If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read Ma’ila’s earlier post about our first trip there. It focuses mainly on the Vvedenskoye cemetery, and it’s a good read. Our second trip back did not take us back to the cemetery, much to my relief. I found the cemetery crowded, the graves almost piled on top of one another, and while people seemed to semi-regularly clear dead leaves from their ancestor’s graves, the cemetery seemed more a monument to observing propriety than revering and remembering the dead. But on our return to the old German quarter, we walked to new places.
When you get off at Baymanskaya station of the metro, you are met by various statues as those above lining the central area on your way to the street. At first, you might think this station is in an affluent neighborhood, but after you get out on the street, the neighborhood is quite clearly not the wealthiest or poorest neighborhood in Moscow. It lacks the old architecture and Mercedes-Benz’s of the city center, but still has well maintained buildings and new-ish apartment buildings, and this atmosphere is far less Soviet and patriotic than the metro station décor would imply.
After walking around a little, we found two churches that perfectly contrasted with one another: the Church of Peter and Paul and the Yelokhovo Cathedral.
The Church of Peter and Paul is not too large. It stands on the corner of an unassuming intersection, fenced off and screened by trees. Outside of the fence’s gate stand a couple of beggars, a not uncommon sight by churches in Russia, and as Muscovites walk in and out of the territory they cross themselves facing the church. Walking up to the white walled church with sky blue onion domes, we saw first the particular shape of the crosses on top of the church. After the victory of Ivan the Terrible over the Kazan Khanate crosses on many Orthodox churches were built with a small upward facing crescent at the bottom signifying the dominance of Orthodoxy over Islam. The next notable feature are the icons painted on the side of the church to various saints. In short, the church is a quintessential orthodox place of worship.
Much closer to the metro station stands the Yelokhovo Cathedral where Pushkin was baptized. As its name implies, it is quite a bit larger that the church.
It was built by Russian architect Yevgraph Tyurin, making catholic looking façade all the more unique. It dominates the neighborhood surrounding it, the bell tower dwarfed only by the enormous central dome of the cathedral. We were unable to go inside the cathedral (it was closed the day we were there) but the blue green walls and golden domes create an imposing image to look upon. During part of Soviet history, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church was seated here, it being the largest open church in Moscow at the time.
These two churches serve as an interesting architectural juxtaposition. One is more the traditional idea of what a Russian Orthodox place of worship looks like while the cathedral lacks the tell-tale onion domes of Russian churches and far larger. But the two serve as an important reminder of the importance of Russian Orthodoxy in Russian society throughout history. While the architectural styles varied, the underlying religion stayed the same, and as with many Russian churches the bell tower stands apart from the main building at both places, even if a little connected. While much has changed in Russia, much has stayed the same.