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Epiphany Church (Tver)

Builovo Village, Rameshkovsky District, Tverskaya Oblast', Tver, tel.: +7 4822 33-13-70.

When passing the 22nd kilometre point of the road going from Rameshki to Kiverichi, one cannot help fixing his or her eyes on a grand stone church dedicated to the Epiphany. The Church is situated on a hill with Builovo graveyard around it. The word "graveyard" means an area around a parish church, where departed Christians are buried. The first burials date back to 1727.

From 1930 to 1940, when the Church was closed for the believers, the clergy's houses were confiscated and given to peasants. Alyoshino Village, an administrative centre of Alyoshinsky Rural District, which combines twenty villages of the Epiphany Parish, is 500 km (310 miles) away from the Church.

Before 1721, ponds were where Builovo graveyard is now. The ponds were separated with a boundary, thus the area got its name "Dvoyeprudnaya Wasteland", which can be translated as "Two-ponded Wasteland". According to legend, the Karelian people moved there from Olonetskaya Province, after the Treaty of Stolbovo between Sweden and Russia was signed in 1617. According to the peace treaty, some parts of Karelia, situated in Finland, were taken by Sweden.

Before 1728, citizens of Builovo belonged under St. George Parish. The beautiful church, dedicated to St. George, was situated in Georgievskoye Village, which was formerly called Inogostitsi and owned by a Polish landowner Sheptitsky. He charged one coin per person to enter the Church, which was illegal. During church services, his house-serfs unharnessed Karelian prayers' horses and took them away. This led to quarrels and fights, which often finished with murders. In 1721, the Karelians decided to build their own wooden church in Dvoyeprudnaya Wasteland to avoid any further oppression by Sheptitsky and his house-serfs.

The wasteland was surrounded by centuries-old pine forest abounding in cowberries. New settlers paid their attention to this fact and named the area "Buolla" which means "cowberry" in Karelian. So, the new settlement is still called Builovo. The villagers worked with zeal and ardour. In 1728, construction of the church was finished. On 12 March 1738, it was consecrated and dedicated to St. George.

The first priest of the newly built church was a widower Yerofey Ivanov 55 years old. A 45-year-old sexton Ivan Savin helped him.

In time the Church's building became dilapidated. In 1781, lower rows of beams were renewed. During the 1792 general meeting of the parishioners, it was decided to build a stone church in Builovo. In 1810, a new church's refectory was constructed, the wooden church was demolished, and an iconostasis with icons was moved to the stone church.

In 1815, two side chapels and the refectory were consecrated. The southern side chapel was dedicated to St. Nicholas, while the northern one to St. George.

In 1819, the Church was fenced.

In 1831, the roof was ironed.

In 1843, stone floors were replaced with wooden.

In 1849, permission was got to cast a big bell for the Church.

In 1850, the wooden floors, board roof of the fence, and two gates were painted.

In 1865, a central side chapel of the summer church dedicated to the Epiphany was constructed and consecrated.

In 1879, it was permitted to extend the Church.

In 1882, after all construction works were finished and the Church walls were decorated with paintings, two new side chapels built in the summer church were consecrated.

In 1895, iconostases were gilded and paintings were renewed with support from a Church's warden.

In 1899, new iconostases were made in the refectory.

The central altar was dedicated to the Epiphany, the right altar to the Nativity, and the left one to St. Arsenius of Tver. In the refectory, the northern side chapel was consecrated in dedication to St. Nicholas, while the southern one to St. George.

The winter church was heated by four Dutch ovens.

The construction of the stone church was mainly financed by a prosperous peasant of Ustugi Village Grigory Fyodorov.

For fifty two years, from 1835 to 1887, a wonderful priest served in the Epiphany Church. His name was Ioann Bogoslovsky. His last days he spent in Kashin Klobuk Monastery of St. Nicholas. When he was 75 years old, he was honoured to talk to the Most Reverend Sava, the Archbishop of Tver and Kashin, who wrote to the Holy Synod in his 1889 annual report: "This clergyman (farther Ioann Bogoslovsky) is exemplary pious and of high moral standards. He gives an object lesson to the fraternity. Being a very inquisitive and well-read person, he takes an active part in meetings with the people, which are held every Sunday in one of the town churches. On his own time, he has didactic talks with cenobites of the Klobuk Monastery of St. Nicholas, where he is a confessor."

"This elderly aged man told me that during his long life he faced many wonderful events, which he defines as divine providence. I recommended him to write about these events of his life and give it to me. He followed my recommendation and described everything in details."

From his notes I learned some facts about the Epiphany Parish Church in Builovo and would like to share them with you.

"In 1721, when Builovo Church was founded, its clergymen were granted a haying Mirovo Wasteland seven versts (7.5 km or 4.5 miles) away from the Church. They owned it for over a century. Numerous audits were carried out, when the land lots were distributed among peasants. However, none of the villages appropriated the wasteland, and the peasants did not benefit anything from it, but left all the profit to the Church. In the 1830s, the peasants re-measured the lands. Peasant Kosma Trofimov from Kresti Village, which no longer exists, was elected to be in charge of everything relative to land distribution among villages.

Mirovo Wasteland is two versts (2.1 km or 1.3 miles) away from this village and adjoins the field. During the meeting, it was unanimously agreed to give the wasteland to the clergymen again. However, the elected measurer Kosma Trofimov and two more peasants of the village Yelisei Matveyev and Trofim Andreyev objected. Being very serious, they told that the wasteland was in proximity to their village, thus they should own it, because they have children and they need it.

Some of the peasants contradicted them, but the measurer distributed the land to his village anyway. This decision was approved by the authorities, and the clergymen were left without the hayfield. Meanwhile, peasants received twelve dessiatinas (13 ha or 32 acres) of land each. It showed that there was no lack in lands and actually they did not need the wasteland. However, the Lord did not leave the Church in need.

Landlords of the neighbouring parishes sold us their serf hayfields for fair price. Two priests, a deacon, and two junior deacons purchased grassland and became independent. It was said in the first register books of the wasteland: "The descendants who want to appropriate the land will be cursed." Since these words were written in draft copies only, the peasants did not deem it was their duty to execute their ancestors' will. However, the quarrellers were cursed by God anyway.

Peasant Trofim Andreyev, who argued more than others did and who said: "I dream of taking Mirovo away from the clergymen", travelled home from Tver this very summer. He was found dead of drink in his cart. The amazing thing was that he was found in the same fence gap, which he broke by himself several days before while trying to adjoin the wasteland to his field. The fence and the breach were at the very border between Mirovo and his field. The cart with the dead person stood in the wasteland, while a horse, caught in the fence, in his field. He was found the other day. However, the dead body was left in the taken land not just for a night but a whole week before investigators from the Zemsky court arrived.

Death caught him at the scene of crime, which evidences about God's will. Another participant of the conflict, Yelisey Matveyev, did not repent and receive communion before dying. When I arrived to the village to address him with good words before he passed away, I could hear him wheezing in the house. Yelisey lay on the floor foaming at the mouth. He was unconscious and did not move. Then he died. All members of this family died and left no descendants. Measurer Kosma Trofimov fell ill with some disease which made him look green like Mirovo grass. He was rich, had up to 20 dairy cows, nine horses, and two granaries full of bread. However, his son, the only heir, is quite narrow-minded and lives in want. God is never merciful to offenders of His servants.

In 1864, a new side chapel was added to Builovo Church. Bricks were required for this construction. The nearest brickworks were 250 meters (820 ft) away from the Church. On the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, village elders instructed peasants to come to the Church in their carts after the mess to transport bricks. Parishioners were glad to do this, but one peasant, Fyodor Petrov, from Belkino village refused completely. However, all together forced him to go. Passing by houses of clergymen, he loudly blamed the God's servants for their intention to build the Church and forcing peasants to work. He called them the worst possible names and screamed out the dirtiest words in their regard. Everybody could hear this, but nobody said anything against. When coming to the brickworks, where just few horses and people were, he loaded his cart with bricks and was ready to ride back. However, his horse, being though one of the best in the village, remained where it was. He lashed it trying to hurry, but the horse fell down and died.

Another hortatory incident happened in Panikha village, where it was not raining since the Holy Week until mid June. Coming up spring seeds and garden vegetables withered, meanwhile it rained in other villages and fields. The entire field of the neighbouring village Gorka was showered, while not a single drop of rain fell on Panikha's fields, which were separated from the Gorka's lands with a meter-wide border only. Panikha's peasants were very surprised with this fact. On 14 June, they came to me to tell about their problem and asked me to recite the liturgy on 15 June, the Day of All Who Sorrow, and then visit their village to pray for rain in their fields. I promised. Next day, I went to pray after the liturgy. I prayed in all fields with consecration of water and genuflection. After all field prayers were said, peasants invited me to their houses to pray there too. It was a bright and hot day. When I made the round of several houses, clouds appeared in the west and started to thunder. The sky became covered with storm clouds. Before I finished praying, it powered with such a heavy rain that all ditches filled with water. After the rain, rye, vegetables, and grass went up. This year, the peasants had the most abundant harvest ever. This mercy of the Virgin Mary amazed the peasants and they promised to hold a thanksgiving service in Her honour this same day every year. They still keep their promise."

Farther Ioann Bogoslovsky wrote in his 1887 report, "Before 1861, peasants of Alyoshinskaya Volost (District) belonged to the State and lived much richer than in 1884. Public houses are considered to be the reason for such a sudden impoverishment. Formerly, pubs were in Ilgoschi, Ivanovskoye, and Morkini Gori villages, in other words, 10–15 km (6–9 miles) away, while now the longest distance between these bars is 3–5 km (2–3 miles). If formerly people drank a quarter of wine or even less during a wedding, then now one or two pails of wine are required to celebrate the event (wine is getting more expensive though). For this reason, those peasants who had two or three granaries, came down to buy bread and sell their cattle.

If a head of a small-scale farm, who made all hard work, dies or is in poor health, or if farm animals die, peasants leave their lands. As a matter of fact, most of the peasants live much poorer than in 1861."

In addition to the Epiphany Church, the parish owned three more wooden chapels. One of them was situated in Lavrovo Village and was supported by local peasants. According to legend, there was an ancient icon, moved there by the Karellians from Olonets Province, in this village. Another chapel dedicated to the Nativity was in Ustyugi Village. It is not known when these chapels were constructed, but they are referred to as "ancient" in historical documents. The third chapel was four kilometres (2.5 miles) away from the Epiphany Church in Chubarikha Village. The Tver Construction Department decided to build it on 10 August 1904. Architect Nazarin and engineer Koshelev were assigned to fulfil the project. The chapel was 12 meters (39 ft) high and had a two-meter high cross upon a three-meter high roof. In 1905, the Church was constructed. In August 1905, engineer Koshelev allowed to consecrate the Chapel.

It was supervised by priest Vasily Porkrovsky. Farther Vasily was 43 years old. He began to work in Builovo Church in 1884 and was made a priest in 1888. In 1897, he was awarded a skull-cap by the diocesan superiors for being diligent in his work. Most likely, it was that same priest who was very loved and respected by local citizens, as old residents tell. For his diligent service, God awarded him insight, healing ability, and ability to perform requiem services over demon-possessed and mentally ill people. He died at the end of March or beginning of April 1932. Almost all parishioners of the Epiphany Church came to pay their last tribute to the wonderful person. Chubarikha citizens risked their lives, when crossed the Ivitsa River during flood time, to give the last honours to their beloved priest. His grave is still near the Church. However, it was forgotten in time and nobody cares about it now. It would be fair to put the grave in order and mount a tombstone, so that today parishioners could bow and pray to the comforter of our ancestors.

Chubarikha Chapel's trustee Prokhor Ponizovsky first lived in Chubarikha Village and later moved into Tableshi Village. A warden Anton Veselov lived in the village of Zaruchie in Alyoshinskaya Volost.

On 7 June 1996, Whit Monday, the Chapel, an art pearl of local craftsmen, went to ruin as a result of elemental forces and unbelief. The ruins reminded of its former beauty for a while. However, they soon disappeared in furnaces of the villagers. Foundation stones, overgrown with weeds, still evidence though about the sacred place once built in Chubarikha.

The second priest Simeon Bogoslovsky was a son of the venerable elder Ioann Bogoslovsky. Farther Simeon started as a priest in 1887. Nothing is known about his further life.

The years, when believers rejoiced at the Church's consecration, passed. Parishioners went to services and administered sacraments with hope and love. Life was full of meaning and sense. However, grief came in the stead of joy. Times were hard. All sacred things were scorned and destroyed.

Villagers ran riot or kept silence giving their consent to plunder the Church. Observing all this, God allowed shutting down Builovo Church in the early 1930s. Later, the building was used as a warehouse. However, God forgave and forgot, because some people were still faithful and did not sin. In 1992, the Church invited parishioners again to pray for the Motherland's salvation and ask pardon for their sins. The Epiphany Church was revived.

Vladimir Shuvalov (priest).

Image Gallery (1)

Epiphany Church