First Church in the Community for Maidens by the Mill
The construction of the Church of the Nativity of Christ was marked by the miraculous involvement of the Mother of God. The Queen of Heaven commanded Venerable Seraphim to add a new church to the Kazan Church refectory.
With the blessing of Venerable Seraphim, Mikhail Vasilyevich Manturov, a pious and God-loving disciple of the holy Sarov elder, became a builder of the Nativity churches. Father delivered him from imminent death. In gratitude to God for the healing, Father called on Manturov to accept voluntary poverty, sell off his estate and, using the accumulated funds, build a church for the Community by the Mill.
Venerable Seraphim requested that the church be "seven and nine" in size. According to the church blueprints, the layout was 5x6 Russian fathoms (one fathom equals seven feet), with a clearance of 5x7 fathoms (10.8x15.1 meters) without the refectory.
With the blessing of the Bishop of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Afanasy, the groundbreaking ceremony in honor of the Nativity of Christ took place in 1828.
By the summer of 1829, or within a year, the church was mainly finished. Father Seraphim wished to consecrate it specifically on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. He said that if it was deemed impossible that year, then the church would stand unconsecrated until the following year's Transfiguration, according to God's will.
Hastily, two locally made icons from a nearby village were procured, as the new church had no iconostasis of its own. It was an arduous job to serve three services: the feasts of the Nativity of the Lord, Transfiguration and the church's consecration. However, Father Seraphim delegated this enormous task to Archimandrite Joachim, a very experienced chorister from Nizhny Novgorod. He composed a special service order and consecrated the church on the feast of the Transfiguration on August 6/19, 1829, just as Venerable Seraphim commanded.
The pre-revolutionary two-tiered iconostasis of the Church of the Nativity of Christ was made in the classical style and painted sky blue. The main part was made of local order resembling a portico with half-columns on pedestals and simplistic entablature. An oval icon of the Last Supper above the Royal Doors was adorned by a portico with scrolls. Small icons of the great festal order made up the second tier without any décor.
Completed in 1829, the church was truly amazing! The church was named in honor of the Nativity of Christ, but it was consecrated on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord! Father Seraphim wished it to be so.
The Chronicle of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery
The church became a depository of the various church vessels and vestments elder Seraphim had given to the monastery. He sent them there on separate occasions as a sign of his blessing. In a refectory wall niche, a belfry was set up that held eleven small bells. Three of them were procured for Father Seraphim at the Makariyev fair. People used to say: "What a wonder, and nothing else: so small, so-so tiny, but listen how silvery is their ringing, and how well-arranged is their melody. The soul rejoices as soon as their sweet melodic ringing arises."
In 2008, one of the bells ordered by Father Seraphim was returned to monastery. It weighs 16 kg (2 stones, or 1 pud). The name of a customer who had ordered it is engraved on the side. It does not ring due to a crack. The bell has been added to an exhibit at the monastery's museum located in the house of blessed Paraskevi Ivanovna.
The Church of the Nativity of Christ is rather small, but bright and cozy.
Ivan Semyonovich Sokolov, a local architect from Arzamas, designed the church. He visited Diveyevo in May of 1827. Having completed all the necessary measurements of the Kazan Church in less than one day, Sokolov joined Manturov and went to visit Venerable Seraphim on the very same day. Father asked him what would be the best way to lay out the future structure noting that the size of the future side church should meet "seven by nine" requirement. Sokolov replied: "It is impossible to determine the size before applying in scale both the layout and façade of the church. Only then, in conformity with the appearance and building mass of the existing church, we will be able to finalize the actual size of the addition so that it will be in harmony with the existing parts of the old church. I suggest that we build this addition in the shape of a gallery, extending it from the bell tower to church. It would be quite convenient to do so since there is no entry from the western side due to the steep side hill located there. This construction would not require big expenses. If a new structure is added on the church's side, it will be necessary to add an identical one on the other side for symmetry, which would increase construction costs considerably." Father Seraphim endorsed the architect's idea by saying to Manturov: "Have you heard how he outlined everything? Do just like he said and obey him in everything; he's got a clear mind."
The project was finished in August 1827, and on December 19 of the same year it was approved by the Construction Committee at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The blueprints show the southern façade and layout of the Nativity Church, as well as the layout and façade of the Kazan Church. The Nativity Church is rectangular in plan, slightly elongated from west to east. The building has windows on one side only, covered with the gable roof without any setbacks. The breakdown of façade structure is fully coordinated with the rhythm of the facades of the Kazan Church refectory. For instance, the addition's plinth, frieze, and cornice are all placed at the same height, with the cornice's bearing profiles analogous to the refectory cornice (embellished with dentils). Twin pilasters partition the wall into three uneven zones: the two on either end feature rectangular windows with key blocks above, while a central one is a triple-paned Venetian window with fan-shaped key blocks accentuated by a half-circular belt. The southern entrance to the Kazan Church, located beneath a bell tower, was shaped in a similar manner, except that a middle window opening was replaced with a door. Judging from the blueprint, another entrance was planned for symmetry on its northern side, as well as at the Kazan Church's western façade. Each entrance door was supposed to have an open porch framed by a baluster railing.
Kazan Church held services during warm times of the year, as it was considered a summer church and had no heating system.
Regarding the Nativity church, the holy elder left a special commandment - a candle would burn unceasingly before the icon of the Savior, day and night.
Before 1930s, the Kazan Church, together with the churches of the Nativity, kept its original appearance. "On the eve of September 7/20 1927, we were asked to abandon the monastery. On the day of the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, His Grace Zinoviy served Liturgy at the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The choir started singing the troparion but they were unable to go on. Everyone started crying, the whole congregation was in tears," recalled nun Seraphima (Bulgakova). Right afterwards, the monastery's desolation began. During the Soviet times, the Nativity Church building housed a post office, a telegraph and a bank. A second consecration of the church took place on June 1, 1993. In 2008, additions were made along the southern and northern sides of the Nativity Church. They were dedicated to the Hieromartyrs Jacob and Michael (Gusev) and to the martyrs from village of Puzo: Eudoxia, Daria, Daria and Maria.
Внешний вид храма Рождества Христова в советские годы
In the 19th century, the sisters of the monastery decorated the church interior with paintings. One of their frescoes depicting Pantocrator surrounded by the Cherubims has been carefully preserved inside the altar till modern times. The contemporary paintings in the Church of the Nativity of Christ were made by the artists Konstantin Okhotin and Dmitry Lazarev. Their wall paintings depict the Gospel stories from Advent, beginning with the Annunciation and leading up to the Massacre of infants in Bethlehem. Artists from the Nizhny Novgorod studio "Kovcheg" painted the side altar churches under the direction of Oleg Antsipherov.
The Church of the Nativity of Christ's snow-white iconostasis immediately grabs a visitor's attention. It looks as if it is made of marble. In truth, the specialists from the Moscow studio "MarmorTeck" utilized a technology known as decorative Venetian plaster.
Since 1993, the candle continues to burn unceasingly at the Church of the Nativity of Christ, just as Venerable Seraphim commanded.
Services at the Church of the Nativity of Christ are conducted infrequently due to its rather small size. The church is generally reserved for the monastic use. The anniversary of the church's consecration is celebrated in a particularly solemn way. As a rule, the nighttime Liturgy is served on the feast of Christ's Nativity, followed by the cross procession around the church.