The Svyato-Spassky Convent in Kostomarovo is an ancient cave monastery located about 150 kilometers south of the town of Voronezh, just 3-hours drive away. There are two churches in these caves: a big Spassky temple with columns and a small St. Seraphim Sarovsky church. The Spassky temple burrows deep into the chalky cliff to form a spacious interior that can house up to 2,000 people.
According to legend, the first cave temples were built on the banks of the Don river, before the adoption of Christianity in Russia. Hermits and monks would use these ascetic cave cells to hide from persecution and it wasn’t until the 12th century that the first monastery was built. The monastery was built with the intention of providing parishioners a place to take refuge in case of enemy attacks and even sustain a long-term siege. Within the walls of the shrine were cut small cells for monks and hermits to live. Their only contact with the outside world was through a little window cut into the rock face.
When the communist came into power, the Svyato-Spassky church, along with thousands of other churches, mosques and temples across the nation was closed and the monks executed. During the Great Patriotic War (or World War 2) the caves of Svyato-Spassky provided shelter to Soviet soldiers and locals fighting the German troops. After the 1943 meeting between Stalin with Metropolitan Sergius, Orthodox churches were reopened. In 1946, the Svyato-Spassky church was officially registered as a Holy Savior Catholic Church.
Restoration of the shrine progressed quickly, but in the early 60's, at the direction of NS Khrushchev, the local authorities under the pretext that the church premises were unfit for further use, closed the temple. All the external building were burned and the cave flooded.
The modern church and convent was constructed in 1993. Through the efforts of ordinary believers the caves were cleaned out and the inside electrified. By 1997, the cave complex had living quarters, nursing corps, refectory and a chapel. Today the church is visited by pilgrims from all over Russia.
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