In the life of every man and every nation there is one “key” word which it's impossible to talk without about a lot of things. It’s the word “holiness”. Do we know what oi means? The word “holy” means clear, pure, brilliant, lofty, elected for special service to God.
Of course, you noticed before that people come to these ancient walls in his marriage day, the graduates after finishing school, the veterans on Victory Day. A Temple symbolizes eternity. And it’s very important for people to touch something that comes out of the frames of his temporary life.
In those times the circle of human life was closely tied with church. Every new baby was christened there, and his life was ended there as well. Every new family was born in the temple. And all national activities were connected with church.
Our ancestors did like to build churches. For example, there were 58 churches in Irkutsk before 1917. 3 monasteries were famous out of Siberian borders.
Every school had a small home “temple” in one of their classrooms (there were 11 of them). Except, the were 11 chapels in the city.
The place, where we are now (you see now), was called “Irkutsk Kremlin”. Today it seems to be exaggerated, because now we can’t see a lot of monuments that decorated the central square before. Next to the last trolleybus stop. There was Tichvinskaya Church. Not far that place. There was Chudotvorskaya Church. Vladimirskaya Church was in Dek.Sobitiy Street.
There were not only stone churches, but chapels there, on that smell place in the very centre of our city. Long time ago the main beautiful Cathedral was ruined. It was a majestic Cathedral ik name of Kazanskaya Godmother. It was build on money of Efimiy Kuznetsov. He was an honour citizen, a rich merchant-millioneer, who left by will 250000 roubles in silver for building the church.
The old people of Irkutsk remember that powerful, shiny on sun cathedral domes with squared white and blue glazed bricks were seen from 30-40 km, and no wonder, because it was two times higher than the Polish church that was near it.
We should note, that The Spaskaya church is lower, in a narrow gully. It is easy to explain. After explosion of the huge cathedral people began to carry away the broken bricks, stones and rubbish. And the square level rose on land a half meters.
The Spaskaya church is the most ancient and memorable holy place of Irkutsk. The chronicals say that the first Irkutsk fort (ostrog) was built from wood in 1661 on the right Angara bank by 20 kosaks headed by Enisey boyar Yakov Pokhabov. In 1672 a wooden church in name of Spas Nerukotvorny icon was put up, because the first kozaks went to Sibeia caring the icon. In 1706 they began the first stone church instead of it. It was built in four years.
Who was the first architect of Irkutsk? For a long time Irkutsk historican were trying hard to find his name in archives and they didn’t managed. And only in the 90s the ancient contractual writing were found. They were petitions (chelobitnaya’) of Irkutsk master Moisey Ivanovich Dolguich, who had gone to Irkutsk from Moscow. An enginner-builder, a stonemaker, a brickmaker – they were names for an architecture in those times. Moisey Dolgich was a talented master who learned himself how to make bricks, to fire lime, to build cookers. It was known that before the coming to Irkutsk he put up the churches in Tobolsk and Verkhoturie.
The first Irkutsk temple is remarkable for its walls decorated outside. It’s rather rare feature in Siberian churches. The most interesting picture is on the southern side of altar. It’s Spas Nerukotvirny. The Spaskaya Church was loved and cared by many generations of Irkutsk citizens. And not only for its beauty. The history of the church is mixed up closely with the city life. It went through all festivals and disasters together with people. For example, “On new year Day in 1871” the chronicals say^ “God quaked Irkutsk and church walls were covered with cracks. The citizens patched them up carefully and the temple survied (?)”. On 22nd of June, 1879 suddenly a great fire came to Irkutsk. Irkutsk citizens didn’t manage ta save a lot of buildings, but the Spasskaya church was rescued with great difficulty when the fire rolled along Irkutsk. The volunteers went on duty around the church, carring water from Angara river.
The Spassky ward was burnt till pieces of coal. The ward got poor, But the next year The Spasskaya church was repaired and in 1883 33 houses were built in the ward. In 1907 the church had its 200th birthday. For the event the temple was painted and the new stone fence was built around it.
After the October Revolution a lot of churches were closed. The Spasskaya church also was closed in 1931. In 1948 in was declared as an architectural monument. From 1960 to 1980 there were restoration works. From 1981 to 2006 there was an exhibition hall of Irkutsk museums of regional studies. And it November 2006 the church was given to Irkutsk archdiocese (department of Russian Ortodoxal church). After 75 year at Christmas night 2007 break the first liturgy took place there.
The next temple in the area there was Irkutsk Bogoyavlensky Church. At first, it was from wood. It was set up in 1963 outside the fort.
It was called Bogoyavlensky not occasionally. The main task of Russian mission in Siberia was christening of foreigners. So they gave a special meaning of cult of God appearance. But in 1716 the church was burnt and it was decided to rebuilt it from briks. It was ended in 1723 without outside and inside decorations.
But the building was continuing for a long time. In 1729 the bell tower was finished. The ancient church books called us the name of Vasily Goryaev, taking part in the building. And an architectural investigator, V. Skopin believes our temple was designed after the Troytsky church in Verchoturye town in Tyumen district (1703). The whole image and the decorations are very similar. It was a huge construction for those times in Irkutsk. Because the Petropavlosky ward in the church was almost the same as the Spasskaya church. It demanded the strict management. But in 1731 the first Irkutsk bishop Innokenty Kulchitsky died. During the life he cared a lot about the construction. The next bishop was very quick-tempered. He found same mistakes in work and arrested the stone makers. And only 10 years after his death the building of the church continued. In 1742 an earthquake happened. In 1755 the stone fence was built. In 1804 earthquake happened. It damaged the five-headed top that was taken away in the 19 century. In 1861 during the strongest quake all the arches were damaged. But in the awful fire in 1879 the flame stopped outside its walls. In that condition the Bogoyavlensky church stepped into the 20th century.
After the Revolution a commission didn’t count the church as a unique one. It let to use it as a bakery. In 1960 it was recognized as a monument. From 1967 to 1985 the restoration of the church was quided. The workers tried to restore it as an 18-century church. But what was it like? The investigators on history of the monument building weren’t kept practically. By the restoration laws the workers should restore the first image of the church, as it was in the 18 century. But it is far from it.
At first there isn’t a five-haeded top. There’s only one head. Then, there was one more ward.
In the architecture of Bogoyavlensky church we can see two sources – Russian, traditional and a new one “barachroya”. Such churches are sometimes called “trapesny”. They hold a big space very well.
And the last alive church here in the square of the three churches is Kostel. Every Irkutsk citizen knows very well the building of Rome-Catholic ward church. We traditionally call it Polsky Kostel. It’s a light, lancet construction and it’s practically alone example of late Gothic style in the area from the river Yenisey to the Pacific Ocean.
The Catholics appeared in East Siberia in the 18th century. There was a great amount of them in Irkutsk and Irkutsk district (gubernia), in Yeniseysk district, Yakutia and Zabaikalie. They were excited people and their descandants. But there were peasents and other people looking for the best life as well. It’s consired that the Polish were 90% of them. General-governer I. Pestel decided to organize the Catholic mission in 1806 and 1912 the three priest arrived in Irkutsk. One of them hold the religion service in a rented house and two of them went around the district. The first began to write all the birth, death and marriage in books and they wrote them till 1937.
The next mission began to care about building of the church and they got the permission in 1825.
By the first architectural plan it was a wooden building. The money was got from volunteers, The biggest income was from a rich Italian earl Julio Lita who settled in Russia.
The construction was finished in 1826. there was a new musical instrument – harmonium from Saitn-Petersburg. It sounded similar to an organand. It was made in Paris.
Bur during the big fire in August 1879 it burnt. But due to cares of ksendz Shvernitsky it was rebuilt again in 1884 by the project of Tamulevich in new Gotnic style. We can see it now. The new church cost 70000 roubles and 40000 of it were given by volunteers from around Russia and Poland. The Catholic cemetery was placed hot far from the church. Sorry, but now there is a park of Culture and Rest.
Under the patronage of the church there was an orphanage (for children), a small school in Polish and a orphanage for old people. Ksendz Shvernitsky was a very popular person. Known in Irkutsk and around Siberia. He was buried in Iyerusalim cemetery.
In 1937 the church and its property were confiscated. In the place there was a warehouse. After the war there was a film studio, and then it became a concert hall.
The revival of Rome-Catholic ward of assumption of the Virgin in Irkutsk happened in 1991. The Pope Ioann II declared his decision to organize two administrations for Catholics in Russian Federation. Irkutsk became the 3rd city in Russia with the Catholic ward. Since 1992 regular religion service take place there.