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Church of St. Isidore, Church of Hieromartyr Isidore of Yuryev (Saint Petersburg)

24 Rimskogo-Korsakova Street, Saint Petersburg (tel.: +7 812 714-25-83, +7 812 495-07-02, +7 812 714-31-50), Metro stations: "Sennaya Ploshchad", "Sadovaya", "Tekhnologichesky Institut", "Baltiyskaya".


The guides on St. Petersburg that mention St. Isidore's Church usually emphasise that the Church is an Estonian one. Historically, it is true. In the early 20th century, St. Petersburg's Estonian Orthodox diaspora numbered around 4,000 people, becoming increasingly united. Two events in 1898 contributed to this: the final canonisation of Hieromartyr Isidore of Yuryev and the creation, by the priest Pavel Kulbush and Protoiereus Filosof Ornatsky, of the Orthodox Brotherhood in honour of this saint. It was then that the idea of building a church for the Orthodox Estonians in the capital of the Russian Empire was conceived.

The realisation of the project was undertaken by the architect Aleksandr Poleshchuk; since he did it almost without pay, he was made an honorary member of the Brotherhood. The first contribution to the fund for the construction of the Church was made by St. John of Kronstadt, who would also be present when the foundation stone was being laid.

On 24 August 1903, after a project preparation stage, in the corner of Lermontovsky Avenue (then Masterskaya Street) and Rimskogo-Korsakova Avenue (then Ekateringofsky Avenue) the foundation stone of a spacious, light, high and warm stone church in the Russian Revival style was laid. The solemn consecration of this site, which took place on 20 April 1903, was presided over by Bishop Constantine of Gdov. That day, solemn cross processions involving sacred objects and wonder-working icons went along Ekateringofsky Avenue from many Petersburg churches. From the Epiphany Maritime Cathedral of St. Nicholas, a wonder-working icon of St. Nicholas the Holy Hierarch was brought and used for blessing the construction site. First of all, a temporary wooden chapel, which was built near the construction site, was consecrated; later, a building of the Estonian community was erected, with the Church subsequently added to it.

Because of a lack of funds, the Church was built with interruptions. First, on 23 September (Old Style) 1907, Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) consecrated the central side-altar of the upper church in the name of Isidore the Hieromartyr, followed by the side-altar of the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov three days after.

On 30 March next year, the lower side-altar was consecrated in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker, followed on 4 May by the right side-altar of the upper church, consecrated in the name of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles.

The iconostasis of the upper church was made, based on a sketch by Aleksandr Poleshchuk, by the iconostasis master P. Abrosimov, with the icons for it made by the artist V. Perminov. In 1910–1912, the altar tables were faced with white Carrara marble.

The parish lived an active life, providing a school for jobless young girls, an almshouse, a library, and a lyceum. The parish kept an Estonian-speaking parish school, which was opened in October 1896 and existed up until June 1917. The school accommodated 120–130 schoolchildren, offering them a 5-years course of general education, but with an Orthodox bias; it provided teaching of quite high quality. For children, the Brotherhood organised discussions on spirituality and morality and present-giving celebrations. Great significance was also attached to missionary work, because the Estonians were largely Lutherans and there were as many as 10,000 of them in the city. Besides educational work, the parish provided material aid to destitute Estonians, offered temporary accommodation, and attracted people by social sermon. It is true though that the parish, which numbered 2,453 people in 1911, consisted of Russians and people of other ethnicities as well as of Estonians.

After the 1917 Russian Revolution, two important events happened. Firstly, the Church ceased to be an Estonian one, because authorities prohibited keeping churches at societies and also because almost all the Estonians went to their historic homeland. The second event was the election of Protoiereus Kulbush, who had built the Church and had been its first dean, to the position of the bishop of Tallinn (then Revel), for providing support for the Estonian flock, the local ones and the ones emigrated. The Church's second priest, Protoiereus Aleksandr Paklyar, who had served at St. Isidore's Church since 1904, became the new dean. Thanks to him, in 1918–1920 the parish continued the religious, moral and cultural upbringing of children, which was assisted by the Children's Union established by the priest Karp Elb.

In the 1920s, for a relatively long time, the church house was occupied by Petrograd Higher Courses in Theology (Petrograd being the name of St. Petersburg from 1914 to 1924), the only theological higher-education institution run by the Russian Church.

In the 1920s, having received the support of the parishioners, the Church's clergy decided not to obey the Higher Church Administration, set up by the Renewed Church, but instead to keep their loyalty to St. Patriarch Tikhon.

In the second half of the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s, the parish of St. Isidore's Church financially supported the following churches:
– the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Zelenetsk Monastery;
– St. Theodore's Cathedral, in Tovarny Lane;
– the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, beyond Neva Barrier;
– Tikhvin Church, in the village of Lesnoye;
– the Church of Venerable Seraphim and the Church of Tenderness, both in Peterhof;
– Ss. Boris and Gleb Church, in Kalashnikovskaya Embankment;
– the Lavrskaya Kinoviya, on the right bank of the river Neva;
– St. Spyridon's Church, in the town of Lomonosov (then Oranienbaum);
– the Epiphany Church, on Gutuyevsky Island.

Shut down on 25 February 1935, the Church was badly vandalised on the exterior as well as inside. Its beautiful Baroque iconostasis was destroyed, and the Church lost its only sacred object, the icon of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov painted on a part of the stone that the saint used to perform his heroic deed of prayer. Divided with two ceilings into three floors, the Church's interior was refurnished to house a school and a kindergarten. The domes were demolished.

The building had remained so vandalised on the exterior until the mid-1960s, when the domes were reconstructed to provide a nice view from the windows of the Sovetskaya Hotel, which was then under construction.

During the Second World War, the building accommodated military people, and later it housed a dormitory. The church house was converted into a block of flats. The Church's last "resident" was a combine of decorative art.

The Church was handed back to the Diocese on 30 November 1993; after fast redesign, in 1994, the lower side-altar and the chapel were consecrated, the former in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker. The Church started regularly hosting services, which in the beginning were performed by priests from the Epiphany Cathedral of St. Nicholas and from the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk. Taking into account that virtually no Oxthodox Estonians remained in St. Petersburg, it was decided that the Church would not be given back the national status of an Estonian church.

In 1994–1997, Protoiereus Oleg Netsvetayev was the Church's dean.

However, before Protoiereus Fyodor Lyubov was appointed the new dean of the Church, virtually no remodelling works had been done. Everything had to be done from scratch. In the upper side-altar, the added ceilings were removed, the Church was plastered anew, and in 2000 the dome received its first painting, a holy face of Pantocrator.

In early 2007, the upper church's wall paintings were fully completed. The first church icons, created by Gennady Klimenkov, appeared as did the first sacred objects: parts of the relics of Holy Hierarch St. Joseph of Belgorod, the Venerables Job and Amphilochius of Pochayev and the Venerables Peter and Phevronia of Murom. With the finishing of the Church's facade having been done, the Church sported 8 gilded crosses over the five main domes and over the three reconstructed small ones. In the course of the remodelling works, a total of 36 containers and 25 lorries of waste were removed from the Church. A sumptuous belfry were created, its largest bell weighing 300 kilograms (660 pounds). A large stained-glass window, depicting Christ the Saviour in Glory, was created.

The reconstruction of the superb, gilded, Baroque iconostasis was completed; its carving was done by Yaroslavl masters, its gilding was done by V. and L. Petrov, while the main works on the reconstruction of the iconostasis based on archive photographs were done by Ye. Topchy.

On the Easter Night of 2004, for the first time after the Church was shut down, church service was performed in the upper side-altar, and since September of 2006 regular church services have been performed in the side-altar of St. Isidore the Hieromartyr.

The centenary of the Church's first consecration, 10 October 2007, was marked by the Church with a solemn event: assisted by clergy from the Diocese, Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg and Ladoga solemnly consecrated the central side-altar of the upper church in the name of St. Isidore the Hieromartyr.

At the Church, there is a library and a parish Sunday school, the latter gathering as many as over fifty children for its Christmas and Easter concerts. The Church offers well-organised pilgrimage trips and children's classes of religious education, of needlework and of church chant.

Since October 2008, the parish have been extending its education activities, and now it is about to open the Orthodox Education Centre based on the existing, adult and children's, Sunday schools.

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Church of St. Isidore, Church of Hieromartyr Isidore of Yuryev