Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
Situated near the edge of Gutuevsky Island, near Ekateringof Park, this small, late 19th century church is still undergoing large-scale restoration after the ravages it suffered in the Soviet period. The parish church for St. Petersburg's main sea port, which was moved from Kronshtadt to Gutuevsky Island in the mid 19th century, the Church of the Epiphany of Our Lord was designed by Vasiliy Kosyakov, Director of the Petersburg Institute of Engineering and Construction, and funded mostly by Ivan Boronin, a wealthy textiles manufacturer who wished to establish a family mausoleum at the church.
The church was built to glorify the miraculous escape of Emperor Alexander III and his family following the Borki rail disaster on October 17th, 1888. Construction began in 1889, and is copied from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at Borki.
The red-brick church had an intricately decorated facade, featuring tiled mosaics, gilded reliefs, and "kokoshniki" - medieval Russian decorations in the shape of a traditional headdress like a tiara. With its large arched windows, single gold dome and slender belltower, the church, standing right on the banks of the Ekateringofka River, recalls a ship in full sail.
The church's interior was also richly decorated, with a marble alter and ivory iconostasis, as well as bright frescoes covering all the walls. Sadly, all theses precious decorations were plundered or destroyed after the Revolution.
The church was closed in May 1935. It was used variously as a warehouse, a soap factory, a garage, and a morgue. A concrete wall was erected around the church. Due to its proximity along the waterfront, the church was heavily shelled along with nearby port buildings during the Second World War.
In 1991, the ruined building was returned to the Orthodox Church. The first service was held on January 19th, 1992, and restoration work began later that year. On May 4th, 1995 a cross was erected on the central dome of the church. The massive restoration program is finally nearing completion and the Church of the Epihany of Our Lord in St. Petersburg will once again bask in all its bygone splendour.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 March, 2013