World Academy of Carpatho-Rusyn Culture


Mukachevo Monastery of St. Nicholas

Mukachevo Monastery of St. Nicholas — one of the oldest monasteries and certainly the most important religious and cultural center in Subcarpathian Rus’ located on a small hill (Chernecha hora/Monk’s Hill) along the Latorytsia River just outside the village of Rosvygovo, today a suburb of Mukachevo. The monastery’s founding date is unknown, although local legend speaks of its beginnings in the early eleventh century. The oldest surviving documentary evidence about its existence dates from the fourteenth century. During the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries the monastery was supported by Prince Fedor *Koriatovych and his wife Domenika/Walha. However, an official document by which Koriatovych ostensibly granted landed properties to the monastery was subsequently proven by the Russian scholar Aleksei L. *Petrov to be a later forgery. From earliest times until 1766, the monastery was the episcopal seat of the *Eparchy of Mukachevo, since its archimandrites (superiors) were simultaneously bishops. The monks copied books, built a significant library, and maintained contacts with Orthodox centers in the Balkans and eastern Europe. The monastery also had its own chronicle and was the site of a school.

Like the rest of Subcarpathian Rus’, the Mukachevo Monastery faced difficult times after the fall of the Hungarian Kingdom in the mid-sixteenth century and the subsequent struggle for control of the country among the Austrian Habsburgs, princes of Transylvania, and the Ottoman Empire. In the course of the protracted Habsburg-Transylvanian wars the monastery’s wooden buildings were burned (1537) and then rebuilt (1538-1550) with the help of the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand I (r. 1526-1564). It was not until the following centuries that the wooden structures were gradually replaced by stone structures, beginning with a rotunda church (1661) by the architect Stefan Piamens, and followed by the Baroque-style complex (1766-1772) by Demeter Racz/Dymytrii Rats’, whose design was used for the construction of a new church (1798-1804). The monastery was largely destroyed by a fire in 1862, but rebuilt within three years. In the mid-seventeenth century the monastery accepted the *Unia/Church Union, after which it became a leading Uniate/Greek Catholic *Basilian cultural center in the service of Rusyn religious and secular life.

The Mukachevo Monastery survived the reign of Emperor Joseph II (r. 1780-1790), a time when numerous monasteries were closed throughout the Austrian Empire. The Basilian monks were able to convince the authorities that they performed cultural and enlightenment work for the region as a whole; for instance, the *Mukachevo Theological School functioned on its premises (1757-1776), and several of the monastery’s *hegumens/superiors were among the leading Subcarpathian cultural activists of the nineteenth century (Ioanykii *Bazylovych, Anatolii *Kralyts’kyi).

In the twentieth century the Mukachevo Monastery was restructured after reforms introduced by Basilian (mostly Ukrainophile) monks from Galicia. When, after World War II, the new Soviet regime set out to abolish the Greek Catholic Church, the monastery became Orthodox (1946) and was transformed into a convent for Orthodox nuns from monasteries in other parts of Subcarpathian Rus’ and the Soviet Union that were closed by the Communist government. At present there are about seventy Orthodox nuns at the Mukachevo Monastery.

Bibliography: Arkhimandrit Vasilii (Pronin), “K istorii Mukachevskogo monastyria,” Pravoslavnaia mysl’, Nos. 2, 3, 4 (Prague, 1958)—in Ukrainian translation: Chernecha hora (Uzhhorod, 1991); Mukachevskii Sviato-Nikolaevskii pravoslavnyi monastyr’: kratkii istoricheskii ocherk (Uzhhorod, 1998); Dmytro Pop, Istoriia Mukachivs’koho monastyria (Mukachevo, 1999).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.

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