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Sunday, 14 April 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 7
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


Situated just south of the Moscow Kremlin is the Holy Protection Cathedral at the Saints Martha and Mary Convent. Built between 1908 and 1912 by the Russian architect Aleksei Viktorovich Shchusev (1873-1949), is considered one of Russia's most remarkable examples of Art Nouveau style.

It is interesting to note that Shchusev also built the Lenin Mausoleum which houses the mummified remains of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

The frescoes and icons of the church are the work of painter Mikhail Nesterov

The frescoes and icons of the church are the work of painter Mikhail Nesterov, a protogé of the railway tycoon Savva Mamontov. Nesterov's works are noted for their lyrical colours, beautiful design and the accessible saintliness of the personage he depicts on his icons and frescoes.

The sisterhood of Saints Martha and Mary was founded in 1905 by the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the sister of the last Russian empress, Alexandra Feodorovna. When her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was killed by a terrorist bomb, the widowed Grand Duchess organized the semi-monastic order called the Sisters of Charity and devoted the rest of her life to aiding the sick and the wounded. On July 1918 she was murdered at Alapaevsk, along with other members of the Russian Imperial family.

In 1922 the Bolsheviks removed valuable gold and silver objects such as ikon oklads, rizas, gospel covers, crosses and other ecclesiastical and liturgical objects.

In 1926, the smaller Church of SS Martha & Mary was closed, though the remaining nuns were able to remove over 200 icons and the “royal doors” from the cathedral by moving them to the Holy Protection Cathedral. Shortly after this, the order was officially disbanded, and eighteen of the remaining nuns were exiled to Turkestan in Central Asia.

In 1928, both churches were finally closed, looted, pillaged, and desecrated. The frescos by Nesterov were covered and the church was turned into a movie theater. From 1945, the Church was used by the Grabar Institute as an icon and painting restoration studio.

In 1992 the celebration of divine services was resumed in the Church of Martha and Mary, and in 1994 the sisterhood was re-established.

In 1999 the Educational Center of the SS Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy was founded, with the blessings of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia (1929-2008), for the purpose of training Orthodox girls as certified nurses.

The Holy Protection Cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2006. It has undergone restoration and now holds regular services. 

The gates of the Martha and Mary Convent 

The Martha and Mary Convent is situated at Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka, 34 and is open to worshippers and visitors. In 1990, a monument to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna was erected in the courtyard and can be seen to this day.

© Royal Russia. 14 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 April 2013 7:23 AM EDT
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Sunday, 7 April 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 6
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


The Trinity Izmailovsky Cathedral sometimes called the Troitsky Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a late example of the Empire style, built between 1828 and 1835 to a design by Vasily Stasov.

According to the Russian tradition, each regiment of the imperial guards had its own cathedral. The Trinity Cathedral was the regimental church of the Izmailovsky regiment of Imperial guards, one of the oldest guards regiments in the Russian Army. Named after the village of Izmailovo, near Moscow, the Izmailovsky regiment moved to Saint Petersburg when the city was established as the Russian capital under Empress Anna Ioannovna (1693-1740).

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas I construction of a new church (replacing a wooden church built in 1754-56 damaged during a flood in 1824) began in May 1828, and the cathedral was consecrated in May 1835. The cathedral rises to a height of more than 80 meters, and dominates the skyline of the surrounding area. Memorial plaques to regimental officers killed in battle were mounted on the cathedral's wall. After the cathedral's opening, flags, keys from forts and other trophies that the regiment won in campaigns in 1854–1855 and 1877–1878 were also housed in the cathedral.

Fire engulfs the historic Trinity Cathedral in 2006

The Trinity Cathedral was renowned for its collection of icons. The main section of the cathedral housed the Nativity icon, while the southern section housed the Jesus Christ icon. Empress Elizabeth presented the church with the Beginning of Life Trinity icon in 1742. Other holy objects housed in the cathedral included a large ark made in the form of a cross in 1753 from silver, a large silver cross presented to the cathedral by Nicholas I in 1835, and two large Gospels in valuable bindings.

In 1922, most of the cathedral's valuables were looted, and the thievery continued for several more years until the cathedral was finally closed in 1938. There were rumors of plans to demolish the cathedral and use the remaining material for a district workers' theatre. However, the cathedral was transferred to the Soviet Ministry of Telecommunications, for which it became a warehouse. Only in 1990 did the cathedral return to the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church, when restoration began. By that time, the interior was largely bare, compared to the splendor and majesty of its pre-Revolutionary past.

On August 25, 2006, while under reconstruction, a fire started in which the central dome collapsed and one of four smaller cupolas surrounding it was also destroyed, there were no reports of injuries.

Firefighters battled to save the other three cupolas as emergency workers employees removed icons and other religious articles. A helicopter dumped water on the historic structure. About four hours after the blaze broke out; one of the three remaining cupolas had been damaged but that the fire was contained.

The blaze apparently started on scaffolding on the outside of the church, which was undergoing restoration. The most valuable icons and other items had been saved, and that structural damage beneath the roof area was minor.

Many of the cathedral's beautiful historic interiors have been restored

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko pledged to restore the cathedral within the shortest time possible, pledging to allocate 30 million rubles ($1.12 million) this year on preparations to rebuild and restore the cathedral to its pre-Revolutionary splendor. Restoration was completed, and the cathedral reopened, in 2010. The cathedral can accommodate up to 3,000 people and has been declared a World Heritage Site.

© Royal Russia. 07 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 April 2013 12:00 PM EDT
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Sunday, 31 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 5
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


A picture postcard view of the golden Baroque spires, domes and bell tower of St. Nicholas' Cathedral

The golden Baroque spires and domes of St. Nicholas' Cathedral (known locally as the Sailors' Cathedral) rises in the western part of central St. Petersburg. It is home to a number of revered 18th-century icons and a fine carved wooden iconostasis. Its beautiful bell tower overlooks Kryukov Canal.

Construction of the new stone church began in 1753, and the main altar in the current cathedral was consecrated in 1760 in the presence of Empress Elizabeth. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral consists of two separate churches. The lower Saint Nicholas Church is located on the first floor, while the upper Epiphany Church is on the second floor. The altar of the upper church was consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great. The church officially became a naval cathedral in July 1762 by order of Catherine II. Today, it is one of the best - and last remaining - examples of Baroque architecture.

The walls of the cathedral are decorated with scenes from the history of the Russian Navy. In 1907, two marble plaques were hung on the south wall of the upper church in honor of sailors who died in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5. At the same time, in the square next to the cathedral a memorial was erected to all the sailors of the battleship Alexander III who lost their lives in 1905.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral is home to a number of revered 18th-century icons and a fine carved wooden iconostasis

The cathedral houses 10 spectacular icons in gold frame that were a gift from Catherine the Great. The icons portray saints who are celebrated at Russian Navy celebrations. One of the most revered places in the cathedral is the image of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, given to the church by Greek sailors, which was taken from Russia by the French in 1812, and returned to Nicholas I by the Prussians in 1835.

St. Nicholas Cathedral is one of a very few cathedrals in the city that was not closed in Soviet times. In 1941, it became the official residence of Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod Alexey (Simanskiy), who served in the cathedral from 1941 to 1944 during the 900-day siege of the city.

© Royal Russia. 31 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 3 April 2013 7:02 AM EDT
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Sunday, 24 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 4
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


One of the most beautiful cathedrals in the St. Petersburg area has to the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Peterhof. Every time I visit Peterhof I make a point of stopping here before heading back to St. Petersburg. 

The cathedral is located at 4/ 32 Sankt-Peterburgsky Avenue, near the entrance to the famous Peterhof Palace-Museum.

The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is considered by many to be "an architectural monument of the Old-Russian style." The construction project was ordered by Emperor Alexander III in 1893 and commissioned by the Ministry of the Imperial Court.

The construction, which lasted from 1894 to 1905 on the hill by Tsaritsyn Pond was overseen by architects N. V. Sultanov and builder V. A. Kosyakov who designed the building in the shape of 16-17th centuries Russian architecture.

The pyramidal building, which is 70 metres tall, is encircled with a covered gallery and crowned with five hip domes, holding 800 people. The walls are faced with dark red and light yellow bricks and embellished with sandstone columns and glazed tiles, and the apse features decorative arches.

Before the Revolution, the facades had been adorned with icons of saints and patrons of the members of the Imperial family. The hip-roofed belfry and a chapel are located near the entrance.

The interior frescoes were ordered by Sultanov and done by Moscow craftspeople N. M. Safonov, V. I. Kolupaev and Palekh icon painters; the icons on bronze plaques were made by V. P. Guryanov.

The main altar boasts a five-tier iconostasis made of glazed tiles; the other iconostases are from white marble.

In 1938, SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral was closed down. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, it was damaged and used as a storehouse. In the 1970s-80s, the Cathedral was restored (architect E. P. Sevastyanov), and in 1989 - returned to the eparchy; in 1994 the main altar was consecrated anew.

© Royal Russia. 24 March,  2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:16 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 March 2013 7:02 AM EDT
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Sunday, 17 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 3
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

Church of the Epihany of Our Lord, St. Petersburg 
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 Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Emperor Nicholas II), from an assassination attempt in the city of Otsu in Japan, where he received a sword wound to the head by a Japanese fanatic on 29th April 1891.

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. In recent years a partial restoration of the church frescoes was carried out, the consecration of the newly created ceramic iconostasis took place in September 2012. 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


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:26 PM EDT
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Sunday, 10 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 2
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


The Dormition Cathedral Omsk is one of the largest churches in Siberia. Its fanciful design of many shapes and colors utilizes a plethora of elements from the Russian and Byzantine medieval architectural vocabulary. The main square of Omsk takes its name from the cathedral.

The first stone of a new church was laid by Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Tsar Nicholas II)  during his journey across Siberia in 1891. A revivalist design was commissioned from Ernest Würrich, a fashionable architect based in Saint Petersburg. The church was consecrated in 1898. It was shut down after the Russian Revolution and was blown up in 1935. The Russian Orthodox Church had the edifice rebuilt to Würrich's original designs in the early 21st century.

The worshippers from all over Siberia come to the church in order to venerate the relics of Bishop Sylvester, a Admiral Kolchak supporter who was martyred by the Bolsheviks in 1920.

© Royal Russia. 10 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 March 2013 3:25 AM EST
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Sunday, 3 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 1
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches




Today, I am launching a new series: Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia. This new series will feature short, illustrated articles about the history and architecture of the churches and cathedrals of old Russia. The Orthodox churches of Russia are magnificent architectural masterpieces of Tsarist Russia, some with a Romanov legacy attached to their history. Many miraculously survived the senseless desecration and destruction by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets. Their survival, and rebirth are very much a part of the history of Russia and the reawakening of Christian faith in post-Soviet Russia    - PG.  

The beautiful Transfiguration Church at Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha is situated about 15 km (about 8 miles) from Alapayevsk in the Diocese of Ekaterinburg.

The Transfiguration Church was built in the Baroque style between 1794-1823. Crowned with nine gilded cupolas, the names of the architects are unknown.

After the Revolution, the church was desecrated by the Bolsheviks and subsequently closed in 1939. During the Soviet years it was used for a variety of purposes including a warehouse, mill, social club and a library.

In 1967, a local activist Ivan Samoylov began work on restoring the church. It took 11 years to complete the project.  Today, the church is part of the Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha open-air museum. The ground floor features a collection of frescoes, icons, old manuscripts and books, crosses and other religious items. The second floor is a unique exhibit of Ural art.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 6 September 2015 7:28 AM EDT
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