Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
The Church of the Virgin of the Sign at Tsarskoye Selo was originally built between 1734-47 by the Russian architect Mikhail Zemtsov and his assistant Johann Blank. The church has been remodelled and enlarged several times through the centuries: by Vasily Neyelov (1772), Luigi Rusca (1817) amd Silvio Danini (1898).
The historic church got its name from the Virgin of the Sign icon kept there that had supposedly been used by Peter the Great on his deathbed to bless his daughter, the future Empress Elizabeth.
It was here during a liturgy that the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna suffered a fatal heart attack in 1761. Future Russian sovereigns and their families held a special reverance for the church often coming to pray here.
On July 30th, 1917, a mass was held at the Alexander Palace for the Tsesarevich Alexis's birthday. The holy icon from the church was brought to the palace. Count Paul Benckendorff notes in his memoirs:
"It was brought in procession and the clergy of this church were admitted to the Palace and to the Chapel. The Te Deum was sung and prayers were said asking God for a prosperous journey for their Majesties, their children and all those who accompanied them. The scene was moving. The ceremony was as poignant as could be: all were in tears. The soldiers themselves seemed touched, and approached the holy ikon to kiss it. They followed the procession as far as the balcony, and saw it disappear through the Park. It was as if the past were taking leave, never to come back. The memory of this ceremony will always remain in my mind, and I cannot think of it without profound emotion. In the course of the day we all went, as usual, to the kitchen-garden, and groups were taken."
In 1943 the church was closed by the Soviets. It was 48 years later, in 1991 that the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Extensive repairs and restoration work were carried out which included strenghtening the foundation, a new roof, a gilded spire and weather vane on the steeple, the historical reproduction of furnishings and decor.
The porcelain iconstasis was restored for the 300th anniversary in 2009, and many new icons have been added, including the highly revered icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs.
Photo: The interior of the Church of the Virgin of the Sign taken during my visit to Tsarskoye Selo in June 2012.
During my visits to Tsarskoye Selo I am always drawn to this charming church, which is situated on Dvortsovaya Ulitsa. If you are walking from the Catherine Palace towards the Alexander Palace or vice versa, you can't miss it! It is also just around the corner from Anna Vyroubova's former house. In 2003 a carillion was installed and every hour throughout the day the sounds of "God Save the Tsar" can be heard. Worshippers, passersbys and tourists all stop to enjoy this beautiful tune.
In 2003 a carillion was installed and every hour throughout the day the sounds of "God Save the Tsar" can be heard. Worshippers, passersbys and tourists all stop to enjoy this beautiful tune.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 April, 2013