– Ancient legends and myths are often believed to carry a message for future generations and the story about Kitezh is no exception.
As much as many of us would like to explore ancient underwater ruins, it might be better never to see the submerged city of Kitezh. Ancient legends tell Kitezh will rise from beneath the water shortly before the end of the world. Its emergence is linked to a doomsday prophecy.
The ancient underwater city of Kitezh is shrouded in myths and mystery, but there are many indications this place really did exist before it was destroyed.
Kitezh is believed to be located beneath Svetloyar Lake near Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
How and when the legend of Kitezh emerged is difficult to tell with certainty. What is known is that the first time the outside world learned about Kitezh was in the 1780s when a story about the submerged city appeared in the Kitezh Chronicle, a book that is believed to be based on the oral traditions of the Old Believers, a breakaway group from the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to legends, Yuri II, Grand Prince of Vladimir, (1188-1238) ordered the construction of a beautiful new city on the Volga River in central Russia. The city soon became a flourishing commercial center. Famous for its white stone churches and golden domes, Kitezh was also a spiritual destination and a place of pilgrimage.Sometime in the 13th century, Prince Yuri, who had a weakness for the Volga region commanded the construction of a twin town of Kitezh. There were now two cities, the Small Kitezh (Maly Kitezh) and the Great Kitezh (Bolshoy Kitezh), but their survival was in danger.
In November 1237 Mongolian leaders Batu Khan sent his envoys to the court of Prince Yuri II and demanded his allegiance. Prince Yuri II refused to co-operate and in 1238, invading forces of Batu Khan, captured many of Prince Yuri’s cities and razed them to the ground.
Prince Yuri and his forces Yuri and his diminished forces retreated to Kitezh, but Little Kitezh quickly fell to the invaders and Batu Khan’s men were amazed to see that Great Kitezh had no fortifications at all.Inhabitants of Kitezh knew the invading forces were approaching. However, instead of starting preparation how to defend their home, people in the city prayed to God to save them.
Then, something happened. Shortly before the attack of the Mongolian forces, water suddenly burst from the ground and completely swallowed up the city. The terrified Mongols scattered to the safety of the forest. From there they watched in fear and wonder as the water rose over the town slowly covering all the buildings as one by one they vanished under the waves.
Everything was gone. The entire city was submerged.
The tale of this miraculous escape was passed down through the centuries. Local legends tell only people with a pure heart and soul are allowed to see Kitezh.
Some say that that on a quiet day one can still hear the sound of the town’s many church bells ringing beneath Lake Svetloyar, and even voices singing hymns.
Many believe the water of the lake is sacred and the area is blessed with particular spiritual power. This is why many think the water has medical properties and can heal. Lake Svetloyar is still considered sacred in modern times. During WW II, many mothers went to the lake and prayed so that their children fighting on the Eastern front would return home.
Old Believers, a Russian Orthodox sect believe that Kitezh will rise from the waters on Judgement Day. The emergence of the lost underwater city is closely linked with a doomsday prophecy.
Sometimes called the invisible town by the Old Believers, the tale of Kitezh reminds of the legend of Brigadoon, a mythical invisible village where time stands still.
Legendary Brigadoon is hidden somewhere in the Scottish Highlands and it appears every hundred years for just one day.The enchantment on the village of Brigadoon will only last as long as no citizen leaves. If the enchantment is broken, the village will disappear forever into the Highland mists.So Kitezh and Brigadoon are both invisible and can only be seen by some and very rarely.
Archaeologists say they found traces of an unknown medieval settlement that became a prototype for Kitezh, the “Russian Atlantis.”
On the shores of Svetloyar Lake, scientists discovered thousands of shards of pottery, fragments of iron knives, pieces of harness, a millstone and a tinderbox. All artifacts were produced by people who lived in the region six centuries ago.
“Most likely, this was not a city but an odnodvorka – a house with outbuildings that housed 10-15 people,” said Evgeny Chetvertakov, head of the Vetluzhsky archaeological expedition.
“Perhaps, in reality, this settlement was larger, but then part of it was taken by landslides into Svetloyar, and that formed the basis of legends about the mysterious disappearance of the city of Kitezh.”
Researchers said that the size of the village they have discovered in no way reflects the real borders of the ancient settlement. They think Krestovozdvizhensky Hill was always prone to landslides, one of which absorbed the ancient Russian city, giving birth to a beautiful legend.
“In addition, we can confidently say that this settlement was abandoned by the inhabitants due an unknown reason,” Chetvertakov said. “Perhaps they left it in connection with the economic decline of the Nizhny Novgorod principality shortly after Nizhny Novgorod was devastated in 1408 by the troops of the Horde Khan Yedigei.
Then new settlers came here and found the abandoned city remains. So the legend of the miraculous city of Kitezh resting in the heart of forests beyond the Volga River could be born and has been passed on from generation to generation.
The legend of Kitezh and its doomday prophecy is still alive.
Written by Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.com
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About the author:Ellen Lloyd – is the owner of AncientPages.com and an author who has spent decades researching history, ancient mysteries, myths, legends and sacred texts, but she is also very interested in astronomy, astrobiology and science in general