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Jewish Tours

Crimea Tours

Inkerman Cave Monastery

inkerman cave monasteryThe Crimea is the land of a most ancient Christianity. In this respect it can only yield “the palm” to Palestine, if at all. An amazing fact: as early as the 1st century A.D. there were more followers of the Saviour on the peninsula, than in Rome proper. What accounted for that was the Roman outhorities` designation of this barbarian remote area of the empire as an exile for Christians.

One of the first Saints of the ancient Church – Clement, bishop of Rome, Apostle Peter`s follower, was exiled to the Crimea too. On the order of Emperor Trayan he was sent to one of the quarries in the outskirts of ancient Chersonesus located on the Chornaya river bank nearby Inkerman, a suburb of today`s Sevastopol. By the way, limestone has been mined in those quarries up to present day.

Two Clement`s followers – Cornelius and Thebe – joined him in his exile on their own free will. On their arrival at the destination, the Roman Christians found there over teo thousand fellow-belivers who had work in the quarries too. One of the caves, formed in the process of limnestone extraction, was turned by the Roman bishop into a temple. This cave church is located on the territory of the Inkerman St. Clement`s Orthodox monastery. The temple`s reliquary contains some particle of a saint`s relics sent over from the Kiev – Caves Monastery Lavra, and the church floor features unique ancient mosaics which has survived by a miracle. On the wall, deep inside the cave behind the iconostasis, there is a cross imprinted by itself on the rock many centuries ago.

The feeling you are having in this ancient temple is hard to describe in words or relove again by recalling it to mind. It is that of an amazing peaceful clarity.

From the church, following hewn into the rock steps, you can climb up to the belfry bay overhanging a sheer cliff. Peace and quiet immediately gave place to the noise of the vain world – below runs the railway road with its rumbling electric trains. From there a perfect view is provided of the Inkerman valley – the land of the two-millenia-old Christianity.

During its centuries-old history the monastery lived through many ordeals. In the 7th century the Bizantines built on that cliff fortress Kalamita (its remains surviving to this day). Two hundred years later, monks – icon worshippers, who fled from iconoctast`s persecution to the Crimea, started hewing their cells and churches in the rock above the fortress. Another great saint – Martin, the confessor – was exiled to Inkerman too.

In the 13th century, when the peninsula was invited by the Tatars, there came hard times for Christians. And when Constantinople fell, Islam was established on the ancient Crimean land, as a prevailing religion, and the monastery entered the state of neglect. Life there was at a standstill.

The revival of the cloister commenced only in 1852. It was interrupted by the Crimean War. Next to the monastery broke out the Inkerman battle called by the contemporaries “the Calvary of the Russian Army”. Thousands of people fell in the severe combat. In an ancient fortification above the cliff a squadron of Russian soldiers was quartered. The enemy mercilessly fired at the Russian positions and the cloister was heavily damged by cannon-balls and bullets, traces of which can still be on the rock next to the cave temples.

After the hostilities were over, the restoration works renewed. In 1867, nearby the cave temple, in honour of Saint Clement there was hewn in the rock one more church which was named after Saint Martin, the confessor.

The blackest in the history of the Inkerman cloister was the Soviet period. From the year 1926 on, the atheists militant began closing the monastery temples, and the cave church was transferred to the museum.

WW2 broken out fifteen years later, did not pass by this corner of eternity either. A high-power bomb dropped from a German aircraft had hit the Cathedral.

After Soviet Union collapse monastery was restored.

“Everything is as God wills” – is the comment here.

Sergey Tsarapora private guide