In Orthodox Christianity and certain other Eastern Christian communities, a Lavra or Laura (Greek: Λαύρα; Cyrillic: Ла́вра) is a type of monastery consisting of a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center; the term in Greek initially meant a narrow lane or an alley in a city.[1][2]


The Greek term lavra was employed from the fifth century on specifically for the semi-eremitical monastic settlements of the Judean desert, where lauras were very numerous. The first lauras of Palestine were founded by St. Chariton (born 3rd century, died ca. 350): the Laura of Pharan (northeast of Jerusalem), the Laura of Douka (northeast of Jericho) and Souka Laura or Old Laura in the area of Tekoa.[3][4]

Saint Euthymius the Great (377-473) founded one of the early Lavras in fifth-century Palestine.[5] The Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (†532), known as Mar Saba, is one of the most ancient and almost continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian world.

A similar system was established in the Jordan Valley in the middle of the fifth century by Saint Gerasimus, with 70 cells surrounding a cenobium, again with monks progressing into the cells after time spent in the coenobium. Weekdays were spent in the cells, accompanied only by a rush mat, a small amount of food and palm blades with which to make ropes and baskets. On Saturdays they would bring their handiwork to the coenobium and receive communion together, returning to their cells on Sunday evening. Cells were left open, and those in need could take whatever they wished from the cell if it were found empty. The lavra had a priest, the lavra’s contact with the outside world, and at least two ordained deacons.

Some modern Coptic authors, and they alone, already apply the specific Greek term lavra to even earlier monastic settlements from the Nitrean desert and even attribute the writing down of the formal rules of a lavra to the Egyptian sanctified monk Macarius the Great in AD 330. Unless proven otherwise by future scholarship, this opinion seems to be theirs alone.

Their claim is that the lavrite style of living has its origins in the early fourth century, by equating the creation of the first lavras with the founding of a settlement of cells in the Nitrean desert at a site known as Nitria, named for the nearby town of the same name. It was a community of 600 hermits who lived scattered over the area, reliant on the town of Nitria for bread, but with their own priest and church. [6]

The Great Lavra founded by Athanasius the Athonite in 963 is the oldest monastery on Mount Athos.

The largest and the most important Russian Orthodox monasteries have been called lavras and have been subordinated directly to the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1721, they became subordinated to the Holy Synod.

List of lavras

See also


  1. λαύρα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. {{cite book|title=The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium|chapter=Lavra|publisher=Oxford University Press|year=1991 |place= New York, Oxford|editor-first= Alexander P.|editor-last= Kazhdan} }
  3. Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Laura.
  4. Lewin (2005), p. 188.
  5. Parry (1999), p. 294.
  6. Monasticism, Daniel Al-Antouny (ed.)


External links

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