters of the monastery, having received the Decree on separation of church and state, and after this, in 1919, a circular explaining the procedure of this department, realized that the monastery would be ruined. But they nevertheless hoped that the coming troubled time would soon pass, life would return to its former course. Therefore, we decided to organize a monastic labor commune on the basis of the monastic community, made up its charter.


By 1924, the sisters had already created a new Upper Volga agricultural cooperative, as evidenced by the entry in the account book of the Olginsky monastery about the payment of the stamp and stamp of this artel. And perhaps, only strict statistical information of this income-expenditure book sheds light on the tragic history of the monastery during the Soviet era. We can say that in 1918 the monastery was closed. The nuns continued to live in the monastery, where the monastic labor community was first established, and later the agricultural artel. Service in the cathedral was held, but all construction in it was discontinued. It was not destined to become a reality for the beautiful projects of painting and iconostasis of the Savior's Transfiguration Cathedral.


The authorities seized everything from the monastery: lands, buildings. Financial notes of the commune and artel, which continued to lead the former abbess Vera, the treasurer nun Antonina, the dean nun Nina, vividly testify that the sisters worked very hard. They continued to engage in livestock, the largest income was from the sale of livestock. In second place - income from needlework, a little received from the sale of seeds, hay, flax, linen, linen yarn. For the needs of the temple collection was scanty.


At that time the biggest expenses of the monastery were taxes. The agricultural tax department paid to the Ostashkov Finance Department; for confiscated monastic buildings and structures, which the new government leased to the nuns under the "new laws"; in the department of land management in Ostashkov - for renting the farm; to the Ostashkov insurance agency; Belkovsky chairman of the village council II. Semenov - for hayfields. Taxes constantly grew, new ones appeared, and sometimes the government demanded to pay the same taxes twice. And although the sisters worked a lot, the income of 1923 was 7 cents, in 1924 - 53 kopecks. Then all the records are interrupted. By the end of 1924 the community of nuns of the Upper Volga Olginsky monastery ceased to exist. The time passed, the temples were closed, the crosses were brought down, the chapel over the source of the Volga came to desolation. During the Great Patriotic War, the Nazis took the village, but did not destroy the monastery temples.

The monastery was deserted in honor of the Russian saint princess Olga, the village and the whole district. About monastery buildings, a school, a library can now be learned only from the surviving archival materials and from the remains of the foundations of buildings, overgrown with grass. The large stone Spaso-Preobrazhensky cathedral has been used for many years under a grain warehouse ...


In the 1960s, when attempts were made to create the Seliger resort and tourist zone, grandiose projects for the formation of a historical and cultural museum-reserve on the source of the Volga appeared. It was supposed to bring ancient wooden houses from the villages and villages of the Upper Volga, in the Savior's Transfiguration Cathedral to open the museum of the Volga and present all the regional Volga cities. This project was doomed to failure. Time was inexorably going ... The old people and old women who were still remembering the monastery were not in the Volga-Upper Peak, every spring the channel of the source of the Volga was being cleared. The last grandmother, Pushkin, the children were taken to Svapusha, a large village on the shore of Seliger. In the village there were no children or schools. From the Volga-Upper the family of the teacher Polyakova left, she accepted all who dared off-road, in the forest walk 25 kilometers to get to the source.


And yet in the late 1970s something imperceptibly began to change. In the Volga-Upper, restorers came from Ostashkov, began to tidy up the monastery temples. It was a great asceticism: in the conditions of impassability the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral and St. Nicholas Church were restored. Much depended on the leading architect of the restoration project from the Kalininskaya (later Tver) restoration workshop of Anatoly Ivanovich Kustov and the head of the Ostashkovsky Restoration Site Alexei Alekseevich Kovalev, who was born near the source, in the village of Zhukov. I managed to get around the barriers in the face of esthete scientists who believed that the buildings of the beginning of the XX century do not represent any artistic value, and therefore they can not be considered architectural monuments and restore.


Restoration of the monastery churches was conducted at the expense of the Central Council of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments. It so happened that the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Olginsky Monastery in the Volga-Verkhovye, built on the donations of the people at the beginning of the 20th century, was also restored at the end of the century to the voluntary contributions of millions of people who were united by this society.


Several years ago, in May, on the feast day of the saints Cyril and Methodius, the creators of the Slavic alphabet, the festival of Slavic writing and culture, a large delegation of scientists, public figures and representatives of culture arrived in the Volga-Verkhovye region. Archbishop of Tver and Kashin Victor at the Olginsky monastery served a moleben, consecrated the source of the great Russian river, established a cross over the roof of a small chopped small house that stood above the key - the beginning of the Volga. Moleben at the source became a tradition, which is always committed on May 29. In 1994, for the first time after the closure of the Olginsky monastery on the source of the Volga, Archbishop Tversky Victor performed the Divine Liturgy, which initiated the service of the liturgy in the following years. On July 9, 1995, the order of the small water consecration was performed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II who led the celebrations on the occasion of the transfer of the holy relics of the Monk Nil Stolobensky from Znamensky Cathedral Ostashkov to Stolobnoye Island. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church could not help visiting a sacred and close place for every Russian person.


Occasionally, nuns from Moscow began to come to the Volga-Upper Volga, sisters from the famous Nizhny Novgorod Diveevo Convent, the Tver Region and other regions of Russia visited. Now the shrine at the sources of the great Russian river comes to life and, relying on the prayers of the Monk Nil Stolobensky, monastic life is reviving in the Upper Volga Olginsky Convent.

57° 15' 5.3316" N 32° 28' 17.598" E