The Church of St. George on Poklonnaya Hill (Russian: Храм Георгия Победоносца на Поклонной горе) has no centuries-old history, but its unusual exterior makes it stand out among Moscow’s other Orthodox churches. A perfect combination of traditional Russian and Modernist styles, the Church of St. George occupies a unique place among the Victory Parks’ many memorial buildings erected, just like the church itself, in memory of the victims and heroes of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The church’s highlight are the relics of St. George.
From time immemorial, Russians had a tradition of immortalizing their saints on standards and of consecrating newly built churches to them. Coats of arms of Russian princes and military leaders often portrayed Saint George as a horseman piercing a serpent with a spear. Today, this image appears on the coat of arms of Russia and that of Moscow.
The Church of St. George was built and consecrated in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The location and the time had not been chosen deliberately, since Saint George is considered as the patron saint of both Moscow and of Russian warriors. Given that it was A. Polyansky (1928-1993), one of the leading architects of the Soviet period, who designed the church, it seemed strange to many specialists and common people that the project of this architect had been adopted to build a major religious structure. Polyansky, however, managed to make such a great combination of modern trends with traditional architectural elements and of laconism with monumentality that his project was carried out, albeit with some modifications introduced after Polyansky’s death.
Architecture of the church
Bronze bas-reliefs by Z. Tsereteli and Z. Andzhaparizde ornate the church’s walls and the bell-tower boasts a magnificent panel, the Deisis, by E. Klyucharev. These decorations are a fine sample of modern religious architecture that lend sublimity, spirituality and expressiveness to the building.
Another Modernist feature are large glass sections in the walls that look so strange in Orthodox churches. It is through them that the interior of the church is flooded with natural light. The building impresses with its slenderness and blends harmoniously with the architectural landscape of Poklonnaya Hill. On a cloudless summer day, one can take in the view at this grand building through fountain jets and enjoy the rays of sunshine in the magnificent stained-glass windows.
Interior and relics of the church
A three-tiered iconostasis showing forty-eight saints dominates the interior of the church. Along with traditional themes, it portrays 20th-century Russian Orthodox martyrs who were subject to repression.
The relics of Saint George of Cappadocia, offered as a gift by Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem in 1998, is the centerpiece of the church. Other objects of worship include the icon of Venerable Nikita Stylites, said to have healing powers; the icon and the relics of Saint Matrona of Moscow, one of the most venerated Russian saints who is believed to help the afflicted; and a shrine containing the relics of Saint Serafim of Sarov, to whom people address prayers for health and family well-being.
Despite its short history, the church has traditions related to those protected by Saint George, such as the military, cadets and military school students who take their oath of loyalty here. Fallen soldiers are also commemorated in this church.
St. Michael’s Chapel
Located near Kutuzov Izba in Fili (3, Kutuzovsky Lane), St. Michael’s Chapel is affiliated with the Church of St. George. This memorial Russian Orthodox church was founded on 1 September 1910 in honour of St. Michael, the saint patron of the Russian army, and in memory of the 19th-century legendary Russian military commander Mikhail Kutuzov. This picturesque Neo-Byzantine church has a collection of Kutuzov’s personal belongings, weapons and military uniforms used during the Great Patriotic War of 1812.
Destroyed in the Soviet years, the chapel recently celebrated its second birth. It is located a 10- to-15-minute walk from the Church of St. George. Another landmark related to the war with Napoleon is the Battle of Borodino Panorama Museum on Kutuzovsky Avenue.
Strolling on poklonnaya Hill
The best time to visit Poklonnaya Hill and the Church of St. George is in the late afternoon as the dark sets in. The huge windows make the church look fragile and transparent. Its white walls are aglow with the lights of street lanterns and the windows reflect the evening sky. The nearby illuminated fountains completely transform the surrounding area making the Church of St. George one of Moscow’s most beautiful churches.
Besides the Church of St. George, don’t forget to have a look at the Victory Monument on Poklonnaya Hill, pay a visit to the Victory Museum (formerly, the Museum of the Great Patriotic War), stroll along the park’s tree-lined alleys and take in the view at the fountains.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com