The Resurrected Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. A Photo-narrative
It's hard to believe that this is the same old church building. Just twenty years ago everything was different: low ceiling, a small plywood iconostasis, floor made of planks, dirty-white walls... And now the church has resurrected and become like a fabulous palace! The Lord has done this miracle, having gathered 5000 people to work on the restoration of the church: architects, constructors, iconographers, engravers, and gilders... One wants to go back and reminisce on how this miracle came about.
A Photo-narrative about the restoration of the main church in honor of St. Alexander Nevsky at the Novo-Tikhvinsky women's monastery in Ekaterinburg.
This church has always been emblematic of Ekaterinburg. Majestic, tall, fortress-like, it could be seen from several kilometers afar.
The cathedral was being constructed in a conjoint effort: the monastery sisters would make bricks and transfer them with their own hands for this church; the project of the church building was developed by a well-known in Ural architect Mikhail Malakhov; chief capital architects Charlemagne and Visconti participated in the creation of the project; donations for the church were coming from the entire Ural region from factory owners, administrators, and simple villagers. The cathedral was finished by 1854. This is how it was captured by the famous photographer Prokudin-Gorsky.
The church has survived the October Revolution Ц the building stayed intact. Nevertheless, the crosses and the bells were stripped off of it, and inside reinforced concrete coverings that divided the church into 5 floors were installed.
In the cathedral's yard they placed a museum of military equipment; a tank was put up against the main entrance, its muzzle facing the church. In the church itself, beginning with 1960s, a local history museum got stationed. In the closed archival department of the museum, many sacred things had been kept, among them Ц one of the main relics of the Ural and Siberia Ц the relics of St. Simeon of Verkhoturye. Nobody in the Ural region knew about that, except for a few museum employees.
In 1991, after a 30-day-long hunger strike of the faithful organized by the maiden of God Olga (later Ц nun Olga), the cathedral in honor of St. Alexander Nevsky was returned to the Church. A plywood iconostasis and icons were put up inside.
Even though the interior of the cathedral did not quite look like a church, but, rather, reminded catacombs, the people of Ekaterinburg immediately fell in love with it.
Having survived the Soviet years, the church of St. Alexander Nevsky looked like a warrior who had just returned from a blood-shedding combat, covered with wounds from feet to head. Gradually, the restoration of the church began. A new roof and gilded crosses were installed on the cupola.
Scaffolding were set up, and the facade prepared for the renovation of the plaster layer.
The most difficult work lay ahead inside the church building. First and foremost, the reinforced concrete coverings dividing it into floors had to be taken off. How can that be done without harming the church walls? The blasting equipment conveys vibration that is capable of weakening the walls' durability. Therefore, the coverings have to be removed by means of special cutting tools.
In order to do this, a special crane was developed that was assembled right inside the church. This crane would support a reinforced concrete beam, and a special device would cut off the beam from the walls with a diamond lug, centimeter by centimeter. These works were carried on for several months.
Gradually the church was being freed from the coverings...
...and finally, the entire capacity of the church lay open. You could see the traces from the coverings between the second and the third floors Ц like scars left over from the Soviet time. The sisters began making the first sketches of the frescoes.
Sisters worked on the exterior and the interior of the church for several years, carefully drawing every detail and the composition as a whole.
A template of the church 1.5 meters high was handcrafted; linear sketches of the future frescoes put through, and the color sketch done. The interior of the church was devised by the sisters together with the Ekaterinburg architects Mikhail Goloborodsky, Vladimir Rudnev, and Inna Ilmuratova. While working on the interior design, the sisters and the architects were aiming at the prominent models of the Byzantine church building: the church of Hagia Sophia and the Chora monastery in Istambul (the former Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire).
The capitels are being restored.
Decorative elements adorning the pillars before the revolution and partly destroyed in the Soviet time, are fully restored, sizes and forms preserved exactly at the restoration.
Inscriptions are carved around the church Ц the verses from the Psalms of Prophet David: "O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy glory dwelleth," "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple"
The entire bell tower is in scaffolding: the ruined areas of the brick masonry must be restored; the dome with a steeple recreated. The height of the bell tower with the new steeple is 62 meters.
The interior finish of the church was started from the ground floor.
With great trepidation did the sisters approach the main work Ц painting the walls of the church.
First, they made a draft image of the Savior in the central dome, to see how this depiction would look.
A sister paints the image of the Lord Almighty on the dome. Working on this image was particularly complicated due to its enormous sizes: e.g., the diameter of the Savior's halo is 4 meters long.
All of the walls of the church are covered with frescoes. Along with the sisters, some of the best iconographers in Russia and Belorussia worked on the frescoes: Aleksey Vronsky with his team; iconographers from Vladimir, St. Sergius Lavra, and St. Elizabeth monastery in Minsk. Altogether, about 150 saints and over 50 Scriptural themes are depicted in the church.
Depicted are the smallest details and ornaments.
While the restoration of the church was coming along, paraclesis services would often be served right off scaffolding, calling for the help of God, that He would help make His house beautiful as a Paradise.
Finally, time came to remove the scaffolding.
The church shone in all its beauty.
Artisans from Moscow, Serbia, and Belorussia labored over its interior furnishings Ц the awning over the altar, lampadas, carved decorations, and mosacis.
Finally, came the day of the consecration performed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. May 19, 2013. The week of the Myrrh-bearing women.
Everything is ready for consecration.
The church is consecrated, according to a special office in which every liturgical act is deeply symbolic. Warm water is poured on the altar table as a sign of spiritual purification; the clergy then wipe the altar dry.
Rose water mixed with wine is poured crosswise. Rose water signifies the myrrh brought by the women for the entombment of Christ, and wine symbolizes the blood shed on Golgotha.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill accompanied by the clergy goes into procession with holy relics around the newly consecrated church.
In front of the closed doors, his Holiness Patriarch prays for the church to be renewed with grace and to always be the dwelling of God, the abode and hospital of souls, the instrument of prayers and sacraments of God, and that it would stand abiding forever. Then, having opened the gates of the church, as if the entrance to Heaven, his Holiness Patriarch makes an entrance into the church with the holy relics.
The holy relics are being placed in the altar and into the sanctified antiminses.
This day Ц the day of the beginning of a new life for the church Ц has become unforgettable.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill with hierarchs and clergy co-celebrating, performs the first Liturgy at the newly consecrated church.
The church has become one of the favorite churches for the people in Ekaterinburg. Every day hundreds of people come here to pray at a worship service, to relax spiritually, and to touch the beauty of Orthodoxy. On the day of the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God -- the church feast of the monastery -- several thousand people gather together here.
As saint Justin the Serbian says, "every holy church is a particle of heaven on earth. And when you are in church, lo, you are already in heaven. When earth tortures you with its hell, hurry to the church, come in, and behold, you have entered paradise. And if it happens that legions of demons attack you, go run to the church -- stand amidst the holy Angels, for the church is always full of Angels, and the Angels of God will protect you from all the demons of this world. Then nothing will be able to harm you. Do not forget, brothers: we, Christians, are strong in God. Who then can be stronger than us? No one, no one!"