2007-08-13 15:13:00

Exotic animals keep appearing in Orthodox monasteries in Russia

Moscow, August 13, Interfax - Quadrupeds and our feathered friends including exotic ones have appeared more and more often in Orthodox monasteries in Russia as companions to monks and favourites of pilgrims.

This is a conclusion made by an Interfax correspondent who made a trip to monasteries in various parts of Russia this summer.

Thus, the Convent of the Presentation of Our Lady in the city of Serpukhov near Moscow has begun breeding peacocks. This is an age-old tradition. As far back as the 18th century 20s, a peacock was placed on Serpukhov's Emblem on the grounds of a report sent to Herald's Chamber from the city, informing it that 'peacocks are born in one of the monasteries' there. The peacock breeding was resumed with the revival of monastic life in the convent, to the delight of pilgrims, especially young ones, who tend to rush to the birds enclosure after visiting the church.

These beautiful birds are found more often in monasteries not only in southern and central Russia but also in Siberia. Keeping their company are animals less exotic for Russia. For instance, the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in the Kozikha village in the diocese of Nobosibirsk has put up a peacock, a duck with a drake and a small deer.

The sight of animals living side by side with the monastic community makes one to remember the Old Testament paradise in which human beings and animals lived together in harmony.

Sometimes exotic animals not only adorn the monastery landscape but also fulfil certain functions. A few years ago, the Novo-Golutvino Convent of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Kolomna near Moscow was given a camel, who has become a favourite of the local Sunday schoolchildren. Riding him is now an integral part of every festival for children.

More customary for monasteries however are quadrupeds such as cows, horses and dogs. The same Novo-Golutvino Convent has run a nursery for watchdogs for ten years now. Most of their Central European and Caucasus dogs are bred especially for monasteries. These dogs are trained to the sight of people in black robes and often recognize them lone as their masters.

Not only dogs however have guarding skills. Nuns of the Borodino Convent of our Saviour in the Moscow Area would warn men pilgrims to keep away from the convent's horse who detects the stronger sex without fail and becomes very aggressive.