Diveyevo tradition has it that Father Seraphim blessed to build a cathedral by the Kanavka, in one line with the Trinity Cathedral.
Nun Seraphima (Bulgakova)
When construction of a new cathedral (the current Transfiguration Cathedral) began in 1907, the location arranged by Father Seraphim was already occupied by an ill-fitting and cramped wooden Tikhvin church. The decision was made to keep it and to build the new cathedral at another location, southwest of the Trinity Cathedral. In 1928, a year after the monastery closing, the Tikhvin church building, by then being used as a steam mill, burned down.
Тихвинская церковь. Фотография начала ХХ века
In 1962, the Tikhvin church's former location was used for the construction of a boarding school. In March 2011, the boarding school moved away to the village of Satis. Finally, the moment had come when the monastery was able to fulfill Venerable Seraphim's blessing and construct a new cathedral aligned with the bell tower and the Trinity Cathedral placing it at the end of the Kanavka. By July 2011, the buildings covering a future construction site were torn down and the site was prepared for the cathedral's construction.
When the site was ready, it became clear that the church would have to have proportions formerly determined by the Mother of God Herself in the measure of Her belt for the Dormition Cathedral of the Kiev Caves Lavra.
Икона "Пояс Пресвятой Богородицы"
Based on the Kiev Caves Paterikon, the Queen of Heaven Herself had sent Her belt as a measuring tool for the construction of the Kiev's Dormition Cathedral. A Varangian named Shimon received a revelation up in the air about the future church, its size and contours, as well as its dimensions: it was said to be 20 belts in width, 30 in length and 50 in height. When he arrived to Kiev, Shimon handed over a golden belt to the Venerable Anthony saying: "This is the measure to use for the future church."
As if in confirmation of the revelation, the Mother of God had sent Her belt to Diveyevo on November 6, 2011, just as She has once given it to the Greek masters as a measure of the future cathedral church of the Kiev Caves Lavra. It was on this day that the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery received a reliquary holding Her belt from Mount Athos. The holy relic was carried along the Kanavka, which, in Father Seraphim's words, "the Queen of Heaven had measured with Her belt Herself." The Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy cruciformly, with the reliquary holding the belt, blessed the future construction site.
The Diveyevo's new cathedral has dimensions identical to the size of Kiev Lavra's Dormition cathedral church: 20 belts of the Most Holy Mother of God in width, 30 in length, 50 in height. The length of the belt is 1.20 meters. The cathedral's project was developed and implemented by the specialists from "The Guild of Restorers" from Moscow under the direction of Andrey Albertovich Anisimov, the Chairman of the Guild of Church Builders, the Honorable Architect of Russia.
The design drew upon the architecture of the church at the Zaikonospassky monastery in Moscow and it was similar to the Russian Baroque style, characteristic for the beginning of the 18th century. The monastery's first-built Kazan church was built in the same style.
On April 26, 2012 that occurred during the Bright Week and on the day of remembrance of the Diveyevo venerable martyr Martha (Testova), a prayer service for the successful start of a worthy cause was served at the Trinity Cathedral of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery. Before the service, the Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy said that the preliminary phase before the construction of the new cathedral had lasted over ten years. During that time, a construction design competition was held, all the necessary documents were drawn up, and the construction site was being readied. The head of the Nizhny Novgorod Archdiocese further remarked that the active phase of the cathedral's construction begins today and noted: "In our work, we do not rely on our human effort, but we seek our Lord Jesus Christ's intercession instead." After the prayer service, its participants, headed by the ruling hierarch, made a procession along the Holy Kanavka and around the territory the cathedral was to be built. While at the construction site, Metropolitan Georgiy blessed the first scoop of earth dug out by the excavator at a future location of the cathedral's foundation.
On May 26th, or exactly a month after the construction began, the foundation pit 5.9 meters deep was already dug out and pouring of the concrete slab had begun. On June 5, 2012, the foundation strip was laid and, on August 4th, the cathedral's three meter-high base was raised. On October 22nd, an elevated ground floor with a concrete floor slab was added. This signaled the end of the foundation work before the raising of the future Annunciation cathedral's walls. This process began the next day.
With the blessing of the ruling hierarch of the Nizhny Novgorod Diocese, the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery issued certificates valued at 1,000; 5,000; and 10,000 rubles, as well as 100-ruble "brick" certificates, for distribution among the faithful. The money collected from their sale went towards the construction of the Annunciation cathedral. There was no any other financing utilized for the construction. Therefore, the Annunciation Cathedral was built entirely on people's donations. The names of the benefactors who purchased the certificates were remembered by the sisters at the church of the icon of the Mother of God "Healer" with the reading of the Akathist to the feast of Annunciation.
The names of the owners of "brick" certificates were written directly onto the surface of each brick and laid to form the walls of the Annunciation Cathedral.
On August 1, 2013 after the Divine Liturgy, the stone-laying ceremony of the Annunciation Cathedral took place at the monastery's Cathedral Square. Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy, Metropolitan of Astanay and Kazakhstan Alexander, the Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Province Valeriy Shantsev and other honorable guests took part in the ceremony. The edict signed by the abbess of the monastery Hegumenia Sergiya, the heads of the Nizhny Novgorod Diocese and the Nizhny Novgorod Province, as well as the major donors and participating hierarchs, was placed inside the capsule and sealed in the foundation of the cathedral.
Venerable Seraphim let the will of the Queen of Heaven be known that the church would be built inside the Kanavka. It took a little over 150 years for this blessing to be gradually implemented.
Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy
Right after the stone-laying ceremony, chief project architect Andrey Anisimov spoke to those present about the future cathedral: "Father Seraphim has once prophesied that the cathedral will be starkly beautiful, so it took us awhile to develop its design. We came up with the idea that a new monastery church should look contemporary to Venerable Seraphim's lifetime. The church will be of a solemn yet very graceful design, akin to the Kazan Church. Besides, it will be the only single-domed church of the monastery. The new construction will also become the most spacious with its footprint area consisting of 2,200 square meters and a number of altars located on its three levels. The church's construction work goes slightly ahead of schedule and its active stage is planned to be completed this year, while it next phase, the interior work, will start right afterwards. We face an arduous task here, as all known forms of church art, from marble work to mosaics and paintings, are going to be used in its complex interior design projects. Master artists from Nizhny Novgorod, Vladimir, and Byelorussia participate in the project and there are no random people among them. They are highly skilled professionals, with a lot of church construction experience, who are fully aware of the scope of the responsibility vested in them.
The altar apse construction was completed by the feast of the icon of the Mother of God "Tenderness" in 2013. The height of its tallest middle apse was 16 meters.
By November 2013, the cathedral's exterior construction work was over. On November 21, the feast of the Archangel Michael, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy served a water-blessing prayer service at the end of the Holy Kanavka and blessed the Annunciation Cathedral's cross. The next day, the cross was raised on top of the tallest Diveyevo church. The total height of the cathedral is 60 meters.
In 2014, for the first time ever, the annual Annunciation tradition of the release of white doves took place on the stairs of the Annunciation Cathedral.
In 2014, an extensive exterior and interior decoration work continued resulting in the cathedral standing tall and snow white under its steel roof and topped by the gilded cupola with platinum stars. The numerous creamy white pillar uprights with grapevines decorate its facades. Outstanding majolicas remind us of the Garden of Eden.
On August 1, 2015, the memorial feast day of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill visited the Annunciation Cathedral, while still under construction.
On August 27, 2015, on the eve of Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, the main altar of the lower (basement) church of the cathedral was consecrated in honor of that feast. Before consecration, Metropolitan Georgiy preached a sermon to the pilgrims attending the festivities. He said that the Chronicle of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery is still being written and the construction of this cathedral, as well as the consecration of one of its side altars, is one of the newer pages in the history of Seraphim's monastery. His Eminence reminded everyone in his address that a new cathedral is a living manifestation of holy Sarov elder's prophecies.
This church was built inside the Kanavka of the Mother of God, in Her fourth abode in accordance with the instructions of Father Seraphim. Therefore, the fact that I was given an opportunity to be involved is extremely valuable to me. I cannot say I feel overwhelmed with pride of any kind. It is something else. It is more about joy of creative process and creativeness. We worked hard. It was an arduous journey, but there is no gain without pain. The most important achievement is the people. We gave them an opportunity to pray in the very heart of Rus.
On November 17, 2016, on the 25th anniversary of the day abbess Sergiya of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery became an Hegumenia, the northern side altar of the Dormition church was consecrated in honor of the vision of the Mother of God to Venerable Sergiy of Radonezh. Upon completion of the Divine Liturgy served at the newly consecrated altar table, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy shared how, while studying at Moscow's theological schools, he used to study the "Chronicle of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery" and would grieve over the fact he could not walk the Holy Kanavka, venerate the holy relics of Venerable Seraphim, or visit his hermitage cells. Then, the monastery's rebuilding began 25 years ago, and what a wondrous beauty we behold with our own eyes. "It is extremely rewarding to be a part of this revival process," remarked His Grace.
A month later, on December 26, 2016, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgiy consecrated the southern side altar of the Dormition church in honor of the appearance of the Mother of God to Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, followed by consecration of another southerly side altar dedicated to the Synaxis of All Saints of Diveyevo. It took place May 6, 2017, the remembrance day of the Holy and Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer. "Today, as we consecrate the side chapel in the name of the Synaxis of the Diveyevo saints," said the head of the Nizhny Novgorod Archdiocese, "we do it for the sake of the worshippers. We believe the faithful, especially our young people and children, will come here to learn of the glory of God via glorious beauty of His church. You and I are truly blessed to witness the revival of the Christian faith in Russian lands. It is also our joy and consolation to acknowledge the fact that we were handpicked by God to do such God-pleasing work. We know and we believe that, through us, the Lord delivers of His words: "My Strength is made perfect in weakness."
The last, or the sixth, side altar of the Dormition church is currently being readied for consecration. The iconostasis is made of white marble. The interior was done according to the Byzantine style and decorated with mosaics. Once inside, one feels transported to another world that is awash with miracles. The walls and the vaults are covered with mosaic icons and design patterns resembling fancy rugs and fabrics. Mosaic blocks, intentionally placed under various angles, glisten and sparkle with various hues under glimmering candle light. Mosaic paintings are three-dimensional and come alive when light strikes their surface. During the church services, light often changes and shifts, reflected in mosaics that lively respond to all these lighting changes.
The church space, with its rich décor, makes the heart soar at the sight of this sublime beauty, sparkling paints, and incredible light. Involuntarily, impressions by the Prince Vladimir's envoys come to mind after they watched the services at Hagia Sofia in Constantinople: "We did not know whether we were in heaven or still on earth."