The Eletsky Monastery
The Eletsky Monastery is one of the oldest temples in Ukraine and is the biggest one in Chernihiv. Its magnificent complex stands on the Desna River's right bank, not far from town's historical heart - the Stronghold. It was among Kyivan Rus's earliest and richest monasteries that - despite all the historical peripetias and tough fate - managed to survive until nowadays.
Old Russian Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich founded the temple in the middle of the 11th century. As legend has it, at the place of future construction, an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God appeared on a fir tree. One hundred years later, the 25-meter high grandiose stone Assumption Cathedral was built on the very place, where the shrine had been found. It became the central and the most fascinating building of the monastic manor.
The Eletsky Monastery's history is tightly connected with Chernihiv's tough fate. In the year 1239, when Mongols and Tatars invaded Chernihiv, the Monastery was ransacked and burned down - it remained abolished long afterwards. The cloister started to revive only in the early 16th century, when Chernihiv became a part of Moscovy: the monastic complex was substantially fortified and the monks settled here again.
The prosperity didn't last long, though. A hundred years later, the town passed under Poland's authority - the cloister was ruined again. The Eletsky Monastery's second reconstruction was carried out by Uniates, to whom the Polish authorities turned it over. In the middle of the 17th century - with Poles' withdrawal - the cloister became orthodox anew.
In the following years the monastery actively developed and prospered. Soon it became very rich and remained so until 1786, when Russian Empress Catherine the Great ordered to confiscate all its property and to pass it to the national treasury. And with Soviets' accession to power, the Eletsky Cloister was completely closed. The monks could settle here again only when Ukraine became an independent state. Since then, it's a functioning nunnery.
Cloister's modern architectural look formed in the 18th century. Monastic complex's main adornment - the same as almost a thousand years ago - is the magnificent Assumption Cathedral, which reckons among the best Old Russian architectural works. Temple's special feature is Ukrainian Baroque's and Romanesque's traits, which it acquired as a result of reconstruction in the 17th century, as well as fresco fragments, preserved from the Kyivan Rus times.
One more Eletsky Monastery's notable architectural symbol is its original 36-meter high bell tower, one of the oldest on the Left-Bank Ukraine's territory. Belfry's uniqueness is that it was built in two stages. At first, the lower tier in form of defensive gate tower was built; the upper tier appeared later and was intended for bells' placement.
In addition, the Petropavlovskaya Church, remnants of defensive walls, monastic cells, wooden dwelling house, built in 1648, Father Superior's house's ruins survived on the monastic manor's territory. The mountain, where the cloister stands, has multitude of ancient caves and catacombs. The complex of underground stone cells and passages is preserved here.