I recall a vivid page – in the past. Recently, as if to strengthen me, I have learnt that two novices, whom I saw in passing by on Valaam, and whom I noted in my notebook, have accomplished a feat during those years. I have learnt that they have become a "light unto the world", that they are alive. Valaam gave them an obedience. And so vivid links spread from this "now" – to the past, and this past is a light for me. In this light is that Valaam, far away. And I thought that it would be profitable to recall and relate about it: Valaam is the same as before, shining.
Chopping of the white cabbage
The church is under construction
Desert of schemonk Antony
The feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.Hegumen on his way to che church.
The skete of St Alexander the Svir
Austere, almost vertical rocky shores of the Svyatoi (Holy) island rise as high as thirty metres at about one kilometre from the North-Western end of Valaam. In late XVIII century it was called 'the Old Valaam'. According to a legend, this was the place where the founders of the cloister lived in their cave, and where the ancient Trinity monastery was located.
In mid-XIX century, on the initiative of Abbot Damaskin and St. Petersburg metropolitan Nikanor, a skete was founded on the island. A granite monument commemorating the visit of the metropolitan still remains. In 1840-1842 a new chapel was built, and in 1855 it was reconstructed into the church of St. Alexander, supposedly designed by A.M. Gornostajev. It is a log building plated with figured boards, with a belfry and one dome. The iconostasis painted by V. Poshehonov, interior decorations of carved cypress, a part of the Saint's tomb, and ten bells are lost. The hexahedral well and the wooden gallery along the northern shore have remained.
There used to live eight monks in the skete. In 1930's, only one monk took care of the buildings and the gardens. The rules of the skete were very strict, monks were not to eat milk products. The service in the church was held on holidays, on working days the Psalter was continuously read there.
Hegumen lonafan (Dmitriev), former metalworker from St. Petersburg, father Damaskin's disciple and deputy, accomplished the project planned by his teacher, the construction of a new cathedral. The project was designed by the eparchial architects G.I. Karpov and A.N. Silin, and it was finished by a young architect of the Synod, academician N.D. Prokofiev The construction work was started on June 30, 1887. The cathedral was built of local materials: old bricks from the previous cathedral taken to pieces by the Abbot and the brethren, and the new ones made at two Valaam brick factories. Carved and gilded iconostasises, gilded copper crosses and candle-sticks, and almost all of the thirteen bells (except the 1,000-pood or 16,000-kg Andreevsky bell from St. Petersburg) were made by the Valaam brethren. The high-quality grey granite was taken from the island of St. Sergius (Puutsari), and red and black granite - from the island of St. German (Sysk(salmi). The two-storey forty-three metre high cathedral with a seventy-two metre belfry on the west side, resembles Byzantine cathedrals, as if reminding of the Eastern origins of the founders of the cloister. But the traditional five helm-shaped domes, hipped roof of the belfry, brick designs on the walls resembling folk embroidery and combined with white-colour details, all that remind of the architecture of old Russia. Today, after years of Soviet rule, when most of the murals are perished and only two icons are left in the iconostasis, it is hard to imagine the former beauty of the cathedral. The marals were made in the short period of 1891-1892 season by father Luka (Bogdanov), who headed the monastery school of drawing and painting, together with forty monks and novices. Icon-painting was supervised by father Alipy (Kon-stantinov) who had been granted the blessing of the Abbot to study in St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. The construction of the cathedral was the last accomplishment of father lonafan.
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich participated both in the laying of the foundations and in the consecration of the two churches of the cathedral: the lower church of St. Sergius and St. German (1892), and the upper church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (1896). To commemorate his visit, a chapel honouring the icon of the Holy Virgin 'The Joy of All the Sorrowful' was built of Valaam bricks by the pier in 1896, in the time of Abbot Gavriil.