St. Macarius Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky
The largest religious centre of Lekshmozero was the Makaryevsky Hergozero monastery, founded in 1630s by monks of the Alexander-Oshevensky Monastery, Sergius and Loggin. The monastery is dedicated to the Monk Makarii Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky, the organizer of the Holy Trinity Makaryevo-Zheltovodsky Monastery on the bank of the Volga River. After the destruction of the monastery by the Mongol-Tatars in 1439, Makarii went to the Kostroma lands, where he founded a new monastery on the river Unge. After living a long life in monkhood, the saint died in 1444.
Local legends have been preserved about the begining of the Makaryevsky Hergozero monastery: «St. Makary Unzhensky — a monk of Nizhny Novgorod, and it is believed that he had a stopover here, when he went to Solovki ... he liked these places, and upon his insistence the monastery was founded here.» Another version of the emergence of the monastery is associated with the miraculous appearance of the icon of St. Macarius on the shore of Hergozero lake.
The monastery was located on a peninsula, washed by the waters of Hergozero lake. However, oral histories tells that earlier, the monastery was on the island, and the isthmus connecting the monastery with the mainland has an artificial origin.
Architectural appearance of the monastery
In 1653 the wooden church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity with the chapel of the Monk Makarii of Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky the Wonderworker were built and consecrated. Five years later, a wooden church was erected and consecrated in the name of the Entry into the Temple of the Blessed Virgin with a chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Two years later a third church was built in the name of the Three Saints of Moscow. In 1769, only the Trinity Church and Vvedenskaya church were on record with the chapels in the name of Nicholas the Wonderworker in honor of the Moscow Saints Peter, Alexei and Jonah and in the name of Alexander Svirsky. In 1782-1790 a warm one-domed stone Vvedensky temple with a side-chapel in the name of Nicholas the Wonderworker was built at the place where Vvedenskaya church had been burned. In 1857 the wooden Trinity Church was burned «with all utensils and icons» and in 1865-1872 a new five-domed stone cathedral was built in the name of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity, in which besides the main Trinity — there were two more altars: on the right — in the name of St. Martyrs Boris and Gleb, on the left — in the name of the Monk Makarii Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky. On the south side of the temple there was a stone octagonal bell tower with a height 17 meters at most. To the South of the temples, under a large wooden canopy there was a wooden cross. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, buildings of the Makaryevsky monastery were surrounded by a wooden wall with towers. «Cold rooms» were built inside the wall of the monastery, that pilgrims could rent for a fee. Outside the monastery wall there were houses of priests and a psalm-reader.
Tradition of honoring St. Macarius Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky in Lekshmozero area
The wonderworking icon of Makary of Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky was kept in the Hergozero monastery. A special piece of work contains all the stories — «The legend of the glorious miracles of the miraculous image of the venerable and God-bearing father of our Makarii Zheltovodsky and Unzhensky the Wonderworker, in the Kargopol boundaries, in the Hergozero monastery». It describes the healing of diseases and events related to the economic life of the population: Macarius sent rain during a drought, commanded the sick to drink curative water from Hergozero lake, to treate themselves with grass growing on its banks; he sent horses on their own to meet pilgrims.
Despite the abolition in 1764 and the transformation into the Hergozersky parish, the monastery retained the status of a spiritual and religious center throughout the XIX century. In the Kargopol region the monk Makarii of Unzhensky and Zheltovodsky was one of the most revered saints. Of all the surrounding villages, roads or paths were laid leading to the monastery. «Makariyev day» (July 25) — was one of the most significant holidays of Kargopol. On this day in the Hergozersky parish the famous Makaryevskaya fair was traditionally held. Pilgrims carried various offerings to Makarii, including livestock, and later whose money was used to build churches. With a view to spiritual and physical purification, the believers clawled around the holy lake of Hergozero on their knees. People would bring domestic animals to bathe in Hergozero in the monastery. The last enthusiast of Makarii — «Filyushki from Pochozero» (Philip Antonovich Likotov), in the middle of 20th century on «Makaryev Day» he accepted «covenants» and went to «distant Makarii».
Revival of the Holy Monastery
Through the efforts of Nikolai Yakovlevich Ushakov, the grandson of the priest of the Hergozersky parish of Dmitry Lebedev and the father of Victor Pantin, with the support of the Kenozero National Park and many benefactors, the Makaryevsky monastery is reviving. Orthodox services are again being held in the Trinity Church, the traditions of pilgrimage from St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Kargopol, and Nyandoma are reviving. The monastery, founded in the 17th century, continues to be the spiritual center of the territory.
The pilgrims’path to the holy lake of Hergo is difficult, as the «Makarii» (local name of the lake) is separated from the surrounding settlements by hard-to-reach marshy watersheds. The interpretation of the name of the marshes is persistently preserved by local residents: «Gladkoye boloto (Smooth swamp) — is very even, no bumps, nothing. And before Gladkoye — Ledyanoye (icy swamp). The water there is icy. After the fodder base there is Veliky mokh swamp (the Great Moss). It is very large, huge. And inside it — Vnutrenny mokh (Inner moss) — dry swamp with cloudberry. There are also Sokolia Glad and Toporia Glad swamps. Also even and deep, deeper than 2 m, it sucks you. Gryaznoe boloto (Dirty swamp) — is damp, difficult to walk on».