The town's fame rests on the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergii (a Lavra is the highest rank of Orthodox monastery, and there are only four in all Russia), the Russian Orthodox equivalent of the Vatican, which has a complex of medieval buildings to rival those of the Kremlin.
The monastery is named after St. Sergii of Radonezh, a 14th century monk from Rostov whose pious, ascetic existence attracted numerous followers to the hermit's retreat he had established in the forests around Moscow.
In 1476, Ivan the Great instructed craftsmen from Pskov to build the graceful Church of the Holy Ghost, a rectangular structure of white brick, topped by a slender, blue and gold domed bell-tower, which also acted as a lookout post.
Ivan the Terrible's successful assault on Kazan in 1552 was prompted by the advice of Abbot Bassyan, head of the Trinity Lavra, and the Tsar expressed his gratitude by ordering the construction of the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was completed in 1585, during the regency of Boris Gudonov, who lies with his family in a modest tomb beneath the Cathedral walls. The Cathedral is similar in structure to its namesake in the Kremlin - and equally impressive - the major difference being in the color scheme: Here the white walls contrast with four azure domes and a larger central gold one. Inside the Cathedral, a two-headed eagle stands as monument to the time in 1685 when the future Peter the Great took refuge here with his mother and brother from the marauding Streltsy. The boy Tsar was only saved by the sanctity of the place and the fortuitous arrival of a loyal cavalry regiment.
Although the Russian capital moved to St. Petersburg, the Trinity Monastery remained the center of the Russian Church until 1920, when the monastery was closed by the Bolshevik government, and the monks were sent off to labor camps. Stalin permitted the reopening of the monastery as part of victory celebrations in 1946.Ever since St. Sergii founded the monastery in the 14th Century, it has been a hugely popular destination for pilgrims, revered by all from Tsars to Soviet pensioners (of which you will see many in the chapels). If you have the chance to make only one day trip out of Moscow, then this is certainly where you should go