Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Orthodox Church and the Russian government have sought to restore monasteries, viewing them as key institutions in the regeneration of religion. Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow has historically been one of Russia's most important religious centres and its most famous monastery for women. Returned to the Church in 1994, Novodevichy was administered by Mother Serafima, a remarkable woman whose life covered most of the twentieth century. In reconstructing monastic life, she placed charity at the centre of her endeavours. In her struggles and her efforts to rebuild the ‘sacred canopy’ at Novodevichy is depicted, in microcosmic form, Russia's own quest to recover its heritage and redefine its identity.