Baikal Irkutsk Trans Siberian

Irkutsk: Znamenskaya Church 

Znamenskaya or the Sign of the Cross church is standing beyond the Ushakovka river at the bank of the Angara river. It is now one of the active churches in Irkutsk. According to the chronicles the cathedral, once a nunnery, was founded at 1693. There was a wooden structure on the site of the present stone church.

It was Peter the Great, the Russian Imperator, who insisted on converting of non-Russian pagan population of Siberia to Christianity. In 1708 the Gospel signed by Peter the Great was granted to the church as a sign of particular monarchal favor. In 1757 the present Baroque style stone structure appeared. Like other Russian Orthodox Churches it is crowned by towers which are finished off in onion bulb like domes.

The cathedral was obviously modeled after the XVII-th century churches built in the European part of Russia. The bell-tower contained a lot of bells. The name of the church Znamenskaya comes from the name of the icon dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is translated as sign or omen. The orthodox icon Znamenie or Sign of the Cross is almost identical to the Oranta, the icon of Virgin Mary, well-known in Europe.

Both icons depict Virgin Mary full length with her arms outstretched or holding Jesus Christ. The icon signifies the aid the believers receive through the prayers. The church has many priceless ancient icons. According to the legend one of them – a waist portrait of Our Lady, was brought to Siberia by the explorers of this land. It is likely to be true because it bears the imprint of the northern Russia traditions of icon painting. That is the typical range of colors found in Novgorod. Now this icon is placed in the central chapel of the church.

The history of this church is tightly connected with the history of the Decembrists movement in Russia as there are several graves here of Decembrists who were exiled to Siberia in 1826. Beside the southern wall of the Cathedral there is the grave of Grigoriy Shelikhov, Russian traveler and explorer of Alaska. His name is inscribed on the tomb together with the verses of Russian poets Dmitriev and Derzhavin in one of which Shelikhov was names Russian Columbus. Shelikhov organized permanent settlements in Alaska and traded in that distant land. In 1783 Shelikhov founded a trade company in Irkutsk and after his death it received the name of Russian-American Trade Company.

Irkutsk: Znamenskaya ChurchIrkutsk: Znamenskaya Church

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