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St. Nicholas convent in Mamontovo

St. Nicholas Mamontovo convent is one of the most ancient orthodox abode in Tambov land. It was founded by Elder Mamont in 1629. The convent is located in a picturesque place at the bank of the Tsna river. At the beginning of the 17th century monk Mamont found a miracle-working icon of St. Nicholas of Mozhaysk at the banks of the Glubokoye lake (the original name of the Holy Lake). The icon represented the full-body figure of the saint, 140 cm tall, calved in linden wood. The saint was dressed in archiepiscopal vestment. In his right hand he was holding a sword and in the left hand – a pyx. After that the lake waters became healing. For the miracles that the lake caused, it was called The Holy lake and the icon found there was considered to be miracle-working.     

St. Nicholas monastery was founded here in 1629 according to tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov’s decree. During the first decades of its existence the monastery was under caring support of the reigning Romanovs family as well as local people. By the middle of the 17th century, five villages were formed around the monastery. The monastery itself was one of the riches in Tambov land. Fishing was an important income item. The first wooden church in honor of St. Nicholas with an altar in the name of the Reverend Alexis, the Man of God, was built in 1677. The miracle-working icon of St. Nicholas in silver gilded vestment was kept in the church altar just like the hallowed  icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God with the gifts from the parishioners who were helped by the Mother of God. A few copies of the miracle-working icon of St. Nicholas of Mozhaysk were made at that time and kept at the monastery. 

As a result of the reforms of the times of Catherine the Great, in 1764 the monastery was abolished and closed and functioned as a parish church. The new wooden two-altar church was built in the abolsihed but functioning monastery in 1775. The monastery abolishment did not affect the number of pilgrims traveling to Mamontovo monastery. In 1912, Mamontovo monastery was converted to a convent. The new three-altar church in honor of St. Nicholas the Miracle-worker was built in 1915. It had the altars in honor of the Intercession of the Most-Holy Mother of God and the Reverend Alexis.    

Fifty nuns lived at the convent in 1917. Despite the official abolishment of the convent, the sisters of the female community stayed on its territory until 1927. Wooden St. Nicholas church was destroyed in 1925 and in 1928 the community was dispersed. The three-altar church that had been functioning as the parish one before was closed in the end of the 1930s. In 1933 and 1940, the clergymen and nuns living on the premises of the convent were arrested and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment but any information about their lives after was lost. Only two nuns managed to come back from the forced labour camps – Xenia (Kopylova) and Anna (Videnina). They settled down in a tiny hut on the outskirts of the former convent. Nun Xenia, who died at the age of 101, had a gift of persuasive and consoling talk. The nuns‘ house, well-preserved until the present day, as well as their graves at the local cemetery became favourte places for pilgrims to visit.   

In 1955, it was decided to dismantle the stone three-altar St. Nicholas church for the bricks to be used for building a cowshed in the neighboring village. There is a legend among the local people saying that while trying to save the cross thrown down from the church, the villagers drowned it in the Holy Lake. The old-timers say that the cross is still there at the bottom of the lake keeping it Holy.  

The miracle-working icon of St. Nicholas of Mozhaysk disappeared without a trace. Multiple attempts were made to destroy the Holy Lake too. The springs that poured their streams into the lake waters like small waterfalls were buried under the ground.  

The rebirth of St. Nicholas convent started in Mamontovo in 2003. At present, the whole architectural ensemble of Mamontovo convent has been reconstructed. The spiritual life of the convent has been revived and the Holy Lake – cleaned. There is a functioning St. Nicholas church (hierarchal church and house in town) on the territory of the convent. The three-altar St. Nicholas church is being under reconstruction. The pool for the pilgrims has also been arranged at the lake. The convent welcomes a great number of believers. Several thousands of pilgrims and guests from all over Russia visit the convent on St. Nicholas Day (May, 22).

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Mamontovo village, Sosnovka district, Tambov region
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