About 45 miles north of Moscow, along the road to Yaroslavl, is the small town of Sergiev Posad (ex-Zagorsk), named after Saint Sergey. The monastery was founded in the 1340s by Sergius of Radonezh, Father Superior of the monastery, who played a major role in consolidating the lands of Rus under the leadership of Moscow Prince Dmitry Donskoy who won a significant victory over Khan Mamay at Kulikovo Field in 1380. For centuries the monastery has been the greatest and biggest religious and cultural center of the Russian state. Nowadays the monastery carries the name of Lavra which in Greek means "main and most important monastery". There are several "lavras" in Russia, but the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergey (its full name) is considered to be the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the monastery and its founder in the history of Russia. It is the basis that supports Russian spirituality, statehood, and national character.
Visitors enter the monastery through the main gates also named Saint Gate, and at once their attention is attracted by frescos that represent different scenes of St. Sergey's life concerning the period before the monastery existed, the process of building the monastery and historical events of state importance. Tourists usually visit three cathedrals: St. Trinity Cathedral, Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory. As a rule, the excursion begins with the St. Trinity Cathedral that is the oldest one - it was built in 1422-1423 over the tomb of St. Sergey. Inside the cathedral there are sanctities of the Russian land: the shrine with St. Sergey's relics. For many centuries his tomb has been the place of pilgrimage for orthodox believers. The cathedral is also famous for the relics and icons painted by the famous icon painter Andrey Rublyov.
At the center of the Lavra one can see the Assumption Cathedral built in 1559-1585. Its form closely resembles the Assumption Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin. Inside there is an iconostasis of 17th century made of curved wood and painted by 35 artists during 3 summer months. There are also tombs where the "ancients" and priors of the monastery were buried. As the name of the cathedral is Assumption, besides the tombs inside there is another sepulcher outside the cathedral - that of the Godunov family.
The most beautiful part of the monastery is represented by the two similar constructions one of which is the Theological Academy and Seminary and the other - the Refectory with the Church of St. Sergey. Besides, there are some other interesting buildings to see in the monastery such as: the royal temporary residence, monastery hospital, one of the first constructed in Russia, and the monks' cells.
Today this is a working monastery with Seminary, Theological Academy and places of pilgrimage. Sergiev Posad has been a center of wood-carving and toy-making for centuries, and continues to carry on this tradition. The tourists can also see artists at work and even try to paint their own matrioshka (wooden nested dolls). It is also the best place to buy all types of wood crafts. The city's Museum of Toys, the only one of its kind in Russia, is also very interesting.