Holy Assumption Monastery was founded in the early 1940's by a small group of nuns who fled from Russia and China in search of freedom to practice their faith. Originally settling in San Francisco, they soon discovered the quiet town of Calistoga 80 miles north of the city and, with the blessing of the local church hierarchy, purchased an old two-story property by the Napa River.
At first, the old building served as both chapel and living quarters, but eventually the nuns built a separate small wooden chapel as their place of worship. They adorned it with their own icons and embroidered cloths and began to hold services, to which all those inside and outside their gates were welcome.
For various reasons, the last nuns left in the early 1980's, and the monastery functioned as a parish church for years. However, without the presence of the nuns, the monastery buildings fell bit by bit into poor repair.
Through the vision and hard work of Igumen Sergious Gerken (and the labor and sacrificial financial support of a small community of dedicated monastery friends), an ambitious restoration project was begun in 1998 to make the monastery once again habitable for a community of nuns. The grounds were transformed into a beautiful garden renowned locally – a tranquil place sought out for reflection and contemplation.
The chapel underwent extensive renovation and improvements. The main building was beautifully rebuilt as a refectory and living quarters for the nuns. The grounds were graced with church bells and a koi pond, among other things. All was nearly ready and the local community was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the nuns.
While the finishing touches were still being put on the main building, the long-expected nuns arrived, but from an unexpected quarter. On the morning of October 8, 2009, the community of St. Barbara Monastery in Santa Paula, CA was informed that they had 30 days to remove the RVs in which nearly two thirds of the community was living while trying to build a wing to house the sisters. By that evening, Abbess Victoria had contacted Bishop Benjamin and received his enthusiastic blessing to relocate ten of the sisters to Calistoga. Two weeks later, on October 22, the sisters, under the leadership of Mother Melania, arrived at their new home to a gracious welcome from Fr. Sergious. Soon thereafter, various members of the local community and the outlying areas started arriving with good wishes, food, and practical help of various kinds. The sisters were and continue to be overwhelmed by such kindness
The sisters have settled gratefully into their life in Calistoga, which revolves around the daily services. Another feature of their life is the frequent presence of pilgrims, tourists, and local residents drawn by the stillness, beautiful gardens and koi pond. In between the services and welcoming guests, the sisters care for the grounds and buildings and strive to support themselves through a variety of means.
A great joy for the sisters has been the very close relationship that has developed between the monastery and St. Symeon Verhotursky Orthodox Church, the local parish. The hope for the future is an ever deeper unity, in which we continue to work together to glorify Christ.