Rightly titled “The pearl of the Russian North” and “The jewel of the Ladoga Lake”, Valaam (Finnish for “a high mountain”) is renowned as location of the Russia’s oldest monastery. It is believed that Apostle Andrew himself visited the island while baptizing Scythians and Slavs as far back as the 1st century.
He demolished the shrines of the pagan gods and raised a stone Cross on the cliff. The Valaam monastery founders Sergius and Herman were the first monks “from the Eastern countries” who settled on the island when Rus (the name of the medieval Russia) was not yet baptized! Their prayers mark the beginning of the Monastery of the Transfiguration.
The island is wholly covered with pine forests (the soil for planting the trees on the rocky island was brought by the monks of the monastery by barges!) and known for its unique microclimate. Intense spiritual life and the austere beauty of services celebrated in the monastery made Valaam a favorite pilgrimage place for common believers, the members of the Royal family and prominent Russian artists, writers and composers.
After the revolution of 1917, when the Grand Duchy of Finland then part of the Russian Empire got its full independence, the island became a part of the new state. Thanks to this fact the monastery, unlike the most monasteries closed by Bolsheviks, kept on functioning until the Soviet-Finnish war of 1940. Closed after island’s restitution to the Soviet Union in February of 1940, the monastery resumed functioning under the supervision of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. Once again the monastery is a piligrimage destination for Orthodox Christians as well as for tourists attracted by the island\'s unique nature and history.