In an attempt to recreate the holy land, the New Jerusalem monastery was founded and populated in 17th century. The place is no longer in the limelight.
Somewhere in 17th century, Nikon the patriarch decided to show one and all that Russia deserved to be the center of the Christian world. A site on the outskirts of Moscow was chosen to erect New Jerusalem for its resemblance to the Holy Land. The River Istra represents the River Jordan, and the buildings represent the ‘sacral space’ or holy places of Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem Monastery, also known as the Voskresensky Monastery (Russian: Новоиерусалимский монастырь / नोवोयेरुसालीम्सकी मोनासत्री), is a male monastery, located in the town of Istra in Moscow Oblast, Russia. They even built the Church of Holy Sepulchre.
The monastery was shutdown in 1918 and came under attack from the retreating Germans. Only recently has it regained attention and restoration work was in progress when I went there.
I saw many babushkas filling holy water from a tap. I also saw people riding horses and a dog barking at me. Then finally I saw a woodpecker and one more tourist (I think she was Italian) wielding a camera.
Since I was in Jerusalem, Israel, in late 2007 (my glorious travelogue with 20 chapters is here) and I toured the Christian sites extensively, I was very curious to visit this place. Unfortunately I couldn’t enter the monastery (it was closed for renovations), and overall it did not, even remotely, remind me of Jerusalem.
There is nothing (else) to do in Istra, it is a very characterless and bland suburb (or maybe that’s the character). There is one park with a model of an airplane. I did, however, buy lots of chocolates from here because there was a large chocolate store. People are not used to seeing foreigners, and definitely not used to hearing a foreign Russian accent.
The New Jerusalem Monastery is a convenient half-day trip from Moscow. Suburban trains from Moscow’s Rizhsky vokzal (train terminal) stop at Istra (90 minutes journey). These trains are called Elektrichka (электричка / इलेक्त्रीच्का), which I think is a cute name.
From Istra rail station, a bus will take you to the church complex. Simply ask for a bus going to “Muzey (मुझीए)” (Museum) stop (15 minutes journey). Alternatively, do what I did: Walk to the monastery (so that you see the Moscow suburb intimately and call your walk a ‘pilgrimage’) and come back on a bus. 🙂