Марфо-Мариинская обитель милосердия

The history of the Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy


The Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Love and Mercy was founded by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in 1909. After the tragic death of her husband, Grand Duke Sergey Aleksandrovich Romanov, Elizabeth Feodorovna retired from social life and decided to devote herself entirely to serving the God and people.

The Grand Duchess saw the prototype of activity of the future Convent in the service of two evangelical sisters, hard-working Martha and prayer Mary.

Having sold personal property and jewelry, Elizabeth Feodorovna acquired an estate with a garden on Bolshaya Ordynka. A two-storey building with the exit to the street housed a hospital and a house church in the name of the holy righteous Martha and Mary. The building of the second church, the Holy Protection Cathedral, which has become the place of interest of Moscow, was finished in 1912.

February 10, 1909 (according to the Julian Calendar) — the date of the official opening of the Saint Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy. Firstly, there were six sisters, at the end of 1909 there were 30 of them; by 1918 there were already 105 sisters.

On 9 April in 1910, the first seventeen sisters in the head of the Grand Duchess went through the ceremony of initiating as cross sisters by the bishop Thryphon (Turkestanov). The next morning at the liturgy Metropolitan of Moscow Vladimir elevated Elizabeth Feodorovna to the rank of the abbess of the Convent. The sisters began to call her the Great Mother.

The Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy as an institute was special: neither a monastery nor the ordinary community of the sisters of mercy. It accepted widows and girls of the Orthodox faith from 21 till 40 years. Sisters, who lived in the Convent, gave vows of chastity, unselfishness, and obedience; however, in contrast with nuns, after a definite period they could leave the Convent and create a family.

In 1911, there was a hospital for poor women and children, house for poor consumptive women, a free dispensary with medicines, labour orphanage for girls, a Sunday school for adult women, a free library, and canteen, and a hospice. All the institutes were served by the sisters.


Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna with sisters of the Convent and wounded soldiers

A great place in the activities of the Convent was given to the organization of qualified medical aid. The most famous in Moscow doctors worked there. Under their supervision all the sisters underwent special medical courses. The hospital in the Convent of Mercy was considered the best in Moscow.

The authority of the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy was indisputable, and even the events of 1917 in the beginning did not affect its activities at all. But on Easter Tuesday on May 7, 1918, the troop of the Lettish riflemen arrived for the abbess of the Convent. On July 18, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her cell-attendant Barbara Yakovleva were thrown alive into a mine near the town Alapaevsk. The Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy was open till 1926. Later the cinema, polyclinic, restoration works, laboratories were situated there.

The revival of the Convent began in 1992 when its territory was granted to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy, which was created as a Church charitable institution, has no analogues in the whole world.

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