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Orthodox Prague

Photographs by Vova Pomortzeff

St Nicholas' Cathedral on the Old Town Square in Prague was the centre of Orthodox life for almost one hundred years. The abandoned cathedral building was given to the Russian Orthodox Church in the middle of the 19th century. Shortly after Orthodox frescos and the splendid crystal chandelier, a gift of tsar Alexander II of Russia, appeared in the interior of the repaired Baroque cathedral. During World War I Orthodox services in the cathedral were banned by the Austrian authorities and the cathedral's priest Nikolay Ryzhkov was arrested. After the war, when Czechoslovakia became an independent state, the cathedral was given to the newly established Czechoslovakian Hussite Church. However, the Orthodox community of Prague, grown dramatically due the Russian emigrants who had escaped to Czechoslovakia from the Bolshevik Revolution, was allowed to use the cathedral regularly for their services. After May 1945 the Orthodox believers were banished from St Nicholas' Cathedral entirely. Currently, Orthodox services are held in the cathedral only once a year at the Easter.

1. Orthodox Easter procession on the Old Town Square in Prague.

 

2. St Nicholas' Cathedral on the Old Town Square in Prague.

 

3. Orthodox Easter night service in St Nicholas' Cathedral on the Old Town Square.

 

4. Orthodox Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia at the head of the Easter procession.

 

5. Extant Orthodox frescos of Jesus Christ in the apse of St Nicholas' Cathedral.

 

6. Orthodox Easter procession in the Old Town Square in Prague.

 

7. Crystal chandelier presented to St Nicholas' Cathedral by tsar Alexander II of Russia.

 

The history of St Nicholas' House Church in Dejvice quarter in Prague began in 1924–25, when the Czech-Russian Professorial Building and Housing Condominium build there two new apartment buildings for Russian high school professors who escaped to Prague from the Bolshevik Revolution. At the same time a small house church was established in the basement of one of the buildings. When St Nicholas' Cathedral in the Old Town Square was closed, the parts of the iconostasis and the holy gates from the closed cathedral were transferred to the basement church. Thus St Nicholas' House Church become a heir to the main Orthodox cathedral of Prague. In May 1945, shortly after the Soviet Army liberated Prague, most of Russian emigrants who lived in the 'professorial' houses were arrested by the Soviet counterintelligence SMERSH and deported to the Soviet Union, where most of them were lost in the GULAG. Their apartments in Prague were assigned to the 'more trustworthy' Czech families. For long decades the only reminder of the 'Russian' origins of the 'professorial' houses was St Nicholas' House Church. At present, the church is also under the danger of liquidation. Some time ago, descendants of those Czech families, who occupied the newly vacated apartments of Russian emigrants sixty years ago, have begun a law sue against the Orthodox believers to evict them from the basement. Local inhabitants do not like that people enter the church through the main door of the building and light candles inside the church. At this time the Orthodox believers have managed to defend their rights for the basement, but the future of St Nicholas' House Church is very uncertain.

8. The priest of St Nicholas' House Church Pavlo Celič during a religious service on Ascension Day.

 

9. Religious service on Pentecost Sunday in St Nicholas' House Church.

 

10. Old Orthodox icons decorate the walls in St Nicholas' House Church.

 

11. Detail of the original holy gates from St Nicholas' Cathedral on the Old Town Square in Prague. The holy gates were too large for the small basement church. It were fixed on the wall in St Nicholas' House Church and never open for many decades.

 

12. The orthodox iconostasis removed from St Nicholas' Cathedral on the Old Town Square in Prague and installed inside St Nicholas' House Church. Some parts of the iconostasis were also fixed on the church's walls.

 

13. Refreshments after the service on Pentecost Sunday in St Nicholas' House Church.

 

The relics of St Ludmila in St George's Basilica in Prague Castle are considered to be the most sacred Orthodox relics in Prague. St Ludmila was a spouse of Prince Bořivoj, the first Christian ruler of Bohemia, and a grandmother of St Wenceslas. She was killed by the order of her pagan daughter-in-law Drahomíra. St Ludmila's tomb is situated in the side chapel of St George's Basilica, which is close for public usually. Orthodox believers are allowed to hold a religious service in front of the miracle-working relics of St Ludmila only once a year.

14. Orthodox priest Václav Míšek prays in front of the chapel, where St Ludmila is buried in St George's Basilica.

 

15. Orthodox believers pray in front of the relics of St Ludmila in St George's Basilica.

 

16. The Orthodox Akathist Hymn to St Ludmila in St George's Basilica.

 

17. Orthodox believers pray in front of the chapel, where St Ludmila is buried in St George's Basilica.

 

18. Candles in front of the relics of St Ludmila in St George's Basilica.

 

19. Orthodox priest Igor Yefremushkin prays in front of the tomb of St Wenceslas in the St Wenceslas' Chapel of St Vitus' Cathedral in Prague Castle. Prince Wenceslas, the grandson of St Ludmila and the patron saint of the Czech Republic, was also canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as St Vyacheslav of the Czech Lands.

 

Deceased Orthodox believers rest in peace at the Russian part of the Olšany Cemetery in Prague, beside the graves of famous Russian emigrants as satirist Arkady Averchenko, poet Daniil Ratgauz, widow of military commander Alexey Brusilov, son of painter Viktor Vasnetsov, mother of novelist Vladimir Nabokov and others. Some of the most famous graves however may be freed soon, because many emigrants have been entrusted to be buried in Russia. Historian Fyodor Shcherbina, the first researcher of the history of the Kuban Cossacks, was the first signs of this trend. He escaped from the Bolshevik Revolution to Czechoslovakia and was buried in the crypt of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague. Sixty years after his death, his descendants decided to fulfil his last wish and rebury him in Russia. In September 2008, after an Orthodox memorial service in the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery, the seal coffin with the remains of Fyodor Shcherbina was transferred to Krasnodar, the capital city of the Kuban Cossacks in South Russia.

20. Orthodox memorial service over the remains of Russian historian Fyodor Shcherbina in the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague. After the service the remains were transferred to Russia.

 

21. Graves of Russian emigrants at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague. Famous Russian satirist Arkady Averchenko is buried under the grey obelisk in the background. He also wished to be reburied in Russia, as soon as possible. Therefore Arkady Averchenko was buried at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague temporary in a special double coffin, inside a wooden coffin was an enclosed zinc coffin.

 

22. Detail of the tombstone of Prince Sergey Golitsyn at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

23. Graves of Russian emigrants and the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

24. Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia leads an orthodox memorial service over the remains of Russian historian Fyodor Shcherbina in the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery.

 

Epiphany Day, celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox churches on January 19, is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year, being third in rank, behind only the Easter and Pentecost Sunday in importance. The Epiphany marks the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. For this reason, the fest is strongly connected with water. The main celebration of the Epiphany Day in Prague traditionally held on the bank of the Vltava River:

25. Traditional Epiphany bathing in the Vltava River in Prague.

 

26. Orthodox Epiphany procession on the embankment of the Vltava River.

 

27. Young boy attends the Epiphany service on the embankment of the Vltava River in Prague.

 

28. Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (centre) consecrates Epiphany water with assistance of Metropolitan Kirill of Varna from Bulgaria (right) on the embankment of the Vltava River in Prague.

 

29. Traditional Epiphany bathing in the Vltava River in Prague.

 

30. Epiphany morning service in front of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

31. Orthodox believers filling bottles by Epiphany consecrated water at the Olšany Cemetery.

 

32. Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (right) and Orthodox priest Vladislav Dolgushin, the dean of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery (left), consecrate Epiphany water in front of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

33. Orthodox cross in the Vltava River.

 

Baptism of seven-months-old boy Alexander Gerbeev in the Annunciation Church at the Lawn in Prague:

34. Boy's parents Svetlana and Konstantin Gerbeev and his older sister Eliška attend the baptism ceremony.

 

35. Alexander Gerbeev is baptized by submersion by Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in the Annunciation Church at the Lawn in Prague.

 

36. Alexander Gerbeev rests at the hands of his godmother after the baptism ceremony.

 

Every spring the miracle-working icon of the Virgin 'The Softener of Evil Hearts' arrives to Prague from Russia. It has become traditional pilgrimage visits in recent years. The icon of the Virgin 'The Softener of Evil Hearts', also known as the Virgin of Seven Arrows, has suddenly begun to shed the holy oil in 1998. It happened in the house of Anastasia Basharina shortly after its owner put the icon to the relics of Saint Matrona of Moscow. Since then, the icon is shedding the holy oil constantly and travelling all around the world with pilgrimage visits:

37. Miracle-working icon of the Virgin 'Softener of Evil Hearts' at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

38. Orthodox service in front of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

39. Miracle-working icon of the Virgin 'Softener of Evil Hearts' at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

 

St Ludmila's Church, the new Orthodox church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Prague, was consecrated in the end of 2012. The church was rebuild from the former showroom of the Soviet trade mission in the Siberian Square next to the Russian Embassy in Prague. St Ludmila's Church has became the third and the largest church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Czech Republic, after St Peter and Paul's Church in Karlovy Vary and St George's Church in the territory of the Russian Embassy in Prague.

40. Workers paint the walls in St Ludmila's Church.

 

41. Installation of the iconostasis with an icon of St Ludmila in the new church.

 

42. Worker carves a wooden panel of the iconostasis for the new church.

 

43. Worker unpacks a new icon of St Princess Elizabeth.

 

44. Last preparations before the consecration of the new church.

 

45. Icon of Archangel Gabriel for the iconostasis of the new church.

 

The photographs of this feature were shot from September 2003 to January 2013. This story isn't finished jet. New photographs will be added soon.

Copyright © 2013 Vova Pomortzeff

 
   
Pilgrimage to the Great River   The Hill of Crosses   Pskov Monastery of the Caves
         
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