In the Middle Ages, the island of Konevets (Konevitsa or Kononsaari in Finnish) was considered holy by the Finnish tribes who particularly revered a huge boulder in the shape of a horse's skull, weighing more than 750 tons. This boulder is known as Kon’-Kamen’ (literally, "Steed-Stone") and gives its name to the island.
The Konevsky monastery was founded around 1393 by St. Arseny Konevsky, who wished to convert pagan Karelians to Christianity. The location of the monastery was changed several times, in order to avert floods. The church of the Nativity of the Theotokos was founded by St. Arseny in 1428; it was at this church that the monastery's main shrine was placed. It was a miraculous image of Mother of God, brought by St. Arseny from Mount Athos and representing Christ playing with a dove nestling, symbolizing spiritual purity.
Like the Valaam Monastery, the abbey at Konevets was known for its missionary activities. The Swedes captured the island during the Ingrian War, forcing the monks to retreat to Novgorod. Only after Russia retook the territory in the course of the Great Northern War they were allowed to reclaim their ancient possessions in Konevets. The revived cloister depended upon Novgorod until 1760, when it was officially recognized as a separate monastic establishment.
In 1812, after the Finnish War the monastery administratively became part of the newly formed Grand Duchy of Finland, along with the rest of "Old Finland". The golden age of the monastery came with the 19th century, when its fame spread to the imperial capital and the island was visited by eminent visitors from Saint Petersburg, including Alexandre Dumas and Fyodor Tyutchev. A 1873 essay by Nikolai Leskov describes his impressions from the monastery.
As a consequence of its high profile, the monastic community could fund extensive building projects, starting with the construction of a new cathedral in 1800–09. This huge two-storey eight-pillared building was designed by a local starets. It is surmounted by five octagonal drums bearing five blue bud-shaped domes. The same style is applied to the three-storey belltower (1810–12), rising to the height of 35 meters. Several other churches, a quay and an inn were added in the course of the century. Two sketae were set up to mark the ancient locations of the monastery.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the monastery passed to the newly independent Finland, and came under the jurisdiction of the autonomous Finnish Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The island was fortified by the Finnish military, and the inn was expropriated to house a regiment staff. During the Winter War and Continuation War the monastery buildings were damaged. On 13 March 1940 the Winter War ended. The previous day the monks had been evacuated to the interior of Finland, taking the holy icon with them, but leaving the iconostasis, church bells, and the library. Another personal possession of St. Arseny, the Konevsky Psalter, dated to the 14th century, was sent to the Russian National Library. In 1940, the monks bought an estate named Hiekka (‘Sands’) from the Saastamoinen company in Keitele, and the monastery continued to function there until 1956.
The monks returned for a brief period during the Continuation War, but withdrew on 19 June 1944, ten days after the Soviet Union began the Offensive on the Karelian Isthmus, even though the Soviet troops never conquered the island or the adjacent shoreline on the isthmus. These areas were ceded to the Soviet Union after the 1994 Moscow Armistice of September 19, 1944. In 1956 the monks joined the New Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi.
During the Soviet period, the monastery housed a military unit. In 1990 it became one of the first monasteries in the region to be revived by the Russian Orthodox Church. In November 1991, the brethren announced the discovery of St. Arseny's relics, that apparently had been hidden from the Swedes in 1573. By 2004, the Konevsky Monastery, which hosts a large number of tourists and pilgrims, had been mostly restored.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.