Twelve years after the founding of St. Petersburg, in 1710, Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra monastery was founded by Peter the Great. It was built in the spot that was thought to be the place where Alexander Nevsky (13 May 1221 – 14 November 1263), grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest (now that’s a great name!), defeated the Swedes during the Neva Battle (an important moment in Russian history) in 1240. He was canonized in 1547 and his relics lie within the cathedral. They were a bit off as to the location, but this monastery remains an important symbol to not only St. Petersburg, but Russia itself. In fact, in a land full of “great” people, Alexander Nevsky has been voted the greatest Russian of all time. On the site there is a large cathedral, 2 baroque churches, and at least 4 cemeteries. I visited all four, but will write about them in separate posts as they are all different.
Unlike most cemeteries, you have to pay to enter the two most famous cemeteries of this site: Lazarus Cemetery and Tikhvin Cemetery. I started with the more populated Lazarus Cemetery, which is to the left as you walk towards the monastery. This isn’t a particularly large cemetery, but it’s jam-packed with lots of monuments, so for me was personally more interesting than its neighbour across the way. Like many other Russian cemeteries that I have been to, this one had no shortage of various funerary symbols, with urns, pyramids, columns, skulls, hourglasses, scythes, angels, and more. The statues were mix of both secular and sacred (angels). What I find interesting about Russian cemeteries is that, unlike in most Western cemeteries, they feature men (or male angels) with much more regularity.
Due to the crowded nature of the cemetery, it actually took a while for me to go through every path looking at the various monuments. Quite a lot of them were squarish in shape, which meant interesting things to look at on each side. The monuments here are quite good – most of the people buried here were buried at the “tsar’s will,” so there was a limit as to who could be buried here. Like other cemeteries around the world, for a time it became quite fashionable to be buried here.
Quality of Monuments: Good. There’s a mix of interesting headstones and statues. Some of the graves are quite old. One thing I found hard to deal with is that it was difficult to back up to get the kind of shots I wanted since everything was so close together. However, I made due with what I had and the contrasty light filtering in through the trees.
Cemetery Grounds: The cemetery is not that large and it’s fairly easy to walk around. Some graves are on different levels but it’s pretty accessible. Apparently there are over 1000 graves in this tiny area, most dating from the
Visitors: A small number of tourists were in the cemetery at all times. Some small groups also came through.
Photographer Notes: It’s quite a tight space so make sure you have a wide-angle lens with you. Due to the tall trees the light can be a bit spotty and contrasty.
Cemetery: Lazarus Cemetery (Lazarevskoe kladbishche or Лазаревское кладбище). Also known as the Necropolis of the 18th century.
Location: Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Get off at Ploshad’ Aleksandra Nevskogo metro stop. The cemeteries and monastery are directly across the busy road from the entrance to the station. This and Tikhvin Cemetery are located just in front of the entrance to the monastery. Facing the monastery, Lazarus is to the left, Tikhvin is to the right. When I went there was a map available in Tikhvin Cemetery, but not Lazarus.
Note: It costs 400 rubles to enter this and Tikhvin Cemetery. This cost is separate from entering the monastery itself.
Hours: Daily from 09:30-18:00, last entrance at 17:30.