Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 33 – Church of Elijah the Prophet, Yaroslavl

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Church of Elijah the Prophet, Yaroslavl

This article was researched from Russian sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

The Church of Elijah the Prophet is situated on Sovetskaya Square (formerly Ilyinsky Square until 1918) in the center of Yaroslavl. It is considered an outstanding architectural monument of the Yaroslavl School of Architecture of the 17th century.

Built on the site of two wooden churches, the Intercession and Elijah, the modern stone Church of Elijah the Prophet was constructed between 1647-1650 by the brothers Anikey and Nifantey Skripin, who were extremely wealthy traders in Siberian furs. The merchants of Yaroslavl vied with each other in bestowing the city with elaborate churches built not only for the honour of God but also for the prestige of the family who commissioned their construction.

The church comprises a white-stone four-pillared main building. The central portion bearing five blue-green domes connected by a closed gallery – accessed by richly decorated porches – to a bell tower and a tent roof tower which is atop the side Chapel of the Deposition of the Robe. A small chapel at the rear has its own domed roof. There are gardens at the sides of the building.

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The magnificent gilded carved iconostasis of the Church of Elijah the Prophet

Inside it boasts a magnificent gilded carved iconostasis with a collection of ancient icons, painted portals and a tiled frieze, and rich church utensils. The interior boasts some of the finest 17th century frescos in Russia, which cover every inch of its walls. The frescoes were commissioned in 1680 by Ulita Makarova, the widow of Nifantey Skripin. They were painted by a team of 15 famous Kostroma masters, headed by Guriy Nikitin and Sila Savin and they depict not only the life of Elijah the Prophet but also show domestic life in 17th century Russia with scenes from everyday life showing birds, animals, weddings, hunting and everyday work. One of the best preserved murals shows peasants working at harvest. This is a break-through, as earlier it was not allowed to illustrate peasants’ work on the walls of wealthy churches. The frescoes of the Church of Elijah the Prophet have no equals in beauty, richness and brightness of colors. The frescoes have been cleaned but have never been repainted .

In 1920 the building was transferred to the Yaroslavl Museum-Reserve. In the 1930s, the workers of the museum managed to save it from demolition. Between 1938-1941, the relics of the Yaroslavl miracle-workers were transferred to another location. The Union of Militant Atheists arranged an anti-religious museum; in which Foucault’s pendulum was suspended under the dome.

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The frescoes of the Church of Elijah the Prophet have no equals in beauty, richness and brightness of colors

The restoration of the Church of Elijah the Prophet, was carried out in 1955-1956, 1960, and 1983. In 1989, the church was reconsecrated, and church services have been held in the church since that time.

The church is also a museum, a branch of the Yaroslavl Museum-Reserve. It is open to visitors from May to October during the days when services are not being held. During the Summer months, the church can be crowded with tourists. Tour groups are usually treated to a short concert in one of the side chapels by acapella singers who, in addition to religious music, will perform the Volga Boat song.

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Pre-revolutionary photograph of the Church of Elijah the Prophet, Yaroslavl

Click HERE to view the previous 32 Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia listings, located in our old Royal Russia News site.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 6 April 2018