The NEW New Jerusalem

The New Jerusalem Monastery, also known as the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Monastery, is a male monastery, located in the town of Istra, about 70 km East-Northeast of Moscow. To get there takes about one hour (plus traffic) in a car, or about twice as long wit a train from the capital (including a good half-hour walk to get to the monastery from the railway station), but I assure it, it is well worth the time.

The New Jerusalem Monastery was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon (and that in itself it quite a coincidence for a photographer using Nikon cameras). It was closed down in 1920, following the Bolshevik Revolution and then in 1941, the German army ransacked it. Before their retreat they blew up its unique great belfry; the towers were demolished; the vaults of the cathedral collapsed and buried its famous iconostasis, among other treasures. In March 2009 Russian president Dmitry Medvedev signed a presidential decree on the restoration and renovation of the New Jerusalem Monastery. The federal government was instructed to subsidize the monastery restoration fund from the federal budget from 2009, at an estimated cost about 13–20 billion Roubles.

Now that the restoration was completed in 2017 and now thousands of visitors come to the Monastery every day, especially for religious holidays. Nonetheless the place is still almost unknown to tourism and there are usually no foreigners in sight.

I believe the Monastery is well worth visiting, even if you are not a religious person. Because in the Soviet Union churches were turned into museum and generally not well cared for (when not blown up completely!), most religious buildings in present-day Russia show clear signs of very recent restorations. Only a very few of them still contain significant frescoes or other works of art, but in many cases they are a work of art in their own. What impresses is the sense of cleanliness, light, attention to detail, colourfulness and juxtaposition of old (architecture) and new (paint and ornaments).

Photographically I think this is best rendered with a wide angle (or even ultra-wide). For the picture above I used a 20mm, slightly stopped down to 2.8 to compensate for the distance between foreground (in the bottom-left corner) and background (which is not as far as infinity, anyway). The sky was overcast, providing a nice diffused light from the large windows. Had the light been harsher, I might have gone for a hand-held 3 exposure HDR (no tripods: this IS an active church!), but that turned out not to be necessary, also thanks to today’s cameras’ amazing dynamic range.

Would you like to discover places like this, still off the tourist radar? If so, do get in touch and we will find the best way to help you explore Russia!



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