Rise and Development of the Raifa Bogoroditsky Monastery
The Raifa Bogoroditsky Monastery had its beginning in a skit (a small and secluded monastery) founded by the monk, Philaret, in the early 17th century.The exact date is still discussed by historians, but is officially accepted as 1613.
Philaret was a son of wealthy parents, but gave up all his possessions and entered the Moscow Chudov monastery. He was there at the same time as Grigory Otrepjev (the future Dimitry, the Pretender I) and Patriarch Hermogen, who was cloistered in the monastery by the Poles and was eventually starved to death. We do not know why Philaret left the monastery – maybe he was seeking solitude in a cloister with stricter orders. He chose Kazan and came here in 1613, according to legend. Here he was accepted to Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery. He often walked around the city and got acquainted with the people including many influential citizens. One of them, Sergiy, became his friend and built a cell in his house for Philaret. The monk lived in the houses of other Kazan citizens too. That gave ground for a supposition that he was sent to Kazan by the party of Mikhail Romanov, opponents who wanted to find contacts with their supporters. Philaret soon became very popular in Kazan and to get rid of undesirable contacts, he started to act as jurodivy (in Russian Orthodox tradition, a person who behaves like a fool to show his absolute humility). One historian states that he even had to hide himself.
Living in Kazan Philaret often walked in the countryside trying to find a place of hermitage. Thus he found himself on the bank of a solitary lake about 30 verst (10,500 feet) from the city in a deep forest. He was touched by the beauty of the place, its quietness and remoteness. He built a hut there and started the life of a hermit. By and by, rumors about him spread, reaching Kazan. People who wanted to save their souls from this vain world started coming to him. Several times pilgrims were given visions, revealing God’s good graces for their undertakings. These people formed a skit, built cells for themselves and a chapel for common prayers. They often went hungry, as their only food grew in their own vegetable garden. They were also bothered by pagans, cheremyses, who had their keremet (altar) on the bank of this lake. They often came with their sacrifices and tried to scare the hermits away. Philaret became ill and returned to Kazan, to the Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery, where he soon passed away.
The skit, with more than 30 inhabitants, needed a spiritual leader. The monks did not have a consecrated church or the things necessary for church services. When the hermits learned that Kazan Metropolitan Lavrenty was interceding for the opening of new monasteries, they decided to plead for his help. In 1660 they sent one of the most reverend hermits, Taddej, and two elders to Kazan. The Metropolitan interviewed the elders and promised his support. In the next year he came himself to their hermitage, consecrated all the buildings, and most importantly, sent their cloister a hieromonk, Sabbaty, who erected a new church honoring Our Lady of Georgia. To strengthen the monastery’s position it was given the waste lands of Svinyje Gory on the Kama River (not far from the modern village of Rozhdestvenno). A wall with two churches over the gates was built around the cloister: honoring the Origin of the True Life-giving Cross of the Most Gracious Saviour over the western gates, and the Saint Fathers, Slain in Sinai, and Raifa over the eastern gates.
In 1670 Metropolitan Lavrenty learned that the buildings were finished. He informed all the churches in Kazan and Svijazhsk about the upcoming religious procession organized to bring the icon of Our Lady of Georgia from Kazan to Raifa. More than 1000 people gathered to take part and the Metropolitan himself led the great procession. There were some stops along the way to provide the pilgrims with food and water. On the way, several miraculous healings occured, one blind man recovered his sight. Metropolitan Lavrenty spent several days in the cloister, now called a monastery. He gave orders to enlarge it and supplied it with food. He also ordered the local people, who used to be suspicious about the monastery, to provide for it in the future. In 1689 all the planned building projects were completed, but that year brought a terrible fire, which destroyed all the buildings, books and church-plate. Even the bells melted.
After the great fire many monks left the monastery, which was neglected for several years. Then the Metropolitan of Kazan Adrian called a hieromonk, Herman, from the Novo-Jerusalemsky monastery who was to restore the cloister. But quite soon Adrian was elected to be the Patriarch of All Russia, so the restoration of the monastery was continued under the patronage of Metropolitan Marcell. There wasn’t enough money for the work, so in 1692 Herman sent a petition to tsars Joahn and Peter Alexejevich, with which they complied.
The restoration of the monastery went on until 1717. During these years it was especially supported by Metropolitan Tikhon III. Under his patronage the stone churches and the belfry for the church of the Saint Fathers were completed. He endowed five of the churches with altar Gospels and crosses. Metropolitan Tikhon had summer homes on the monastery grounds where he enjoyed his leisure hours and sometimes went fishing. In 1730 there were 11 churches with 4 chapels, more than in other monastery of the Kazan eparchy.
A rise in the building and expansion of the monastery started in the times of Kazan Metropolitan Philaret who appointed archimandrite Ambrosy the vicegerent of the monastery. In 1836 the building of a warm stone church honoring Our Lady of Georgia, designed by architect Corinthsky, was begun. The church was consecrated in 1842. Many works of restoration were begun in the old building with the monks’ cells, and a new one was built. More restoration was done in the 90th. It was decided to build a new church honoring the Holy Trinity. The planning began in 1896, with construction commencing in 1906. The church was consecrated in 1910. In the end of the 90th a new bell tower was built in the place of the eastern gates.
Before the revolution there were seven churches in the monastery: of the Holy Trinity, of the icon of Our Lady of Georgia, of St. Fathers, Archangel Michael, of the Saints Vera, Nadezhda, Liubov and their mother Sophia, of the Seven Martyrs (now the New Martyrs of Raifa), and of St. Nicholas. All of them, except the St. Nicholas Church, which was pulled down due to its dilapidated state, still exist today.