St Efrasinnia Monastery
- vul Efrosini Polotskoi 59 Polatsk
- tel, info: 0214 445 679
- admission free
Lonely Planet review for St Efrasinnia Monastery
The St Efrasinnia Monastery was founded in 1125 by St Efrasinnia (1110-73), Belarus' first saint and the first woman to be canonised by the Orthodox Church. She was the founder of the city's first library and had a strong independent streak, shunning numerous offers of marriage to establish her own convent here and to commission the Holy Saviour Church.
Still standing, it's one of the finest examples of early 12th-century religious architecture in Belarus, and the small, dark interior is mesmerisingly beautiful, with haunting frescoes. The saint's embalmed remains are in a glass-covered coffin inside. The small Church of the Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrazhenski Sabor), on the right as you enter the grounds, was originally built in the 17th century, although the current façade dates from 1833.
In the centre of the ensemble stands the large Kresto-Vozdvizhenskom Cathedral (1897). The impressive interiors, where most services are held, contain, in finely gilded cases, the sanctified remains of 239 saints, as well as miracle-performing icons. The monastery restarted religious services in 1990 and today, there are 90 female monks living here.
To get to the monastery, you can either walk due north from pl Lenina on vul Frunza for a brisk half-hour, watching for the complex on your right, or take the infrequent buses 4 or 17 three stops from the northern end of pl Lenina. The monastery is used to accepting visitors into its grounds outside official opening hours, but not all of its buildings may be open.