The Divnogorsky Uspensky Cave-Monastery is traditionally thought to have been founded in 1653 when a group of monks arrived at the cave complex known as Malye Divy with a regiment of Cossacks to establish a monastery as part of an outpost on the Belgorod Abatis Border. However there are signs that the site was inhabited even before this date. From the beginning the monks set up cells in the surrounding caves as well as building wooden churches. Being located on Russia’s southern border, the monastery was subjected to many Tatar raids, but despite this it continued to grow in size and influence thanks to donations from landowners and Tsar Alexis. In 1699 Alexis’ son Peter the Great visited the monastery while in Voronezh overseeing the construction of his fleet.
By the time of Catherine the Great there were only seven monks at the monastery and so as part of Catherine’s policies of secularisation the monastery was dissolved in 1788, although its churches remained open. However after the death of Catherine there were attempts to reopen the monastery and finally in 1828 this happened as monks from another monastery were transferred to Divnogorye. In the mid-19th century construction work took place at the monastery, including in the caves.
After the Revolution the monastery was sacked and in 1924 it was closed and most of its monks were drowned in the Don or executed. The monastery’s rich library was also thrown into the river. The buildings were subsequently used as a sanatorium and then a German military hospital during the war. After having been allowed to fall into disrepair, it was finally decided to preserve the site in 1988 when the territory became a museum and the caves were restored. In 1997 the monastery was returned to the Orthodox Church and re-consecrated, with restoration work following.
The first church to be built on the site and dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary was built in 1658. It was built to replace an earlier church dedicated to St Nicholas which was destroyed by fire. The current version of the church dates from 1886. Surrounding the church are the monastery’s refectory and bell tower.
Nativity of John the Baptist Church
The most interesting and unusual feature of the monastery is the Nativity of John the Baptist Church which was carved into the rock and incorporates the caves known as the Malye Divy, which run in total for 351 metres. The surrounding chalk pillars have been topped with domes and contain a chapel, while a large cross has been erected above the cave from where you can get great views of the Don.
|Location||selo Divnogorye (next to Divnogorskaya platform)|