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The Solovetsky Islands are an archipelago comprised of 6 islands, located in the White Sea. The islands are incorporated as Solovetsky District of Archangelsk Oblast and the administrative centre is on the island of Bolshoy Solovetsky.
Depart the ship via the ship's tenders for Big Zayatsky Island. Board a coach for a short transfer to meet the local guides at the gates of the Solovetsky Monastery. The archipelago has been the site of fervent monastic activity since the 15th century, and there are several churches dating from the 16th to the 19th century.
During a 2.5 hour walking tour around the monastery, see and hear about the many churches and other buildings included in UNESCO's International Heritage List as masters of architecture. See and hear about Transfiguration Cathedral, Annunciation Church, Refectory and other architectural masterpieces.
This Russian Orthodox monastery was founded in the late 15th century and hundred years later, the abbey emerged as one of the wealthiest landowners and most influential religious centres in Russia. When one of the founding monks died, he came to be revered as a saint and ever since, Solovki has been regarded as a holy place and a pilgrimage shrine.
Finish your morning tour programme with capturing splendid views of Prosperity Bay and the Holy Lake before board the ship's tender to return to the ship.
Please note: This tour requires an extensive amount of walking over uneven surfaces. It is not suitable for guests utilising a wheelchair or those with limited mobility. Please dress in layers and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Conservative dress is required at the monastery and shorts not permitted. Ladies must cover their head.
Labyrinths are rare and valuable archaeological monuments and only approximately 300 have been preserved in the world. On Bolshoi Zayatsky Island, belonging to the group of Solovetsky Islands, there are 13 to 14 of the best preserved ones.
Depart the ship by ship's tenders for Big Zayatsky. Once ashore, meet your guides and depart on a walking tour of the island. The island is covered with boulders, moss and large bushes and is renowned for its unique collection of Neolithic structures - stone labyrinths, barrows and ancient sanctuaries all dating back to 3,000 BC. The labyrinths are concentrated in a small area on the western part of the island. They are for the most part formed of boulders set in a row. The rows are twisted in the form of a spiral. Often there are two spirals set one into another resembling two serpents with their heads in the middle looking at each other. Along the spiral there are intermittent wider heaps of stones and the ends of the spirals are widened as well.
Although the labyrinths have five types of setting, each one of them has got one entrance, which also serves as an exit. Their purpose is a mystery, though it has been suggested that they can symbolise a border between our world and the underworld and that the labyrinth was used for specific rituals to help the souls of the deceased travel to another world. In the eastern part of the island there is another enormous complex of stone settings, which does not include any labyrinths.
In 1702 Peter the Great visited the archipelago and ordered to build St. Andrew Hermitage. The low quadrangle of the structure is covered with four-slope roof crowned with a small cupola. On its eastern side there is a five-corner altar attached to it and on the western side a small refectory. Although officially the settlement on Big Zayatsky Island did not belong to the Monastery hermitages, it was here that the Archimandrite's chamber was situated, as well as a house for visiting officials, a cellar, a kitchen, a stable and other smaller household buildings. In the 18th century a quarantine outpost of the Monastery was placed here to prevent wine smuggling.
Your tour concludes with a tender ride back to the ship.
Please note: This tour involves approximately 1.5 miles (2 kilometres) of walking on uneven, grassy surfaces and along boardwalks. It is not recommended for guests with limited mobility and those who utilise a wheelchair. Comfortable, sturdy walking shoes and a waterproof jacket are recommended.