The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Russian: Тро́ице-Се́ргиева Ла́вра) is the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. The monastery is situated in the town of Sergiyev Posad, about 70 km to the north-east from Moscow by the road leading to Yaroslavl, and currently is home to over 300 monks.
The monastery was founded in 1345 by one of the most venerated Russian saints, Sergius of Radonezh, who built a wooden church in honour of the Holy Trinity on Makovets Hill. Early development of the monastic community is well documented in contemporary lives of Sergius and his disciples. In 1355, Sergius introduced a charter which required the construction of auxiliary buildings, such as refectory, kitchen, and bakery. This charter was a model for Sergius' numerous followers who founded more than 400 cloisters all over Russia, including the celebrated Solovetsky, Kirilov, and Simonov monasteries.
St. Sergius was declared patron saint of the Russian state in 1422. The same year the first stone cathedral was built by a team of Serbian monks who had found refuge in the monastery after the Battle of Kosovo. The relics of St. Sergius still may be seen in this cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The greatest icon painters of medieval Russia, Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chyorny, were summoned to decorate the cathedral with frescoes. Traditionally, Muscovite royals were baptized in this cathedral and held thanksgiving services here.
In 1744, Empress Elizabeth conferred on the cloister the dignity of the Lavra. The metropolitan of Moscow was henceforth also the Archimandrite of the Lavra. Elizabeth particularly favoured the Trinity and annually proceeded afoot from Moscow to the cloister. Her secret spouse Alexey Razumovsky accompanied her on such journeys and commissioned a baroque church to the Virgin of Smolensk, the last major shrine to be erected in the Lavra. Another pledge of Elizabeth's affection for the monastery is a white-and-blue baroque belltower, which, at 88 meters, was one of the tallest structures built in Russia up to that date. Its architects were Ivan Michurin and Dmitry Ukhtomsky.
In 1945, following Joseph Stalin's temporary tolerance of the church during World War II, the Lavra was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. On April 16, 1946 divine service was renewed at the Assumption Cathedral. The lavra continued as the seat of Moscow Patriarchy until 1983, when the patriarch was allowed to settle at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow. After that, the monastery continued as a prime centre of religious education. Important restoration works were conducted in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UN World Heritage List.