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New Jerusalem Monastery and Museum

The New Jerusalem Monastery is situated in the town of Istra in the Moscow Oblast, Russia, and serves as home to the New Jerusalem Museum. The museum, which was established in 1920, has in excess of 170,000 exhibits of Russian and Western paintings, icons, embroidery, ancient household items, copper castings, rare handwritten books and historical documents representing the rich history and culture of the Russian people.

The New Jerusalem Monastery was founded by Patriach Nikon in 1656 to be used as a patriarchal residence just outside Moscow. Patriach Nikon was the seventh patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and held his position during one of the most critical periods in the history of the church. He introduced many reforms which ultimately resulted in a split in the Russian Orthodox Church with a group called the “Old Believers” breaking away in the mid 17th century.

The site for the monastery was chosen because of its similarities to the Holy Land and the monastery took its name from the original city of Jerusalem in Israel. The River Istra came to represent the River Jordan and the buildings representing the holy places of Jerusalem, with the nearby hill being called Zion and a section of the garden representing the Garden of Gethsemane. During the time of Patriach Nikon, he brought several monks of non-Russian backgrounds to inhabit the monastery in an effort to represent the multinational nature of the Heavenly Jerusalem. The architectural design of the monastery was influenced by the design of holy buildings in Jerusalem, with the Resurrection Cathedral being an exact replica of the Resurrection Cathedral in Jerusalem.

The New Jerusalem Monastery was closed down in 1918 and opened as a museum of history and arts in 1920. The Moscow Oblast Museum of Regional Studies was established in one of the monastery’s buildings in 1935. In 1941, during World War II, the German army ransacked the monastery and upon their retreat they destroyed the grand bell tower together with other towers and the vaults of the cathedral.

The New Jerusalem Monastery was restored (excluding the bell tower), and re-opened to the public as the New Jerusalem Museum. During the 1970s and 1980s the park area of the monastery was converted into an open-air museum, displaying examples of ancient timber architecture. In the 1990s the monastery once again became home to monks.

When you travel to Russia, if you happen to visit Moscow, take some time to explore the New Jerusalem Museum which welcomes over 200,000 visitors every year.


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