Blue hour at the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery

Zvenigorod (Russian: Звени́город) is an old town in the Moscow Oblast, Russia, about 70 km (one hour plus traffic) from the center of Moscow. You can get there from Belorusskaya railway station (Белорусский вокзал) in Moscow in about 1,5 hours for 144 Rubles (about 2 Euros/USD) and there is a train every hour or so. The entrance to the monastery is free.

In 1398, Prince Yury asked St. Savva, one of the first disciples of Sergius of Radonezh, to go to Zvenigorod and to establish a monastery on the Storozhi Holm (Watching Hill). St. Savva of Storozhi was interred in the white stone cathedral of the Virgin’s Nativity in 1407. This diminutive, roughly hewn church still stands, although its present-day exquisite look is the result of recent restoration. The frescoes in the altar date back to the 1420s, but the rest of interior was painted in 1656. In May 1918, when the Bolsheviks tried to seize the relics of St. Savva, several persons were shot dead. St. Savva’s relics were returned to the monastery in 1998. (from Wikipedia).

Photo tip!
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take pictures inside of the churches, but if you happen to be at the monastery right after sunset (the famous “blue hour”) when the floodlights illuminating the main buildings are turned on, they cast a yellowish light, which “tricks” the white balance of your camera into keeping the walls stone gray, the brightly illuminated patch of snow white and, therefore, turning everything else even more blue than it is. These are the conditions where a tripod would certainly help in getting the best results, but unfortunately I didn’t have one with me at the time, so I shot handheld at 1/20th of a second at 20mm f1.8 (lens wide open and shutter speed of 1/focal length to avoid blurred results) at a still reasonable ISO 1250. With a tripod I could have used a much slower shutter speed, which allows for smaller aperture (in the neighbourhood of f5.6 to f8) to get a bit extra sharpness (depth of field wasn’t really an issue in this case) and most importantly ISO 100 to get the maximum dynamic range with virtually no noise at all.

Even if your (photo!) trigger finger will itch the whole time, it is really worth to go inside and admire the candle-lit interior of the central church (the one pictured above). If you are lucky enough, your visit will be accompanied by an Orthodox priest reciting the prayers in the typical “chanting” manner of the Orthodox Church.

The monastery also houses a bakery and a little cafe on the upper floor in the tower at the left of the entrance gate.


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