Alexander-Svirsky Monastery is a Russian Orthodox monastery situated deep in the woods of the Leningrad Oblast, just south from its border with the Republic of Karelia. The golden age of this cloister was in the 17th century.
It was founded in 1487, when a monk of the Valaam Monastery, named Alexander, settled between Roschinsky and Holy lakes, 20 km to the east from Lake Ladoga and 6 km from the Svir River. During his life in the woods, he had a vision of theHoly Trinity who ordered him to build two oaken chapels dedicated to the Trinity and the Saviour's Transfiguration. These churches gave birth to the twin Trinity and the Transfiguration cloisters, collectively known as the Alexander Svirsky Monastery.
The monastery's founder, Alexander Svirsky, died on August 30, 1533 and was buried at the Transfiguration cloister, which still serves as a burial place for the local monks. 12 years later, his disciples recounted his life in a biography. The church synod of 1547 canonized Alexander Svirsky, and the new saint became venerated throughout Russian lands. One of the chapels of the famous Saint Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, for instance, was consecrated to him.
The Russian tsars bestowed many important privileges on Alexander's cloister, including the right to appropriate taxes from the Svirsky Fair, which was held annually under the cloister walls. During the Time of Troubles, the Swedes sacked and burnt both hermitages on three occasions, and yet the monastery continued to prosper. After the Russian-Swedish border was delineated west of the Svir River, much of the trade between two nations had to pass through the Svirsky Fair, further augmenting the monastery's importance.
This renewed prosperity was reflected in the monastic structures erected in the 1640s. In 1644, when the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral was finished, Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich presented to the monks a golden arc for keeping St Alexander's relics there. A belfry of the Trinity cloister was built in three tiers and crowned with three tents in 1649. Most of the monastic cells date back to the 1670s. The roomy Trinity Cathedral was completed by 1695. The last structure to be erected within monastery walls was the hospital chapel of St John of Damascus (1718).
The vast lands of the Alexander Svirsky Monastery were secularized during Catherine the Great's ecclesiastical reform in 1764. The Transfiguration cloister continued as a seat of the local seminary and a residence of the Olonets archbishops, who rebuilt much of the monastery structures for their own needs.
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the brethren were executed or deported, while the relics of St Alexander were desecrated and put on a public display in Leningrad. The medieval monastery buildings housed an infamous gulag known as Svirlag. They were further damaged during World War II. Restoration did not commence until the 1970s.
Currently, the Transfiguration Cloister is the home to the local monastic community, while the Trinity Cloister still houses a mental asylum instituted in 1953. The monastery has a subsidiary chapel in St Petersburg, situated some 260 km to the west.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.