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Alexander Nevsky Lavra
In Orthodox Christianity and certain other Eastern Christian communities Lavra or Laura ( ; Cyrillic: Ла́вра) originally meant a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center. The term originates from Greek where it means "a passage" or "an alley".


The Lavrite style of living has its origins in the early fourth century with the founding of a settlement of cells in the Nitreanmarker desert. A community of 600 hermits lived scattered over the area, reliant on Nitria for bread, but with their own priest and church. Saint Euthymius the Great (377 - 473) founded one of the early Lavras in fifth-century Palestine. The Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (†532), known as Mar Sabamarker, is one of the most ancient continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian world.

A similar system was established by Saint Gerasimus, with 70 cells surrounding a coenobium, again with monks progressing into the cells after time spent in the coenobium. Weekdays were spent in the cells, accompanied only by a rush mat, a small amount of food and palm blades with which to make ropes and baskets. On Saturdays they would bring their handiwork to the coenobium and receive communion together, returning to their cells on Sunday evening. Cells were left open, and those in need could take whatever they wished from the cell if it were found empty. The lavra had a priest; the lavra’s contact with the outside world, and at least two ordained deacons.

The largest and the most important Russian Orthodox monasteries have been called lavras and have been subordinated directly to the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1721, they became subordinated to the Holy Synod. The Great Lavramarker founded by Athanasius the Athonite in 963 is the oldest monastery on Mount Athos.

List of lavras

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