The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

The Most Wondrous Places of Orthodox Crimea


One of the oldest cities in the world is Kerch. It is known that its territory was inhabited in prehistoric times. Among the main attractions of Kerch are numerous excavations of ancient cities and mounds, ancient fortresses.This is the location of Crimea's oldest and one of the oldest temples on the entire territory of the CIS.

The Church of St. John the Baptist, built, according to different assumptions of scientists, between the 8th and 11th centuries, is the Byzantine church of the Northern Black Sea coast that survived a number of historical cataclysms. During its existence, the temple was the most important Christian center. It was converted into a mosque, and repeatedly reached a dilapidated state with broken windows and grass on the roof.

In the early 1930s, the church was closed "because of the absence of parishioners." It housed a museum of ancient art for a long time, and it wasn't given back to the Orthodox Church until 1990.

Made up of an ancient part and 19th-century constructions, today the Church of St. John the Forerunner is an active temple thanks to its unique and centuries-old history veiled in many legends and tales.


The Church of the Ascension of Christ in Foros is unique in its location - it is erected on a steep rock and is facing the altar not to the east, but towards the sea - a feature characteristic only of the South Coast temples. From the sea side, the church stands out clearly against the rocks and serves as a beacon for sea travelers.

The history of the temple is also amazing. It was built in memory of the wonderful salvation of Alexander III and his family. On October 17, 1888, the train, in which the imperial family rode, was derailed, but Alexander managed to hold the crumbling roof of the car so that all managed to get out.

In the 1930s, the church was plundered, and during the Great Patriotic War it served as a refuge for the border guards and it came under fascist fire. After the war, there was a restaurant in the temple: it was closed in the 1960s after the Shah of Iran, who traveled across the Crimea accompanied by Nikita Khrushchev, refused to enter it, regarding it as a sacrilege. After that, the church was used as a warehouse until a fire struck it. The temple was abandoned completely and returned to the Orthodox Church only in 1990. In 2004 it was completely restored and open to visitors.


The history of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Simferopol is unique. During the Soviet years it was one of the few active temples on the entire Crimean peninsula. It became the cathedral of Simferopol, and it was widely known thanks to Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) who served here for the last 15 years of his life.

The street on which the cathedral is located was called Greek until 1946, because there were many Greeks living here. And precisely because most of the parishioners of the temple were subjects of Greece, the cathedral, which in 1933 was already reconstructed as a children's boarding school, was sill not abandoned. However, two of its clerics gave their lives for the salvation of the temple. In 1937 and 1938 the bishop of Simferopol and Crimea Porphyry (Gulevich) and archpriest Nikolai Mezentsev were shot. The Holy Martyrs were recently canonised as local saints.

At the age of 70, Archbishop Luke -- the great diagnostician, surgeon and professor of medicine, who was awarded the Stalin Prize for his scholarly works, but for his faith subjected to eleven years of prison, torture and exile -- became archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea. Until the end of his life, he invested all his strength to pastoral service and at the same time did not abandon medical practice.

The relics of Saint Luke rest in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, popularly known as the temple of St. Luke. Recently a female monastery was established next to the cathedral, and the sisters of the convent opened a museum of St. Luke near the church.


The Holy Assumption cave monastery in Bakhchisarai is visited daily by hundreds of pilgrims and tourists, but few people know that in the vicinity of the city there are 11 medieval cave monasteries and temples surrounded by pristine nature located on cliffs or in river valleys, next to the ruins of castles and fortress walls.

Among them are the monasteries of Chelter-Koba, Chelter-Marmara, Shuldan, a complex of cave monasteries on Mount Mangup, a complex of three temples in the cave city of Eski-Kermen, the remains of temples on Mount Tepe-Kermen and the cave city of Bakla and others.

One of the truly unique holy places near Bakhchisarai is the monastery of St. Anastasia the Thether-breaker in Kachi-Kalion. The monastery, founded around the 8th century, was revered by everyone. It is well known, for example, that many Tatars experienced healing from a local holy spring, and then received holy baptism. However, there was a time when Christians were forced to leave the Crimea, and there was only one inhabitant in the monastery.

In the 19th century monks appeared again in the monastery, and by the beginning of the 20th century the monastery was well known to both the people of Crimea and to Russian pilgrims. However, in 1932, the Soviet government decided to liquidate the church and the monastery's courtyard. Church property was transferred to a neighboring village "for cultural needs," and the fate of the evicted monks remained unknown. Nevertheless, local Christians continued to secretly perform divine services in the rock church of St. Sophia on the territory of the monastery.

In 2005, Hieromonk Dorotheus from the Bakhchisaray Ascension Monastery arrived at the ruins, and began to rebuild the brotherhood about 350 meters farther. Now, along with the abbot Dorotheus, ten monks live here and up to twenty workers in the summer. Pilgrims can visit both the functioning monastery and its historical place.

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