The Orthodox monastic tradition traces its roots back to Contantinople and through Mount Athos in Greece to the deserts of Middle East and Egypt. The first monks from the monasteries of Mount Athos arrived in Novgorod and Carelia probably as early as in the 10th century. One of these was Saint Serge, who travelled through Kiev and Novgorod to Lake Ladoga, and was the first monk to settle on the island of Valamo.
The life of all Orthodox monks is characterised by the same centuries old rules and traditions, whether they life as hermits, in sketes of a few monks or in cenobitic monasteries. The rules for hermit life were created by Saint Anthonius the Great (251-356), who is considered the founder of monasticism. The rules for cenobitic life (life in a monastic community) were written by Saint Pachomius the Great (286-346). The corner stone of Orthodox monasticism nowadays is considered to be the rule of Saint Basil the Great (330-379).
Saints Serge and Herman of Valamo
According to the chronicles of the monastery monk Serge, who was from Greece, arrived on the island Valamo in Lake Ladoga already in the 10th century. The tradition tells that he was later joined by monk Herman, who was Carelian. The founding fathers Saints Serge and Herman showed the brotherhood way also to Heinävesi. The decisive factor in the selection of the new location for the monastery was an icon depicting Saints Serge and Herman, which was on the wall in the main building of the Papinniemi estate, which was then ownerd by minister Yrjö Herman Saastamoinen. The brotherhood considered the presence of the icon in Papinniemi to be a sign of divine guidance.