St. Paraskeva Toplovskiy Convent

Status: active convent
Sacred objects and relics: The relics of the Venerable Pechersky Fathers. The springs of: St. Paraskeva, Great Martyr George, Three Sainted Hierarchs
Location: The Village of Uchebnoe (Verkhnyaya Topolyovka) of Belogorsky Region

The Convent history

Not far from the Village of Topolyovka of Belogorsky Region, in the Village of Uchebnoe there is Toplovskiy Trinity Paraskeva Convent. It is situated in the Ravine of Toplu, on one of the ledges of Mount Karatau (or Inchokrak in the Tatar language), among the mountain forest.

At the foot of Karatau from under the ruins of the ancient church in the name of St. Venerable Martyr Paraskeva the spring flows, called with the name of the Saint. In it there was found the ancient icon with the image of St. Parasceva, kept afterwards in the Convent church. The spring was considered curative. According to the popular belief, it was here where in II c. St. Paraskeva met the death as a martyr.

The Convent opening was preceded by the events, connected with the name of the Bulgarian girl Konstantina from the Village of Kishlav (at present the Village of Kurskoe, Belogorsky Region), who was an ordinary illiterate girl. Once she heard a voice, clearly calling her by name. She at once having left everything went to the remote Ravine of Kiziltash and lived there for more than eight years. After the monks came to Kiziltash and founded St. Stephan of Sourozh Cenoby, Konstantina moved to the Ravine of Toplu. Later here several sisters settled down who with their own efforts built a small chapel near the spring, where they read the psalmbook to commemorate the deceased.

The increasing among the people belief in the miracle-working power of the spring aroused an urgent need in opening a convent, but the situation was complicated by the fact that that the healing spring was on the private land. After the annexation of Crimea to Russia in 1783 the government awarded its subjects with the lands left after the Tatar leaving for Turkey. Empress Catherine II granted her valet, Greek Zakhar Konstantinovich Zotov with the lands in Sudak District, including the ones in the Ravine of Toplu. Afterwards the heiress to these lands, Angelina Lambiri, donated 230 dessiatinas of the land with the spring to the Convent.

In 1863 there was built the Church in the name of St. Paraskeva, and a year later the Sacred Governing Synod issued a decree about the establishing of the cenobitic convent. During the first three decades of its existence the Convent erected all necessary structures, they expanded and reconstructed the first Convent church in the name of St. Paraskeva, laid out a new temple — two-storied Cathedral in the name of Holy Trinity which was being built according to the project by architect V. A. Feldman. This temple was large in size and could become the adornment of any monastery or convent. Its constructing was not finished.

In the Convent there were kept the particles of the sanctified relics of St. Venerable Martyr Paraskeva and St. Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon, and also the particle of the Precious Life-Giving Beam of Lord the Savior. The sacred objects were received from Athos Panteleimon Monastery. One more sacred object — the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, adorned with pearls and diamonds, was donated in 1890 by Count N. F. Heiden. Yearly the icon-bearing procession with this icon was made to Theodosia, where the Convent town residence used to be. In 1919 the convent was ransacked, and these sacred objects disappeared.

At the beginning of 20ies the Convent was reorganized into the agricultural artel “Women’s Labour”. In 1928 the artel was liquidated, and the state farm “Atheist” was created here. Later on the territory of the former Convent there used to be a pioneer camp.

In 1992 the first after the Convent closing Divine Liturgy was celebrated. Now at the Convent there are two temples. Above the heeling spring and the monument of the last Convent mother superior there have been built chapels. Not far from the Convent there is the spring in the name of St. George the Victorious. In the Convent there is kept the chest with the particles of the Precious Life-Giving Beam of Lord the Savior and the holy relics of the Head of St. Venerable Martyr Paraskeva and the finger of St. Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon. In the same chest there is also the reliquary cross with the particles of the holy relics of the Reverend Kiev-Pecherskiy Fathers, which in 1890 was given to the Convent by Count N. F. Heiden. The chest with the great Orthodox sacred objects on April 26, 1887 was brought by the monk of the Athos Russian St. Panteleimon Monastery Father Varsonofy by application of the then Mother Superior Hegumene Manefa, having asked a blessing from the Right Reverend Bishop of Taurida Martinian. During the Convent liquidation in the theomachy Soviet times the chest was secretly taken out to the nearest settlement, to the relatives of one of the nuns. During many years of the most severe repressions the nuns with the risk for life concealed the sacred object in different places of Crimea. In 1943 the nuns of St. Paraskeva Convent managed to take the chest abroad. According to the information found out these days since 1968 it had been kept in France, and since 1971 it had been in the Mount Olivet Our Saviour Ascension Convent in Jerusalem.

When Metropolitan of Simferopol and Crimea Lazarus learnt that such great Crimean sacred object is kept in Jerusalem, he addressed his requests to Archbishop of Berlin and Germany and Great Britain Mark, who supervises the Russian Orthodox Mission in Jerusalem, with the petition to return the chest with the relics to St. Paraskeva Convent of the Simferopol and Crimea Diocese. The question was solved positively, and on January 24, 2006 the sacred object returned to the Crimean land.