The city of POCHAIV (9 thousand residents) is famous for the fact that it is the place of one of the most distinguished Christian sanctuaries of Ukraine. Traditionally it is considered that Pochaiv Lavra is situated in Pochaiv. However, a glimpse at the city from the hill (386 m high) upon which stands the Dormition Cathedral will be enough to understand that the city is situated beside the Lavra. The life of all neighboring territories, both in spiritual and political sense, is subordinated to the rhythm of the Pochaiv Dormition Lavra. This island of Orthodox Christianity of Moscow patriarchy looks particularly original in the lands of predominantly Greek-Catholic Ternopil region.
First written reference to Pochaiv dates from 1450. According to a legend, the monastery proper was founded by the monks of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra who came to these lands after the capital city of Kyivan Rus was ruined by the Mongol-Tatars in 1240. At that time the Virgin Mary appeared within a fire post before several people on the hill. On the rock where she stood she left the imprint of her foot. It was explained that the appearance of the Virgin was a message: Rus would rise from the ashes. Today it is impossible to see this place because the foundation of the temple is forty centimeters above the ground. A wonderworking spring flows from under the stone. The Lavra’s main sacred object is the icon of God’s Mother of Pochaiv, which is kept at the Dormition Cathedral.The Greek metropolitan Neophyte, on his way to Moscow, brought this icon to Ukraine in 1559. Asa token of gratitude for hospitality he presented it to the noblewoman Anna Hoiska. Thanks to the icon her brother P. Kozynsky, sick from birth, recovered his sight. A. Hoiska handed the icon over to the temple, and bequeathed to the monastery part of her property. True, some time later, her nephew Andriy.
Ferley tried to seize both the icon and the bequeathed property. The mystic events that happened to him and his wife afterwards made them abandon their attempts.
The well-known adventurer and rich man, Kaniv’s head, Mikola Potocki, made a considerable contribution to the development of Lavra. It was due to his financial support that the Dormition Cathedral (architect G. Hoffman) came into being. Construction lasted from 1771 to 1791. Some sources report that Potocki spent 2.5 million ztotys. The temple can admit six thousand. Sometimes Potocki’s generosity is linked with a legend. They say that when he was passing by the temple, his carriage broke. Beside himself with rage the lord wanted to kill his coachman. However, his pistol misfired again and again. On seeing that his servant was praying fervently looking at the Lavra he was struck by what had happened. Then he decided to build a new magnificent temple. Mural paintings in the church were executed by the artists such as L Dolynsky, G. Bosse, I.Gorbunov, Ye. Vasiliev, S.Verkhovtsev.
Thanks to M. Potocki’s efforts the icon of God’s Mother of Pochaiv was crowned with magnificent garments consecrated by Pope Clement XIV. Now the icon is found over the holy gates; during a liturgy it is lowered closer to believers. From the early 18 th century the monastery was under the care of the basilican fathers. However, due to the fact that the monks upheld the participants in the Polish rising against Russian regime, the czar passed the monastery on to the Orthodox community. In 1869 the temple was destroyed by a conflagration. Russian czars gave much consideration to Pochaiv Lavra. Three of them -Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III – visited the monastery. Nicholas II’s visit was impeded by the First World War and the Bolshevik revolution.
In Soviet times part of the monastery premises was confiscated. Today the cathedral preserves the portraits of its greatest benefactors. The most vivid ornament of the temple is the majestic iconostasis made in 1861 after the design of architect G.Gosse on czar Alexander ll’s order. The authors of the icons (32) are the artists M.Lavrov, I.Gorbunov, and Ye. Vasiliev.
To get to the territory of the monastery one should enter the Holy Gates (1835). The Church of the Holy Trinity (1906-1912) is the latest temple in the Lavra territory. The famous Russian architect Aleksandr Schusev built it in the so-called Old-Russo-Byzantine style in honor of the 300 th anniversary of the Romanovs’ dynasty. (As a matter of fact he is the author of the design of V.Lenin mausoleum in Moscow). One of the mosaics on the facade (TheVernicle) was executed by the well-known artist Nikolay Roerich, the other (God’s Mother of Pochaiv), by A.Schusev. Czar Nicholas II presented the temple with the church chandelier and was expected to attend the opening ceremony. The monks prepared a special throne for him, which stands on the left of the altar. Owing to clay pots immured in the walls the church has wonderful acoustics. The artist V.Scherbakov painted the temple in the early 20 th century.
The Lavra’s bell tower (65 m. high) was built in 1862-71 (architect K. Rastukhanov). It has five tiers. Among numerous bells the biggest one weighs about 12 tons.
Pochaiv is a pilgrimage due to the relics of Saint Job Pechersky (Zhalizo) and Saint Amphilochios. The first one took monastic vows when he was 12. On invitation of the Prince of Ostrog he first arrived in the monastery in Dubno, and after the death of his protector moved to Pochaiv where he was elected Father Superior. It was he who converted the monastery from a hermitage into Lavra. Job was a very modest man, however, according to recollections of his contemporaries, his inner force quickly made him a leader. During his management the monastery acquired its luster and glory. Job died in 1651 at the age of 100. Eight years later, when his tomb was opened, his body was very well preserved. It was then that Job was canonized.
St. Amphilochios was born in the late 19 th century. Having devoted himself to a service to God, he passed through many hardships and was even taken prisoner by the Austrians during World War I. At the Lavra he became famous for his godliness and as a good doctor. In several years after his death he was canonized. His imperishable relics are kept in a cave, which is part of an underground church, beside St. Job’s. The relics of the latter lie in a silver coffin presented to the church by Countess Anna Orlova-Chesmenska. The coffin stands under an exquisite altar of
Carrara marble (sculptor A. Menzione, 1888). Mural paintings at the underground church were made in the 1870 s and represent the last moments of Jesus’ life on earth -the Passion. One side of the church is located under a rock, so its form looks somewhat bent. The church has no electric light, it is lit up with candles.