Venerable Kirill Chelmogorsky (1286-1368)
The monastery was founded in the 14th century by the monk Kirill. He was a monk of the St. Anthony of Rome monastery, standing on a holy Chelmа mountain, surrounded in the north by Lekshmozero lake, in the south by the Monastery lake, and fr om the east by the Chelma river. In 1316 after a long journey monk Kirill came to Chelmа-mountain, where he lived alone for 52 years. «The Life of Kirill Chelmogorsky,» compiled by Johann — icon painter and priest of the Lyadinskaya Pokrovskaya Church in the second half of the 17th century, tells us that Kirill cultivated the land, practiced «book learning», «the white-eyed witch» led to the faith of Christ. Kirill built a chapel, a cell and a church in the name of the Epiphany. Later, after the death of the monk on December 8, 1368, a tomb was erected over his grave, and the icon «The Assumption of the Mother of God», which was the only treasure of the ascetic, became the main temple shrine. The Monk Kirill Chelmogorsky was canonized (commemorated on December 8/21). The life and service entered into church hagiography and worships. After the death of the monk Kirill the monastery was empty for several years, later monks began to come to this place and the monastery of the Monk Kirill Chelmogorsky appeared.
The complex of monastery buildings
At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the complex of buildings of the Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery was surrounded by a fortress wall with towers on the corners, which made an irregular quadrangle. The entrance to the monastery was organised through the main holy gate, as well as the southern and eastern gates.
A particularly revered place in the monastery — Crucifixion Cross — was located on the place where, according to legend, reverend Kirill dug a cave. Stone, one-domed, one-storeyed church of the Epiphany of the Lord, built in 1818-1823 stood in the center with a chapel in the name of the Monk Kirill Chelmogorsky and a stone bell-tower above the porch. In 1898, the chapel of Nicholas the Wonderworker was added to the temple, and the temple became a three-table church. A shrinewith relics of the reverend Kirill Chelmogorsky was in the main temple of the monastery.
Near the Epiphany Church, «an ancient, miniature-sized, wooden church, Uspenskaya, was sheltered,» in the altar of which «written heavens» were installed.
Inside the monastery walls there was a refectory, fraternal buildings, numerous farm buildings behind the monastery wall, a mill and a 2-storey bishop’s house by the river with a «mezzanine, carved columns, part of the interior walls of which was faced with marble, and stoves with tiles.» «As though enticing the traveler ... the dome of the bell-tower, the roof with the head and the upper part of the whitewashed walls of the Epiphany Church appear for the first time. It is as beautiful as as Eden. ...It will look like some earthly paradise for the first time, involuntarily attracting to itself, — wrote the traveler in the XIX century.
Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery, was abolished in connection with the secularization of ecclesiastical lands by decree of Catherine the Great in 1764 and in 1899 it again gained its independence. At the end of the XIX century on the opposite bank of the river Chelma Ivan Tikhonovich Kruganov organized a settlement «Pella».
Pilgrimage center of Kargopol
The Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery was for many centuries the pilgrimage centre of Kargopol, wh ere people came from afar to worship the holy relics of St. Kirill. Numerous miracles have happened around the relics. Kirill Chelmogorsky was especially revered in the territory of Lekshmozero lake. Sacred processions went to the monastery on the day of the memory of reverend Kirill Chelmogorsky and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Kargopol and the surrounding villages. The pilgrimage of the students of the Kargopol Spiritual College was also regular. This way the college finished its 1911-1912 school year with a pilgrimage to the Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery, that was reported in the Olonets eparchial transcript by the teacher of the college G.P. Sergievsky. It is noteworthy that the author made a series of photographs that preserved the historical appearance of the monastery for the descendants .
Metochion of the Kirillo-Chelmogorsky Monastery
At the beginning of the 20th century the Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery began to work on opening a metochion in St. Petersburg. In 1917, with the blessing of Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd, the Metochion of the Chelmogorsky Kirillovskaya Epiphany Monastery was built in the city of Petrograd. In June 1918 a chapel in the name of the reverend Kirill Chelmogorsky and the martyr Ermogen was consecrated in the Metochion. The monastery also had a metochion in the city of Kargopol.
The Last Days of the Holy Monastery
The monastery became the last refuge for Bishop Varsonofia of Kargopol (Vasily Vasilievich Vikhvelin). In 1932, after the arrests of the clergy and monks, the Kirillo-Chelmogorsky monastery was eliminated. In 1932-1934 the wooden monastic buildings were dismantled, including the Assumption Church.
For a long time the mystery of the monastery and the icon «Kirill Chelmogorsky with a panorama of the monastery» was kept by the nun Anna Pavlovna Bogolepova, a resident of the village of Trufanovo. In 1937, she was arrested and imprisoned in the Corrective Labour Camp for 10 years. After returning to the village, exiled clergy and monastics found shelter in her house. In the mid-1980s, a former nun opened the secret of the treasure of church utensils. According to eyewitnesses, a helicopter came from the city of Arkhangelsk, this way the treasure was taken away.
Today the monastery is in desolation. From the two temples only foundations are left, from the wall — a pile of bricks. In the place of monastery walls a number of thin birches appeared, indicating the boundaries of the lost monastery.
On Chelma-mountain a few years ago the holy spruce grew, which fell during the hurricane. The monks burned the surrounding forest to prepare the field, but this spruce was spared and left. The tree was protected, revered as a living monument of the past, a shrine connected with the monastery. There is a legend that under this spruce some old man loved to sit looking at the lake surface. For many decades created by Chelma-mountain, cherished by holy love — a spruce, called by locals «Kirill’s Spruce» was miraculously preserved.
In 2005 there was a significant event in the history of the abolished Kirillo-Chelmogorsk monastery. Bishop Tikhon of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogory consecrated the cross, that was in the memory of Venerable Kirill Chelmogorsky on the road Kargopol-Pudozh at the turn to Chelma.
At present, the traditions of pilgrimage to the monastery on the day of the memory of St. Kirill Chelmogorsky, on December 21, are being revived. In 2012, the Dean of the Kargopol District, Priest Andrey Usachyov and Protopriest Mikhail Buzykinkin, consecrated the chapel — the canopy, erected over a cave in which, according to legend, the monk Kirill Chelmogorsky lived.