Orthodox churches have been built in Ekaterinburg ever since its foundation. Traditionally they were architectural dominants of the city, its most important cultural and spiritual centers until the beginning of the 20th century.
|Saint Catherine's Chapel, Truda sq.|
The biggest churches of the city in the 18th century were Ekaterininsky and Bogoyavlensky cathedrals situated on main city squares. Today these churches have been lost, and contemporary development of the city center does not allow to recreate them in their original forms. In 1998, in commemoration of the city’s 275th anniversary, a Chapel in the name of great martyr Saint Catherine, saint patroness of mining industry, was built on the site where Ekaterinsky cathedral used to stand before it was demolished during the Soviet era. In 2003 a capsule with earth from the burial place of Vasily Tatishchev (who was a founder of Ekaterinburg) was placed in the chapel.
|Voznesenskaya (Ascension) Church, 11 Clary Zetkin St/|
The only 18th century church surviving in the city to this day is Voznesenskaya (Ascension) Church. It is currently the oldest church in Ekaterinburg, and the only one built in Baroque style. It is interesting that the first wooden church on this site was built with logs of the disassembled wooden side altar of Bogoyavlensky cathedral. By the end of the 18th century the wooden church fell into decay, and in 1789, by the request of the parishioners, the construction of a stone two-storey church began. Later the church was rebuilt and extended various times. In 1834 two side altars were added on the southern side and two – on the northern side; a new porch was also constructed. By the beginning of the 20th century the church already had 6 side altars, consecrated in the name of Ascension, Nativity of Mother of God, Annunciation, in the name of Saint Mitrophan of Voronezh, in the name of prophet Elijah, and in the name of the icon Our Lady of Kazan. One-class parish school for boys was located on the ground floor.
In 1920 the parish of Voznesenskaya church made an agreement with Ekaterinburg Soviet of worker and peasant deputies. According to the document, the parish could indefinitely use the church building and all utensils free of charge with the condition of taking a good care of all items now considered public property. There agreement also stated: “Meetings of a nature hostile towards Soviet government are not to be held inside the church; <…> sermons and speeches hostile towards Soviet government are not to be pronounced”.
Nevertheless, in 1922 a decree of seizure of precious church property made of precious and semiprecious stones came into force. Earlier, when preparing the agreement with Soviet government, a complete list of all property in Voznesenskaya church had been made, but during the seizure some articles of church plates were not found. Later, when conducting a liturgy, the priests pronounced the prescribed formulation: “We have prayed yet about apostolic Tikhon who is Patriarch of Moscow…”. This was a serious political violation: for the authorities the Patriarch of Moscow was an ordinary citizen Belavin, a counter-revolutionary and a criminal. A case against Voznesensky parish was made.
A logical consequence that followed these episodes was the annulment of the agreement and closing of the church. The building was used as a school at first, and then it was occupied by the Revolution history museum. The main bell of Voznesenskaya church was moved to Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ekaterinburg where it was used as stage props in historical productions such as “Boris Godunov” and “Prince Igor” for a long time. During Perestroika the church recovered its status, and the bell was returned to the Eparchy. On February 15, 1991, on Candlemas Day, the first liturgy after many years was served here.
|Church - on- the blood, 10 Tsarskaya|
Right across from Voznesenskaya church there is the five-domed Church-on-the-Blood (its full official name – Memorial Church-on-the-Blood in the name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia) and Patriarchal compound. This church is one of the biggest not only in Ekaterinburg, but in the entire country.
The site for the church was not chosen randomly: this is exactly the place where the infamous Ipatiev’s House stood before its demolition in 1977. At this place the lives of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family came to a tragic abrupt end. After the house demolition the place was deserted for a long time. Yet with or without the house, this place attracted Russian and foreign pilgrims. In the end the decision was made to build here a Church-on-the-Blood that would combine the functions of a memorial museum and a church. The construction began in 2000 and was progressing fast, because the work was planned to be finished by the 85th anniversary of the Romanovs’ execution. Just as it was planned, on July 16, 2003 the church was consecrated.
The very appearance of the church is symbolic. Russian-Byzantine architectural style symbolizes the connection of times: most churches built in the times of Nicholas II were built exactly in this style. The red and Bordeaux granite used in the walls reminds of the spilt blood. Moreover, the whole church complex is divided into two parts. The upper temple in the name of All Saints symbolizes an ever-burning altar lamp, burning in memory of tragic events that took place here. In lower temple recreates the “execution room” and presents museum exposition telling about the last days of the Royal family. A monument to the Royal family meets the visitors near the church entrance: it is a composition of seven figures, also aimed to remind of the events that happened here.
The range of the church activity is wide. Not only it accepts pilgrims and tourists, but also maintains a parish school for children from 6 years. In winter, on the square in front of the church, competition of Orthodox and Christmas themed ice sculptures is held.
Next to Church-on-the-Blood stands Patriarchal compound that was built and consecrated at the same time. The compound includes patriarchal rooms, Saint Nicholas house chapel, a library, and numerous halls and premises for conducting various church activities.
|Patriarchal compound, 10 Tsarskaya|
In 2012, across the street from Church-on-the-Blood lies a sculpture of Orthodox patrons of the family, love and faithfulness, Saint Miracle-Workers Prince Peter and Princess Fevroniya of Murom was installed. According to its creators, the idea of the composition is “making a positive image of family values, faithful and chaste relationships, love and fidelity in marriage, raising and educating children in the spirit of love for Motherland”.
Another vivid example of the Ekaterinburg church architecture in Russian-Byzantine style is the belfry church Bolshoy Zlatoust (Big Zlatoust). The church is a recently restored copy of the cathedral that used to stand near the current place and was exploded in the 1930s. It was reconstructed according to preserved plans and photos, and it was consecrated in 2013.
The history of the original church is rather interesting. In order to approve its construction, the citizens submitted requests to the Synod many times. The original church project was designed in classical style by the famous Ekaterinburg architect Mikhail Malakhov. The Synod rejected this project and replaced it with one of their own – in Russian-Byzantine style and much larger in size. The city had no money to build such a big church, so the citizens requested the Synod to provide 10,000 rubles for construction or approve the previous project. The money was never allocated, but Malakhov’s project was not approved either, instead a new plan of a smaller building was sent. Citizens of Ekaterinburg did not want to give up easily and sent another letter to the capital, saying the original project seemed more comfortable and magnificent. The design was finally approved. But realization wouldn’t follow. One more request was submitted to the capital. Now the people wanted to enlarge the church 1.5 times, but build it without the bell tower, which would be replaced by a separate belfry church in the name of Saint Martyr Maximilian. The request included plans for both buildings. The revised projects were rejected again, and new plans approved by Emperor Nicholas I were sent back to Ekaterinburg.
In the end, to construction began according to the latter plans. The intention was to first build the new belfry church, and only then replace the old Svyato-Dukhovskaya (Holy Spirit) church that stood nearby with a new grand church, similar to that of Christ the Savior in Moscow. But because of money shortage, only the belfry was finished and later consecrated as church. The building was untypical for churches of the time: the bell tier was placed directly above the main hall of the church. Such churches had been previously built only in the 15-16th centuries. The church was popularly named Bolshoy Zlatoust (Big Zlatoust), while the old Svyato-Dukhovskaya (Holy Spirit) church was called Maly Zlatoust (Little Zlatoust).
Today, due to preserved plans and photos, it was possible to completely reconstruct the church’s appearance. Added were only a basement level and choir galleries above the refectory.
|Svyato-Troitsky (Holly Trinity) cathedral, 57 Rosy Luxemburg|
Another restored church of Ekaterinburg is Svyato-Troitsky (Holy Trinity) cathedral. The Common Faith Holy Trinity church took a long time to be completed. Its main part was built around 1818 and was sponsored by the local Old Believers community headed by Yakim Ryazanov, who was a merchant, gold mine owner and three-time city mayor. Because of his contribution, the church was popularly called Ryazanovskaya for a long time. Later southern and northern side altars were added, and in 1845 a belfry was added to the architectural ensemble. The church was considered one of the richest in Ekaterinburg: among its sacred items and utensils were highly worshiped icons with gold and silver frames, an ancient Gospel and a tabernacle weighing about 13 kg (I. Y. Ryazanov’s donation). The Ryazanovs also intended to cover the domes of the church with gold, but World War I hindered their plans. In 1930, after the church was closed, the building was reconstructed: the domes and the belfry were demolished. Its further destiny is typical for the Soviet period: first it was occupied by the club of “Avtodor” (road and transport industry), then by “Rot Front” cinema, an industrial company, and “Automobilist” culture center. After 1996 the building was returned to Ekaterinburg Eparchy. The church was restored, and it currently has the cathedral status. Nowadays, Svyato-Troitsky cathedral is the main church of the city. It was here that the sacred relics brought to Ekaterinburg were exhibited, among those relicts of Apostle Andrew the First-called, the Belt of the Blessed Lady, the Holy Virgin of Pochaiv icon, a part of the Robe of the Lord and others. Traditional religious processions during celebrations of Easter, great martyr Saint Catherine’s Memorial Day and National Unity Day start from here.
The description of the Orthodox churches of Ekaterinburg would be incomplete without mentioning the chapel in the name of Saint Alexander Nevsky. The chapel was founded in 1881, after the murder of Emperor Alexander II in the name of his celestial protector. For his peasant reform and abolition of serfdom Alexander II was popularly called the Emancipator. The mention of this act is imprinted on two marble boards, placed on wall near the entrance. One board contains the text of Emancipation edict of February 19, 1861, and the other board contains the information about who, when, and in memory of which event the chapel was built.
The chapel is built in neo-Russian style. It is the only surviving religious building of this type in Ekaterinburg. The chapel was built on the so-called Khlebnaya (Bread) square, but after the Revolution it ended up surrounded by the arboretum. In the Soviet times the building was used as a storehouse for horticultural sundry. Due to this fact, the chapel avoided demolition, damaged was only the dome with the cross. In 1996 the chapel in the name of Saint Alexander Nevsky was restored and was assigned to Novo-Tikhvinsky convent.
|Novo-Tikhvinsky convent, 1 Zelenaya Roshcha|
The convent itself is situated several blocks away from the chapel. The first mentions of Novo-Tikhvinsky nunnery are dated to the end of the 18th century. At that time a cemetery was on this place, and a stone church in the name of Dormition of the Mother of God was built there in 1782. Soon a hospice was organized by the church. In 1798 it officially became a nunnery, starting the history of the convent.
The decree that founded Ekaterinburg Novo-Tikhvinsky convent was issued in 1809. In just a few decades it became one of the most prosperous in the Urals. The convent construction continued throughout the entire 19th century: six churches, cells, a hospital and a hospice were built. The monastery park was vast and well-groomed, with several ponds and the Monastyrka River running across the territory.
The ensemble of Novo-Tikhvinsky convent was surrounded with a high stone wall. The wall was made of granite stones and bricks, with domed round towers at the corners. Today you can still walk down Narodnoy Voli Street, along the old monastery wall to the corner tower.
After Emperor Alexander I visited Ekaterinburg in 1824, it was decided to make the convent gateway look more solemn. Just at that time, the unique complex of three churches appeared. The church apses formed three big ledges in the massive wall of the monastery; the domes on multi-graded drums shaped the silhouette of the entrance ensemble. Looking simple and significant, it was a typical classical complex.
During the first years after the Revolution the convent remained opened, under a special permission from the authorities the nuns delivered food for the Royal family, imprisoned in Ipatiev’s House. In 1994 the convent was restored. Now it is called Alexandro-Nevsky Novo-Tikhvinsky convent. The citizens and tourists can enter the convent territory freely: they can visit one of churches, try pastry from a local bakery, and buy a cross or a souvenir in a monastery shop.
On the convent territory stands Alexandro-Nevsky cathedral. The construction began in 1814, but 20 years later the two-storey two-altar church had to be taken down: cracks appeared in the walls due to poor brickwork. Besides, by that time the convent population grew considerably, and a much bigger church was needed. The foundation stone of a new cathedral was laid in 1838. It was designed by the famous Ural architect Mikhail Malakhov together with Saint-Petersburg architects Visconti and Charlemagne.
After the convent was closed during the Soviet era, the cathedral was occupied by Nature Museum, and before that – by a military storehouse, which didn’t care about preservation of the unique architectural monument. After restoration works (under way since 2006) were completed, the cathedral looked practically unchanged outwardly, but the interior decoration was completely new now. Before the Revolution the church was known from its frescoes, but during the storehouse years the unique frescoes were wiped out and nearly disappeared; their restoration was not possible. Therefore, the walls had to be painted anew.
The new painting was made in the Byzantine style of the 13-14th centuries. The particularity of this style is large-scale images. For example, the Savior’s face is about 5 or 6 meters long, and His figure is 11 meters. 60 icon-painters worked on new frescoes, and about 100 more people helped to paint different decorations. Involved were the sisters of the convent, as well as specialists from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Minsk and Troitse-Sergieva Lavra (Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius).
On May 19, 2013 the head of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill consecrated the restored cathedral. At the moment, Alexandro-Nevsky cathedral is the only working church in the convent.
Another monastery in Ekaterinburg is Krestovozdvizhensky male monastery, with a history a lot less long. It was founded only in 1995. Although, the church that is a base of the monastery was built in the end of the 19th century.
|Krestovozdvizhensky male monastery, 31 Karla Marxa St.|
Krestovozdvizhenskaya church was originally built as a house church of Ekaterinburg charity community orphanage. In addition, at the beginning of the 20th century it was often attended by the soldiers of nearby barracks. In 1927-1930 the church served as the cathedral of Ekaterinburg. 12 priests were conducting services here, therefore the church was popularly called the “Cathedral of 12 apostles”.
In 1930 the cathedral was deprived of its dome and belfry, and the main building was used as a cinema. During the Great Patriotic War an elephant from one of the evacuated zoos lived in one of the church altars. After the war the church was divided into two levels. Workshops of the Art fund were placed at the ground floor, and various architectural companies occupied the first floor.
In the 1990s it was decided to open a recording studio for Sverdlovsk State broadcasting company (SGTRK). To do this, understorey partitions and out of service heating system were taken down. But state financing of SGTRK was reduced and in 1993 the building was returned to Ekaterinburg Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The first works of the church restoration were managed by Ural Cossack community, and a hereditary Cossack became its first father superior. At first, services were conducted in the former belfry (now a monastery refectory). The building was heated with an electric heat gun.
In 1995 a monastery was founded on the basis of Krestovozdvizhenskaya church. There’re only about ten monks; they do mainly missionary work, including work with the youth. The students of a theological seminary also live in the monastery.
It is very likely that the most visited by Ekaterinburg monastery is the monastery in the name of Saint Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama. The place where the monastery is situated is well-known far outside of Ekaterinburg: it is the place where the bodies of the last Russian Emperor and his family were brought after execution in 1918.
The monastery in the name of Saint Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, Shuvakish
The monastery is located about 20 km from Ekaterinburg, near Shuvakish township and the village of Koptyaki. In the middle of the 19th century this land plot was bought for gold mining by a contractor Gavriil, nick-named Ganya. Therefore, the place became known as Ganina Yama (Ganya’s pit-hole). The gold was never found there, but the mine was rich in iron ore. The latter was being extracted here until the beginning of the 20th century. During the Revolution the mine was completely deserted. It was one of these old mines, where the Romanovs’ bodies were secretly dropped after the execution.
In 1991 a memorial cross was installed on this site. The monastery construction took place in 2000-2003. 7 churches (by the number of executed members of the Royal Family) were built. The first church in the name of Saint Royal Martyrs is devoted to the Romanov family. The other churches – in the name of the Iveron icon of Virgin Mary, in the name of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, in the name of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, and in the name of Our Lady Derzhavnaya ("The Sovereign") icon – are devoted to the saints and the icons the Royal family preferred to pray to.
Two last two churches – in the name of Saint Job and in the name of Saint Nicholas – are symbolically connected with the name and destiny of the Tsar. Saint Nicholas was considered the celestial protector of Emperor Nicholas II, while the birthday of the future Emperor fell on the Saint Job Memorial Day. They say, being a very religious person, Nicholas II considered this a divine sign and he expected his destiny to be tragic.
Besides of the churches, there is a belfry, a refectory for pilgrims, a museum and a church shop on the territory of Ganina Yama. The monastery in Ganina Yama (along with Church-on-the-Blood) is a Mecca for pilgrims and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the outskirts of Ekaterinburg.