Khutyn Monastery of Saviour's Transfiguration and of St. Varlaam used to be the holiest monastery of the medieval Novgorod Republic. The cloister was founded in 1192 by the monastery's first hegumen, the former Novgorodian boyar Oleksa Mikhailovich, whose monastic name was Varlaam. The main church of the monastery was consecrated by Archbishop Gavril of Novgorod the following year, the same year Varlaam died. He is buried in the main church of the monastery, the Church of the Transfiguration, to the right of the altar. He was the patron saint of Novgorod and the patrilineal ancestor of many families of Russian nobility, including Chelyadnins and Pushkins, of which Alexander Pushkin was a member.
According to Varlaam's saint's Life, Ivan III visited the cloister and wished to see the relics of Saint Varlaam in 1471. When they opened the saint's tomb, it was full of smoke and fire. Afraid of inflicting divine wrath, Ivan III fled the monastery and Novgorod altogether, leaving his staff as a curiosity to local monks. This staff was exhibited at the cloister's sacristy for centuries to come.
Ivan's son Vasily III ordered the old main church of the monastery demolished and replaced with a noble six-pillared edifice. The new church, completed by 1515 and consecrated by Metropolitan Varlaam (the archiepiscopal office in Novgorod was vacant from 1509-1526), was evidently patterned after the Assumption Cathedral in Rostov. It was the first piece of Muscovite architecture in the Russian North-West and a venerated model for many subsequent churches in the region.
The annex of St. Gabriel, added to the cathedral in 1646, received its present name after the poet Gavrila Derzhavin had been interred here in 1816. The refectory with St Varlaam Church was built on behest of Ivan IV in 1552. The Neoclassical belltower dates from the reign of Catherine the Great.
The vicar of the Novgorodian diocese was, at times, titled Archbishop of Khutyn and lived in the Khutyn Monastery. For example, Archbishop Aleksei (Simansky) was Archbishop of Khutyn from 1926-1932. He administered the diocese while Metropolitan Arsenii was imprisoned and in exile in Central Asia. Aleksei was briefly Archbishop of Novgorod (in 1933) and then Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' (1945-1970).
During the first decades of Soviet rule the monastery housed a lunatic asylum. It was later a vacation home or hostel for visitors to the area. It was restored to the church in 1993. While for most of its history it was a male monastery, it is currently a women's convent.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.