Inkerman Cave Monastery

Useful Information

The ruins of Inkermann and city of caverns, W. Simpson; T. Picken lith., lithograph, tinted, 1855. Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Postcard, c1910, Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Location: Inkerman
(44.603363, 33.607835)
Open: All year daily.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: Peter Simon Pallas (1799–1801): Bemerkungen auf einer Reise in die Südlichen Statthalterschaften des Rußischen Reichs in den Jahren 1793 und 1794, Leipzig, 1799—1801
Address: Inkerman Cave Monastery.
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8th century first monastery founded.
861 relics of Saint Clement relocated to San Clemente by the Saints Cyril and Methodius.
1433 fortress plundered and burned by the Genoese, but was soon restored.
1475 taken by the Turks and renamed Inkerman (fortress cave).
1793 surveyed by Peter Simon Pallas.
1850 new monastery founded.
1850s looted by the British.
1895 church added to commemorate the Borki Incident.
1905 church added to commemorate the Crimean War.
1927 damaged by the Crimean Earthquake.
1931 monastery closed by the socialists.
World War II used to house the officers of a Soviet army defending Sevastopol.
1991 reopened after the Cold War and the independence of Ukraine.


Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
Inkerman Cave Monastery, Crimea, Russia. Public Domain.
View of a church and convent in the rocks at Inkerman. Edmund Spencer. Travels in Circassia, Krim-Tartary &c. 1838. Letter VIII. P.78. Public Domain.
A class of A.A. Brzezinski's Gymnasium I in Warsaw, In southern Russia and the Crimea, 1915. Public Domain.

Inkerman Cave Monastery or Inkerman Monastery of St. Clement is located near the city Inkerman at the mouth of the Black River. It was first built into natural caves or hollows in the cliff face carved by the river, which were later artificially extended. Inkerman is a Turkish name meaning cave fortress.

The town Інкерман (Inkerman) is located more or lesss between sea level and 50 m asl, at the mouth of the Chernaya River, which flows into Sevastopol Inlet, also called the North Inlet. During Russian times, between 1976 and 1991, it was named Белокаменск (Belokamensk) or Ukrainian Білокам'янськ (Bilokamiansk). This name means White Stone City, in reference to the soft white stone quarried in the area and commonly used for construction. It has a population of about 10,000.

The monastery is located in the cliff of the mountain. It consisted of: 8 ground and cave churches, which were interconnected by passages and stairs carved into the rock; dwelling houses, hotel and outbuildings. Cave churches and cells, located in several tiers, have survived to our time. They are all artificial. The Church of Clement is carved into the rock in the form of a three-aisled basilica with a narthex. The naves are divided by arches with three pairs of columns, built of well-worked stone with lotus-shaped capitals. The nave ends with ceilings in the form of semicircular vaults. The walls are covered with plaster with the remains of ornamental and thematic fresco painting. The basilica is adjoined by the rectangular church of Martin with one support pillar, carved in 1867. A staircase carved into the rock leads from the monastery to the Kalamita fortress.
Excerpt from: Monuments of urban planning and architecture of the Ukrainian SSR, volume 2, page 269, Budivelnyk, 1983-1986. online

The place was the location of a Byzantine monastery, probably founded in the 8th century. The old monastery had eight chapels and an inn which were accessed by a stairway. It was surveyed in 1793 by Peter Simon Pallas, the Prussian zoologist and botanist who worked in Russia between 1767 and 1810.

According to legend once the relics of Saint Clement were stored here. Saint Clement was a martyr who was killed by the Romans. He was originally from Rome, but as he was a Christ he was exiled in the year 94 by the Roman Emperor Trajan to Crimea. Living here he was praying for water, as the local Christs were lacking a water supply. A messenger from God told him where to look, and so he found a spring which soon became a river called Tschorna (black). This miracle convinced many people to become Christs, which was not in the interest of the Romans. They executed him in 101 by throwing him into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck. But after one year on the day of his death the sea receded and exposed an underwater cave, where the remains of the Saint were found. And this miracle happened every year and many Christians walked on the dry sea flor to bow to the holy relics.

Later a small church was built on an island in Cossack Bay to keep the relics of Clement. This was the begin of the monastery. The relics stayed here until the Saints Cyril and Methodius relocated them in 861 to San Clemente.

It seems the monastery was closed after the fortress on top of the hill was conquered by the Turks in 1475. It fell in disrepair. In 1850 Crimea was transferred to the Russian Empire and a new monastery was founded on the same location. It was named Clement Cave Moanstery in honour of Saint Clement. This monastery was closed in 1931 because of the political situation. Today's monastery was opened in 1991, after the Cold War ended and the Ukraine became independent. Since February 2014, when the Russian Federation took over the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, it is again part of Russia.