New Jerusalem (Istra)

The splendid New Jerusalem Resurrection Monastery is located in Istra town (formerly Voskresensk) about 50 km west of Moscow on the Istra River. A unique phenomenon in Russian culture, the famous monastery was founded in 1656 by Moscow Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681), who decided to recreate the Holy Land of the Christians by building an exact replica of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, including its topography and relics, in Moscow. Tsar Alexis, a good friend of the patriarch, dubbed the monastery "New Jerusalem" after visiting the site and seeing the resemblance. Construction of the New Jerusalem Monastery into a single architectural complex was finished at the end of 17th century, after the death of its founder in 1697.

The monastery, often called "Russian Palestine," was barbarically destroyed by the Germans in the winter of 1941 as they retreated from Moscow during World War II. Restoration of the complex began officially at the end of the 1940s/beginning of 1950s, but in actuality, people started working on its restoration in early 1942, even during the hard years of the war.

Much of the compound was raised from wartime ruins during Soviet times—1950s through 1970s—and the first of groups of foreign tourists visited the site during the 1980 Summer Olympic games in Moscow, but the monastery and its magnificent churches were still in bad shape till the end of the 20th century, with the bell tower and other parts of the site church not restored. In 2011, with the support of both the state and the church, grand reconstruction began and is expected to finish by 2017.

Today New Jerusalem is a functioning monastery and a monument of great architectural and cultural value. Orthodox worshippers come to pay their respects as well as drink from the nearby spring that is said to be holy.

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Guide, Driver and Photographer Arthur Lookyanov

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