I was doing some major cleaning and came across this. Two small stones I “smuggled” from Russia back in 2004. Don’t worry, I picked these stones off the ground: they actually fell off from Georgievsky Cathedral at Russia’s oldest monastery – Yuriev Monastery (or Yurievsky Monastery) just outside of Novgorod (founded in 1119). Unfortunately this historic building is in much disrepair, at least it was in 2004 when I was there, which is why loose stones were constantly falling off it. The Romanov family made a pilgrimage there in December of 1916, shortly before the Russian revolution broke out. Grand Duchess Olga Romanov wrote about this experience in her diary. For some reason that day’s entry is missing from the 1916 diary of Tsar Nicholas II.
From the 1916 diary of Olga Romanov:
“Sunday. 11th December . On the train between Novgorod and M[illegible] across the r[iver] Kerest. Departed tonight at 3:10 and arrived in Novgorod at 9 1/2 in the morning. At 10 went to Sofiysky Cathedral. There was an Arkhireisky service and moleben until 12, paid respects to various holy relics. Downstairs stopped by the storeroom with ancient artifacts and got home by 1:00 o’clock. At 2 o’clock, went to Zemsky Hospital, and my female mon.[astery—i.e. nunnery] . . . kissed the icons, etc. . . . then to the orphanage of the refugee children, and Yurievsky male monast.[ery], [located] 5 versts from the city. Had tea at the table with the nobles. From there to the [Georgievsky] chapel, where Our Lord’s Mother appeared in sorrow, and remained. Terribly nice and such a wonderful smell in the chapel. Was able to fall asleep before Tsarskoe, where we arrived at 12 hrs 20 min. at night.”