The split of outdated Orthodox Church

В категориях: Russian Christian News

Joy Neumeyer

Eastern Moscow's Rogozhsky Posyolok offers a fascinating look inside the little-seen traditions of Russia's Old Believers – with some surprisingly modern touches. The quiet community maintains traditions dating from 1666, when Old Believers broke off from the Russian Orthodox Church over liturgical reforms. Rogozhsky arose around a cemetery created for victims of the 1771 plague epidemic. Thankful to local Old Believers for tending to the dead, Catherine the Great permitted them to build churches nearby. By the mid-19th century, the area was home to almshouses, libraries and over 1,500 residents. After suffering in the Soviet era, Rogozhsky has undergone renovations that are due for completion this spring.

To reach its plot of land on short Ulitsa Rogozhsky Posyolok, the most comfortable route is to take trolleybus 63, 26 or 16 from Taganskaya metro station and get off at the Staroobryadcheskaya Ulitsa stop. Cross Nizhegorodskaya Ulitsa under the bridge and walk along Ulitsa Rogozhsky Posyolok until reaching the white entrance gate.

1. Bell Tower

The white bell tower through the gate was built in 1907-1910 with donations from powerful Old Believer families, including the Morozov merchant clan. Reliefs on the facade depict the mythical Slavic creatures Sirin, Alkonost and Gamayan, which have bodies of birds and heads of women.

2. Protection of Our Lady Church

Behind the bell tower and to the left is the stately summer church, designed in 1790 by leading Neoclassical architect Matvei Kazakov. The church boasts an impressive set of ancient icons, and now hosts Russia's most important Old Believer ceremonies. Visitors may slip in, but women should be sure to cover their heads and wear skirts.

3. Church of the Nativity

On the other side of the bell tower is the pinkish winter church, which was built with heating for the winter months. While Protection of Our Lady operated throughout the Soviet era, this place of worship served as a cafeteria, a bomb shelter and a storage facility.

4. Pond

The open space behind the churches was once home to a natural spring where priests blessed holy water. The Bolsheviks filled it in, but it's recently been recreated, complete with a small chapel and footbridges.

5. St. Nicholas Church

Walk back toward the bell tower and turn right to reach this colorful church. As a concession to tsarist repressions, in 1854 it joined the Old Ritualist (or "Yedinovertsy") movement, which maintains a relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. It's more open to outsiders – and less strict on the skirt rule.

6. Rogozhskoye Cemetery

Pass through the church's arch to reach the cemetery. Although it's served as a general public cemetery since 1917, many historic gravesites remain. The elaborate wrought-iron structure ahead is the Morozov burial plot, which features a striking Art Nouveau-style headstone designed by Fyodor Shekhtel for businessman and philanthropist Savva Morozov. Nearby is the burial plot of the Solovyovs, another influential Old Believer family, as well as black sarcophaguses holding generations of church leaders. In keeping with tradition, the original Old Believer graves are in the shape of stone crosses and don't list the date of birth.

7. Memorial Cross

Walk back out of the cemetery and pass all three churches. On the right, you'll spot a small memorial cross honoring Cossack chieftain Matvei Platov, an Old Believer who fought against Napoleon in the War of 1812 and was a regular visitor to Rogozhsky Posyolok. After the war, Platov helped convince the authorities to allow the holy liturgy to be performed there (an achievement later reversed by Nicholas I).

8. Shops

Exit through the white gate. Just ahead, a cluster of Old Believer shops sells traditional handicrafts, honey, nuts and other products. The church shop boasts a wide assortment of books on the Old Believer movement. For a meal, check out the fresh khachapuri and lavash at the bread stand or the popular church canteen (***trapeza***), which serves full lunches. Cross back to Nizhegorodskaya Ulitsa to hop a trolleybus back to Taganskaya.


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