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Monastery of Sts. Boris and Gleb in Torzhok: In memory of martyred princes

  • September 24, 2020

Photos of an imposing neoclassical monastery on the way from Moscow to Tver, then and now.


This article originally appeared on a new site about the Christian renaissance in Russia, called Russian Faith. Their introductory video is at end of this article.


At the beginning of the 20th century the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky devised a complex process for vivid, detailed color photography (see box text below). His vision of photography as a form of education and enlightenment was demonstrated with special clarity through his photographs of architectural monuments in the historic sites throughout the Russian heartland.

As part of his journeys in the upper Volga area in the summer of 1910, Prokudin-Gorsky made numerous photographs in the town of Torzhok, known for its ensembles of neoclassical architecture, A favorable location on the Tvertsa River just above its confluence with the Volga made Torzhok one of Russia’s oldest trading centers. The town’s name derives from the word torg, or “trade.”

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Monastery of Sts. Boris Gleb. Northeast view from east bank of Tvertsa River. Summer, 1910 / Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky


The first reference to the town occurred under the year 1138, but the settlement may have existed as early as the 10th century. As an outpost of the medieval commercial center of Veliky Novgorod, the town was frequently contested. The rise of Muscovite power in the 15th century brought an end to Novgorod’s independence in the 1480s, and in 1478 Torzhok entered the domains of Moscow’s ruler Ivan III (the Great).

A monastery named for two tragic figures          

The dominant feature in the landscape of historic Torzhok is the Monastery of Sts. Boris and Gleb, situated on the high right (west) bank of the Tvertsa River. It was the subject of several photographs by Prokudin-Gorsky. According to church sources originating in the 17th century, the monastery was founded in 1038 by the boyar Yefrem, who had served as equerry to Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev. In 988, Vladimir accepted Orthodox Christianity as the religion of his domains. His death in 1015 unleashed a power struggle among his many sons, one of whom, Sviatopolk, is said to have ordered the murder of three of his brothers, including Boris and Gleb. Church accounts state that rather than take up arms against Sviatopolk, Boris and Gleb accepted death with Christ-like submission. Sviatopolk, known as the”Damned,” briefly ruled in Kiev but after a prolonged struggle was ousted by his brother Yaroslav (the “Wise) in 1019. Boris and Gleb were canonized in 1071 as the earliest martyrs of the Orthodox Church in Rus.

Monastery of Sts. Boris Gleb. From left: Church of the Presentation, Cathedral of Sts. Boris Gleb, “Candle” Tower. May 14, 2010. / William Brumfield


Inspired by Boris and Gleb, Yefrem made his way to the area of Torzhok and occupied himself with charitable work, eventually founding the monastic community where he lived until his death in 1053. In this endeavor he was assisted by his disciple Arkady Novotorzhsky.

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Article source: https://russia-insider.com/en/christianity/monastery-sts-boris-and-gleb-torzhok-memory-martyred-princes/ri20906

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