The Kirillo-Belozersky monastery which is located in Kirillov on the bank of Siverskoye lake, was founded at the end of XIV century. Its founder – Saint Cyril was a descendant of a noble Moscow Velyaminov family. He underwent a long way fr om a monk up to archimandrite in the Moscow Simonov monastery, however he refused the high rank and at the age of 60 he came to the White Lake region wh ere he founded a monastery. He ran the monastery for thirty years till his death. One of the most outstanding figures of the Russian church, Cyril Belozersky was canonized already in the middle of XV century.
By XVI century the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery becomes one of the largest patrimonial lands of the Moscow state, ranking second after the Trinity – Sergiev monastery. Such fast growth of the monastery became possible due to the active support of the Moscow grand dukes.
By the end of XVI century wooden monastic constructions were replaced by one of the largest at that time architectural complexes, which included more temples than the Trinity – Sergiev monastery.
Being located far from the capital, enclosed with strong walls the Kirillov monastery for centuries was one of the main places of exile for political and church figures. The greatest figure among them in XVII century was Patriarch Nikon (years of imprisonment – 1676-1681).
During the Polish-Lithuanian invasion the Kirillov monastery was one of the few fortresses in the northeast of Russia, capable to show resistance to the enemy. For the first time groups of interventionists appeared in the White Lake region in 1612, in December they undertook a fierce attack of the fortifications which was repulsed. Up to 1616 the monastery was under the constant threat of attack.
About 1630 they began fortifying the monastic walls damaged by the time and fights, and in 1640s some new buildings were erected.
In 1648, during the revolt of Moscow city lower classes and peasants who demanded punishment of nobility, boyar Boris Ivanovich Morozov, the teacher of Tsar Alexey Mihailovich, was hidden there at the request of the tsar. For this service tsar gives the monastery a huge sum of money (40 thousand roubles) for the construction of a new fortress. So, in the second half of XVII century in the Kirillov-Belozersky monastery there began a grandiose construction of new fortifications and towers which formed the so-called New Town. It started in 1653 under the imperial decree and was going on for 30 years. The territory of the monastery increased more than twice, and the monastery acquired the reputation of the greatest medieval fortress. However the new fortress, as well as many other fortresses erected in XVII century, hasn't have to face the enemy. At the edge of XVII and XVIII centuries intensive building activity at the territory of the monastery was interrupted.
Up to the mid XVIII century the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery was the most significant ecclesiastical, economic and cultural center in the North. Known medieval literary works were gathered and copied by the monks, and also texts of church songs, icons and items of church furniture were created. From the middle of XIX century the antiquities of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery started claiming attention of olden time lovers and became an object of studying. All remarkable treasures of Russian architecture, painting, and applied art are still concentrated in the monasteries of the White Lake region.
In 1924 in the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery the Local Lore Museum later transformed into the Museum of History and Art, was founded and in 1968 it was declared a national reserve. In 1998 the Kirillo-Belozersky museum – reserve was included into the List of Specially Important Objects of Cultural Heritage of Russian peoples.