Pochayiv (Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra)

  • Pochayiv (Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra)
Issue 54, February 2013.

Pochayiv (Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra)

Pochayiv, 8 Vossoedineniya St. (2.5 hours drive from Lviv)


Pochayiv, is a cozy little town, which would probably have remained off any tourists’ radar, if it were not for its main sightseeing attraction – the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra, one of the three most beautiful Orthodox monasteries of Eastern Europe. It stands on a rocky hill, over 75 meters above the town, gazing down on city dwellers and their daily pastimes. While tourists come to see the architecture and to experience the unusual energy of this land, true believers come here because of the Lavra’s reputation for making miracles happen.
The first record of the monastery in Pochayiv dates back to 1527, although a local tradition claims that it was established three centuries earlier, during the Mongol invasion, by several runaway monks, either from the Kiev Monastery of the Caves or from the Holy Mountain. The legend has it that the Theotokos appeared to the monks in the shape of a column of fire, leaving her footprint in the rock she stood upon. This imprint came to be revered by the local population and the source for the curative, medicinal properties of the water that issued from it.
In the 16th century, the abbey was prosperous enough to commission a stone cathedral and to host a busy annual fair. Its standing was further augmented in 1597, when a noble lady, Anna Hojska, bequeathed to the monastery her extensive lands and a miracle-working icon of the Theotokos. This image, traditionally known as Our Lady of Pochayiv, had been given to Anna by a passing Bulgarian bishop, and helped to cure her brother from blindness.
Currently, two of Pochayiv Lavra’s most honored relics are kept in its main temple, the Dormition Cathedral. This grand building, constructed at the end of the 18th century in the late baroque style, is the Lavra’s dominant architectural landmark, and its main decoration. The Cathedral amazes with the beauty and splendor of its decoration - both exterior and interior. A well-known magnate, Count Mikołaj Potocki, funded it. According to the legend, one day the count’s carriage turned over near Pochayiv and he became so angry that he wanted to shoot his coachman. But the coachman fixed his gaze on the Lavra and the Count misfired three times! Amazed by this miracle, Potocki decided to devote his life to the monastery.
Near the Dormition Cathedral is the temple of St. Job, also known as the Cave Church. In 1604, Ivan Zalizo, a well-known champion of Eastern Orthodoxy and a vocal critic of the Union of Brest joined the monastic community. Formerly associated with the printing house of Prince Ostrogski, Zalizo established a press in Pochayiv in 1730, which supplied all of Halychyna and Volyn with theological literature. The press continued to function until 1924, when it was taken to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. Zalizo received the monastic name of Job and was elected the monastery's hegumen. Job introduced strict discipline and other reforms of monastic life. During his time in office, the monastery had to fend off incessant attacks by Hojska's heirs, notably Andrzej Firlej, Castellan of Belz, who sued the monks over his grandmother's legacy. In 1623, Firlej raided the monastery, taking the holy icon with him and keeping it until 1641, when a court decision finally returned the icon to the monks. Job of Pochayiv died on October 25, 1651 and was glorified as a saint soon thereafter. Relics of the Lavra’s former leader – Saint Job – are kept in a silver shrine.
The Holy Gates, the bishop's house, and a 65-meter (213 feet) high bell tower are also a part of the Lavra's complex. The bell tower is the third highest in Ukraine and it has 25 bells, the largest one weighing 11.5 tons.
On the 12th of May 2002, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church canonized schema monk Amphilochius (Amfilohiy) of Pochayiv. Amphilochius of Pochayiv (in world Yakiv Holovatyuk 1894 - 1971) was born on November 27, 1894 in the village Mala Ilovytsya, in the Shumsk region of the Ternopil oblast in Western Ukraine. In 1925 he became a monk and joined the community of Pochayiv Lavra. In 1936, Amphilochius had been given the rank of hieromonk (priest-monk). His healing gifts attracted the attention of many people. Archimandrite of Lavra blessed the monk in this work and allowed him to settle in a little hut near the cemetery. In the summers, the pilgrimage to Amphilochius (then called father Joseph) were increasing, reaching 500 people daily. On the 11/12th May 2002, he was canonized by the Orthodox Church after the church commission researched his life. Just before Easter his relics were uncovered fully intact. Over 20,000 Orthodox pilgrims arrived to take part in the veneration of Saint Amphilochius. Many healings took place when people come to touch his relics.
Since independence, the Lavra has made many efforts to become the second Orthodox centre in Ukraine, after the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. The first alumni from its seminary have by now gained bishop rank. The literature that is published and the icons drawn inside its walls can be found all over Ukraine, and outside in neighboring Russia and Belarus. Millions of Orthodox pilgrims visit the ancient cloister from all over the former USSR, the Balkans, and the most distant Orthodox places.

Women are allowed in the Lavra only in long skirts and with covered heads; scarves and skirts can be found by the entrance.