Donetsk, Ukraine is the setting for one of Orthodoxy’s most important historic sites. Around the year 1240 Christians fled Kyiv (Kiev) Ukraine as Muslim invaders swept thru killing anyone who wouldn’t convert to Islam. Far away in the Donetsk mountains, a coal mining region, believers carved a church out of the mountainside.

The main temple began as the Cave Church of St. Nicholas

In the 1500s a church and buildings for a men’s monastery, Svyato Dormition Monastery were added closer towards base of the mountain along the river. Some historians aregue that the first monks to settle the area were in the 14th-15th centuries. The first written record of the monastery dates to the early 1500s and the monastery was officially recognized as the Sviatohirsk Uspensky Monastery in 1624.

Svyatogorsk Lavra of the Holy Dormition.

During the Crimean Khanate, the monastery was invaded by Muslim forces several times and ransacked, making it necessary to restore after each Islamic invasion.

The original cave church restored and expanded, Donetsk, Ukraine.

As explained in Wikipedia: In 1787, the government of Catherine II paid for the restoration of the monastery. In 1844, it was once again restored, paid for by monetary donations from Aleksander Mikhailovich Potemkin and his wife Tatiana Borisovna. During the next seventy years until 1914, the monastery was one of the most important monasteries of the Russian Empire.

Svyato Dormition Monastery, photo by V.Petrovich.

The monastery was a strategic post for the Russian Empire, often called the Trinity-Sergiyeva Lavra of the southwest and for generations the outpost at Svyatogorsk served as a defensive point in the south of the Russian Empire.

Svyato Dormition Monastery.

The original cave church at Donetsk, Ukraine was carved in the 1200s to escape death by Islamic warriors. As the times became more safe, the churches expanded down the mountain starting in the 1500s. The main temple served as the Cave Church of St. Nicholas.

Restoration work at the Caves church, Donetsk, Ukraine.

From 1917, the monastery underwent the numerous plunders, abuses and desecration of the holy places, and killing monks by the Communists. Heaven received many new martyrs and confessors with the murder of monks and priests.  In 1922 the monastery was closed by the Soviet Union and later turned into a rest home for dying elderly.

Cemetery markers have been restored. Svyato Dormition Monastery photo by V.Petrovich.

On the 29th of December in 2003 the government returned the buildings and lands to the monastery and today more than 100 monks again live and work on the premises, ministering to the region’s poor and homeless population.  So far two ancient monks cells have been restored – All Saints and Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves.

Svyatogorsk Dormition Monastery, Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Recently restored Bells high in mountain caves have called believers to worship for over 700+ years here in Donetsk, Ukraine. Each is a different size and height to accommodate the musical scale as instruments other than the human voice was not allowed in the early church. Only bells mounted outside could issue the call to worship.

There are 54 bells at the 5 monastery belfries, the biggest one weighs more than 6 tons.