OK, we've all heard about the time-honoured Roman Catholic custom of 'penitential walks', from the centuries-old Way of St James and the Chartres pilgrimage to the smaller, but no less fervent pilgrimages springing up elsewhere in the world. Questions abound about the existence of similar practice in the Christian East.
That said, Memoirs is once again proud to bring you yet another fascinating piece from Photo Polygon; from the lens of Sergey Kozmin.
In the 14th century, so legend goes, an icon of St Nicholas miraculously appeared on a pine in a forest by the river. Attempts were made to bring this wonder-working icon from the small village of Velikoretskoye to Khiynov (modern-day Kirov), but they all failed - it was only after numerous prayers, as well as promising sincerely to return the icon every year to Velikoretskoye, was its transfer possible. And so it began, the oldest annual pilgrimage in Russia, which begins at Kirov and ends at Velikoretskoye.
Since the 1990s, the pilgrimage has been revived after years of Soviet suppression. Pilgrims walk 180 kilometres (approx. 112 miles) for 5 days through the countryside, woods and bogs. Every two hours, the journey stops for a service by the roadside, as well as 30-40 minutes' rest. The day ends at 9 o'clock, and pilgrims spend the night in schools or the huts of local villagers, but most find rest only in the streets. Between 1:30 to 2 in the morning, the pilgrims awake to yet another service. The journey continues shortly afterward.
This year alone, over 20,000 pilgrims participated in the walk from Kirov to Velikoretskoye, and despite every trial nature sends along - snow, heat, rain, hailstones, mosquito swarms, callouses, tired ankles, sleepless nights and unbearable weariness, the majority of pilgrims nevertheless arrive at their destination.
To an Orthodox Christian, undertaking the journey to Velikoretskoye is a special act of contrition and purification of the soul. To walk on this pilgrimage is to truly grasp the soul of the Russian people.
More photographs available HERE.