Orthodox tradition has always been very strong in Russia; as the country's capital for more than 2 centuries, St. Petersburg encompasses everything that is vital and significant for orthodoxy. This is best represented in the golden spires and crosses of the many magnificent churches and cathedrals found in St. Petersburg that have become major attractions for visitors to the city.
One of the most well-known of these is the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, which is also one of the oldest archeological collections in St. Petersburg. Dating back to 1710, it was founded by the order of Peter the Great and named after the Holy Trinity and one of the most honored Russian saints - Grand Duke and military commander, Alexander Yaroslavich. After securing a great victory in 1240, Yaroslavich was given the title Nevsky and canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Peter the Great then further proclaimed him the patron saint of the new capital. The construction of the monastery continued for nearly a century and encompassed a complex of residences, institutions and palace constructions, with the Holy Trinity Cathedral as its centerpiece. At the end of the 18th century, the monastery was afforded the esteemed status of Lavra, which denotes a high-ranking and wealthy monastery that enjoys special privileges. Subsequently, it became the spiritual and cultural center of St. Petersburg and it is here that the court nobility, members of the Imperial Family, prominent state, military, clerical and art figures have been buried. Many of the famous tombstones were designed by outstanding sculptors of the era, earning it the name, Museum of Urban Sculpture. The remains of Alexander Nevsky himself were moved here from Vladimir and his sarcophagus and the altar are adorned with nearly 1.5 tons of silver.
After the revolution in 1918, the monastery was closed down and many of the historical relics and works of art were moved to the Hermitage Museum, Russian Museum and other sites. Fortunately, in 1956 the Trinity Cathedral was given back to the Orthodox Church and today, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra once again functions as an orthodox monastery with services being conducted in both temples of the Lavra. Your time here includes a visit to the St. Trinity Cathedral and the concert hall, where the famous choir of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra will perform some Russian spiritual songs for your enjoyment.
From the monastery, you will re-board your coach and travel to the amazing Russian Museum. Opened in March 1898, the museum is home to over 400,000 exhibits and contains the world's largest collection of Russian fine art. Here, you will have the opportunity to view an outstanding collection of icons and portraits that showcase centuries of works produced by Russia's most famous artists. The Museum is made up of four buildings; however, the main collection is housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace, a remarkable monument of Empire architecture in and of itself. This elegant palace, built by Alexander I for his younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, is where your museum visit will take place.
After an unforgettable afternoon spent engrossed in the historic treasures of Russia's past and her beautiful art, your coach will return you to the pier where your tour concludes.
Please note: This tour consists of approximately 2 1/2 hours of substantial walking, along with a considerable number of steps to negotiate. It is not available to wheelchair guests and is not considered suitable for those with mobility concerns. Comfortable, flat walking shoes are strongly recommended. Photos and video shooting are prohibited inside Alexander Nevsky Lavra and no flash photography is allowed in the halls with paintings at the Russian Museum. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not permitted when visiting any churches or cathedrals.