The Nikolo-Vyazhishchskii Stavropegial Women's Monastery was founded in by the monks Efrosiny, Ignaty, and Galaktion and the hieromonk Pimen at the end of the 14th century (a charter from 1391 mentions it), with Pimen becoming the first hegumen of the monastery. It was first mentioned in the chronicle under the year 1411. The monastery was patronized by Archbishop Evfimy II (r. 1429-1458), who was hegumen of the monastery before his election as archbishop of Novgorod in 1429, and was buried there (he is known as St. Evfimy of Vyazhishche). His sarcophagus is now in the Church of St. Evfimy of Vyazhishche, built in 1685. The monastery was one of the greatest landowners in the Novgorodian land, holding in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, some 2,000 hectares of land. Much of its lands were confiscated during secularization under Catherine II (r.1762-1796) at which time it was classified a 2nd Class Monastery.
Following confiscation by the Soviets, the monastery was closed in 1920. It became part of a collective farm and the buildings were used to store yams, as well as a threshing floor, a forge, and a metalshop. From the 1950s, there were efforts to restore the monastery and it was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1989. On March 31, 1990, then Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod Alexius (later the Patriarch of Moscow) reconsecrated the main church to St. Evfimy.
The convent has the status of a stauropegic monastery (as of a grant from the Holy Synod of 7 October 1995), that is, it is under the direct control of the Patriarch of Moscow rather than of the Archbishop of Novgorod. The current hegumenia is Antonia (Korneeva). There are at present some 15 nuns living at the monastery. Of four churches in the Monastery (St. Evfimy, St. Nicholas, St. John the Divine, and The Church of the Ascension), only one is now a working church, that of St. Evfimy. The rest are still being restored.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).