A good portion of this book, especially this past reading assignment, takes place within the local monastery. Based on the scene descriptions, I have been picturing the place as a simple church surrounded by some rough-hewn and old living quarters spread out on a beautiful garden campus. I visited some Spanish missions in California when I was a kid, where monks had previously lived in small minimalistic cells around a central garden full of yucca plants, so maybe I was just picturing that in Russia.
I did some quick research and discovered that the monastery in The Brothers Karamazov was inspired by the Optina Monastery, which Dostoyevsky visited after the death of his son. In the 1800s, when this book was written, the monastery looked like this:
That is not at all how I pictured it! Granted, I am not very familiar with Russian architecture, but this looks much more grandiose than the worn paths and dilapidated furniture described in the book.
How the monastery looks today:
Doesn’t it look lovely? I really like the pale green of the bell tower there on the left.
Optina Pustynia has an interesting history, and a nice website, although it is all in Russian so I couldn’t make heads or tails of it (the monks look really nice, though!). I did manage to find that you can take an awesome 3D tour, Google Streetview-style – click the sun icon to move through to different areas.
I think this is where they eat? It looks so fancy!
This gives me a whole new perspective of the monastery where Alyosha is studying. How did you imagine the hermitage to look?