Raifa Monastery of the Mother of God
The Raifa Monastery of the Mother of God is a monastery for men located in the Russian Diocese of Kazan. The monastery was established in 1613. in what is now the Republic of Tatarstan. Closed during the Soviet years, the property, in 1991, was the first monastery in the Diocese of Kazan and Mari to be returned to the Church of Russia. Restoration work began immediately. The monastery is the largest in the Diocese of Kazan and Tatarstan.
Raifa Monastery was established as a coenobitic hermitage in memory of the holy fathers who had been tortured in Sinai and Raithu, from which the monastery’s name is derived. The monastery was founded in 1613 by the monk Filaret during the Time of Troubles and the beginning of the reign of Tsar Michael Feodorovich Romanov. The Filaret came from the Chudov Monastery in Moscow where he had witnessed the martyrdom of Patriarch Hermogenes, who died of starvation while a prisoner of the Polish forces who then controlled Moscow. That the sainted Hermogenes had been the Metropolitan of Kazan and Sviyazhsk may have influenced Filaret in coming to Kazan to establish a monastery where Hermogenes’ memory was still alive.
Upon arrival in Kazan, Filaret entered the community of the Savior’s Transfiguration Monastery in Kazan. To avoid the worldly environment of the city, Filaret later sought the solitude of the forested lands near the city. In his search he found a place on the shore of a picturesque lake where he built a humble hut. In time his presence became known to the people of the Kazan area and many came to visit and honor him. Among these people were some who settled into heritages nearby, wishing also to dedicate themselves to God and a monastic life and thus led to the establishment of the community of the Raifa monastic skete. It was after the death of the Filaret, that the skete became the monastery.
After his repose in about 1659, his remains were buried at the Monastery of the Savior’s Transfiguration. The monk Faddey, on behalf of the brethren of the hermitage, approached Metr. Laventy of Kazan and Sviyazhsk for his blessing to formally establish a monastery. Metr. Laventy gave his blessing, and the Hiermonk Savvaty, who was experienced in construction, was assigned to build the new church.
The first church constructed of wood was built in 1662 and consecrated in the honor of St Evfimy, Bishop of Novgorod. At the same time a wall was built around the monastery that included two gateway churches of which one was consecrated in honor of the sainted fathers who were tortured in Sinai and Raithu. It was this church that gave the name Rafia to the monastery. The earliest churches were consecrated while Metr. Laventy was the ruling hierarch in the Kazan Diocese. In 1670, the monastery received a grant of land on the banks of the Kama River. Thereafter, the monastery continued to enlarge through the donation of additional land.
In 1689, tragedy struck the monastery. All the buildings and equipment burned, reducing the monastery to poverty. Restoration began in 1692, under the leadership of Father-Superior Herman. Recovery progressed slowly and prosperity came mainly through the efforts of the ruling bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Adrian, who later was also to become the Patriarch of Moscow, as well as the hierarchs Markell and Tikhon III. ,As recorded in the Kazan Eparchial Register, by the year of 1739, fifteen churches, including side chapels, had been built, financed largely by Metr. Tikhon and wealthy Kazan citizens.
In 1842, a program under Abp. Filaret (Amfiteatrov) began that found the older churches replaced. The architect M. P. Korinfsky designed the main church. Further construction included, in 1889, the bell-tower Church of Archangel Michael over-the-gate, and Trinity Cathedral. The benefactor of the bell-tower, Mikhail Timofeevich Atlashkin, who after he died in 1901, was buried in the monastery cemetery.
After the Bolsheviks assumed power in Russia the monastery entered into hard times. It ceased functioning in 1918 and was closed by the government in 1828. A parish community existed under Hiermonk Joseph outside the monastery but which visited it in secrecy to pray, until January 27, 1930. Then, when the community, including the monks, nuns, and laymen, gathered in the church in order to commemorate the Reverend fathers tortured in Sinai and Raithu, all were arrested. The members of the monastery, Hiermonks Joseph, Sergei, Antony, Varlaam, and Job and the novice Peter were martyred along with two peasant laymen. The others were exiled to forced labor camps.
During the Soviet years, the monastery became a part of the Gulag from 1930 to 1954. The property then used to house a colony of juvenile delinquents. Later, the site was used for a technical school, housing workshops, a club, and dining facilities.
In early 1991, as the Soviet government began collapsing, Raifa Monastery became the first monastery in the Kazan diocese to be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Reconstruction and restoration work began almost immediately by the superior of the monastery, Hegumen Vsevolod (Zakharov), the archimandrite of Raifa Monastery, after receiving the blessing of Bishop Anastassy of Kazan and Mari.
The Church of the Georgian Mother of God was consecrated on August 14, 1991 as the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God of Georgia was translated to the church. This icon, a copy of the original at Krasnogorsky Monastery, was presented to the monastery during the time of Metr. Laventy in 1668. The last of the three churches in the monastery was sanctified on June 2, 1996. On April 6, 1997, a solemn ceremony with many believers attended the glorification of the new monastic martyrs of Raifa who were slain in 1930.
Temples of Raifa Monastery
The main churches of Raifa Monastery are: Holy Trinity Cathedral, Cathedral of God’s Mother of Georgia, Church of the Ss Reverend Fathers tortured in Sinai and Raithu, and Bell tower with over-the-gate Church of Archangel Michael.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Cathedral was designed by the architect, F. N. Malinovsky. The cathedral features remarkable acoustics, such that a group of four monks singing in the church gallery can be heard for a distance of 7,000 feet 4,400 Meters) from the church.
Cathedral of God’s Mother of Georgia
The Cathedral of God’s Mother of Georgia holds the main shrine of the Raifa Monastery. The icon is a copy of the original icon at the Krasnogorsky Monastery icon that is a miracle-working icon itself.
Church of the Ss Reverend Fathers tortured in Sinai and Raithu
The Church of the Ss Reverend Fathers tortured in Sinai and Raithu is a replacement of the first wooden church on the monastery. It was consecrated in 1708. This building was modified the architects A. G. Nevinsky and N. F. Malinovsky in the 1890s. After being restored following return of the monastery after the fall of the Soviet government the church was consecrated again on September 4, 1992.
Bell tower with over-the-gate Church of Archangel Michael
The Bell tower with over-the-gate Church of Archangel Michael was among the last of the principal churches to be built in the monastery. Construction under the sponsorship of Mikhail Timofeevich Atlashkin was 1889.
Raifa Monastery has entered a new era of ecclesia and social activity. It has become a significant destination for pilgrimages by both Orthodox believers and prominent public and political personages. The monastery welcomes lay brothers who want to dedicate their lives to God, but are not ready to commit themselves to a monastic life. Among the brethren, many monks are actively engaged as students in a number of correspondence courses with the St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Institute in Moscow as well as of other theological seminaries.
The brethren of the monastery have organized an orphanage within the monastery that is home for some thirty orphan boys. The monks have also started a parish school. Additionally, the monastery possesses a library with a computerized laboratory and is used by those studying Russian culture.
The monastery even has its own well equipped and experienced fire department that also fights fires in the neighboring villages.