The city of Harper Woods has a hidden Russian treasure

A castle-like monastery complete with onion domes, a unique restaurant, gift shop, church, beautiful ornate decor, and gardens

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18745 Old Homestead
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If you ever happen to be in the city of Harper Woods, you will definitely want to take a few minutes to drive down Old Homestead Street. Just before Kelly Road at 18745, you will see an unbelievable sight. It's a real Russian monastery, and the view is just spectacular - it looks like a modern-day castle you might expect to find in a foreign land. St. Sabbas the Sanctified Orthodox Monastery was founded in 1999 as a men's monastery for liturgical arts, and the monks who live there try to be self-supporting. This means they work in the monastery to support their community; however, donations are accepted and most likely needed.

This monastery has a church with a newly built bell tower; dark blue onion domes supporting ornate, gold crosses; inviting gardens with walkways; and an elegant, pure white gazebo. The detailed architecture of the various buildings on these six acres of land definitely stands out in this middle-class neighborhood. There is also a library, shrines, a trapeza where the monks gather for food, a gift shop, and restaurant, The monks even have a website: www.stsabbas.org. The website has some really beautiful pictures of the monastery - even though the street view is incredible, it's only a small fraction of the property.

All of the artwork inside the monastery is done by artisans of St. Sabbas, and it is filled with iconography that is done in a strict, dogmatic style to create masterpieces of inlaid glass and stone. You will also find wood carvings and mosaics. If you would like to own a piece of art created by an artisan monk, all you have to do is email them. The website states that they are reasonably priced and willing to create custom artwork for you.

If you are hungry for some traditional Russian foods, then you are in luck. The Royal Eagle restaurant, a fine dining experience, is located inside the monastery. This unique restaurant is open for a Russian Tea Luncheon on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and they serve a full dinner every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., so reservations are required. Molly Abraham, a Detroit News restaurant critic, stated that "anyone who appreciates an offbeat experience should enjoy the Eastern European menu."

The view from the street is so enchanting that you can't help but want to enter this magical land of beauty and grace. However, this monastery has traditional monastic standards, and hours of operation are very limited. They have very strict rules that must be followed, and since it is private property, they do have the right to ask you to leave if you do not oblige by these rules. Some of these rules pertain to what type of clothing you may wear during a service. You will want to review the visitor information easily found on their website. They are especially strict with women, who must cover their heads, and no slacks, short skirts, perfume, or lipstick is allowed. If anyone is late, he or she will not be allowed inside; no exceptions.

It's definitely worth going out of your way to view the magical splendor of this monastery and to get a small glimpse of the beauty that is inside, just don't forget to bring your camera. The monastery does offer several garden tours and spiritual retreats throughout the year.

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