An old church recognized as a cultural heritage site —

An old church recognized as a cultural heritage site is restored in Tatarstan

Photo: courtesy of Alexei Pavlov

Work on the conservation of ancient churches with signs of cultural heritage sites continues in Tatarstan. A unique Orthodox church built in 1771 has survived in a predominantly Tatar region of the republic. This also had an impact on the appearance of the building, which resembles the mihrab of a mosque. The fate of the site is harsh – at different times it has been adapted for an infectious disease ward of a local hospital, a university residence and a bakery. In 2019, the Intercession of Theotokos Church was recognized as a regional historical monument. Now it hosts services, restoration work continues. A former minister and famous entrepreneurs are among the benefactors.

Provincial baroque

Restoration work on the village’s only Orthodox Christian church in the regional center of Tyulachi.

The 250-year-old Church of the Intercession of Theotokos has been recognized as a regional cultural heritage site and has been protected by the state. It should be noted that the late Metropolitan Feofan sent a request to the Tatarstan Committee for Cultural Heritage Sites to have the building recognized as a landmark.

A state historical and cultural examination confirmed that the Church of the Intercession of Theotokos was erected in 1771. The building, a dominant urban engineering of the central part of Tyulyachi, shapes its architecture and is clearly visible in the entrance to the Kazan settlement.

The church itself did not survive completely. The “summit” – part of the bell tower and the dome – having been demolished, they had to be rebuilt. The modern forms of the quadrilateral with drum and the three layers of the bell tower (there were two of them according to historical descriptions) are not identical to the first appearance, but in general the building “from the point of view of composition and urban engineering corresponds to the historical characteristics and its functional content,” reads the review.

A state historical and cultural review confirmed that Theotokos Church Intercession was erected in 1771

The church was made of large whitewashed red bricks in the style of modest provincial baroque. The building resembles a “ship” and has the shape of a cross. The facade has rectangular pilasters at the corners, window openings with arched lintels are decorated with ascetic brick frames in the form of cylinders.

Interestingly, the apse of the main altar, according to an expert’s assessment, resembles the mihrab of a mosque. Such a solution is not characteristic of the Orthodox churches of the Kazan governorate and is probably related to the ethnicity of the inhabitants of Tyulyachi. Historic brick vaults with metal ties, a lower level of the bell tower with brick stairs in the wall.

The vaults of the church were decorated with frescoes. Judging by the technique and the pictures, it would have been made at the end of the 19and — early 20and centuries. The works of the famous Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov can be found in the foundation.

Photos with Christ Emmanuel and another image on the pillar column have survived. Nowadays, all the vaults of the church have been plastered, however, the expert noted that the plaster was put on the paint, the frescoes were preserved.

A wrought iron canopy over the entrance to the church, which lived until 2004, has not survived.

The church was made of large whitewashed red bricks in the style of modest provincial baroque. Credit: State Historical and Cultural Review

“There are huge investments there”

Church priest Alexey Pavlov told Realnoe Vremya that a large part of the building has been restored, only work inside the bell tower has not been completed.

“There are no lamps yet, only the usual bulbs are hanging, there are no dishes in the altar. But the services are done, there is the fixed minimum. The iconostasis has new icons and those that have returned to the church. During the Soviet era they were brought home, now they have been brought back.

Interestingly, an old bell, which was taken to a local fire station after being thrown from the steeple, was also found. Since it turned out that the monument is being restored with money from a benefactor, the person wishes to remain anonymous.

“There are big investments there. He is from Tyulyachi, in 2017 he came to his niece’s funeral, saw the church in tatters and wanted to help. He restored it almost from ruins. We give him a low bow. He provided workers, a foreman, my function was only to feed them, house them and recommend something to them,” shared Father Alexy.

Church priest Alexey Pavlov told Realnoe Vremya that a large part of the building has been restored, only work inside the bell tower has not been completed. Credit: State Historical and Cultural Review

The territory around the old church is also improved. Last year, a sacred spring in honor of the icon Bogorodica Trojeručica was solemnly opened by Epiphany last year. During the Soviet era, after the church was closed, people came to this place to pray. A cross was installed there in the 90s, while the territory of the old spring was improved, a police was created with money from citizens’ self-taxation in 2021.

Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan managed to visit the restored Intercession of Theotokos Church, while the new His Grace Kirill performed pontifical service last year for the first time in 100 years by the 250and jubilee of the church.

It may seem strange to someone that there could be such an old Orthodox church in the Tyulyachi district mainly with the Tatar population. Tyulyachi itself was founded during the time of the Kazan Khanate. But in the 1560s, this territory was populated by Russian peasants.

The first wooden church appeared here at the beginning of the 18and century, it was built with the money of the owner Afasny Skripitsyn. Before the reform of 1861, the inhabitants were considered peasant landowners. They engaged in agriculture, raised cattle, made carts and rubs, traded. The Insurrection (October 1 to 8) and Assumption (January 6 to 12) fairs took place there from the middle of the 19and at the beginning of the 20and centuries.

A local government was located in Tyulyachi in the early 20and century, a school (from 1875), leather and butter factories, four locksmith workshops, a telephone, two shops, a tavern, three pubs, a public wine bar and nine flea markets, a wine cellar , a Thursday market operated.

The metal tent on the west facade (lost). Credit: State Historical and Cultural Review

Before 1920, the village was the center of the Bolshe-Kibyak-Kozinsky district, Laishevo country, Kazan governorate. From 1920 it became part of Laishevo, from 1927 Arsk Cantons of TASSR. From 1930, Tyulyachi joined the Saba district, then it was separated from it. From October 4, 1991, the village obtained the status of regional center.

In memory of spouse

The stone church was built in 1771 with the money of the owner Nadezhda Aristova. She did it in memory of her husband who died during the Russo-Turkish War in 1768-1774. It is said that the construction site for the new church was indicated by Empress Catherine II herself who passed through the village on her way to Siberia.

The church consisted of three altars: the main one is in honor of the intercession of Theotokos, the north in honor of St. Nicholas and the south in honor of the icon of the Virgin Mary named Trojeručica .

The parish was considered wealthy before the revolution. The clerical reports from the archives of the Religious Consistory of Kazan in 1906, 1909 read: “The building [of the church] is of stone, with a town steeple, it is firm; the whole church is hot; the fence around the church is stone with a wooden rack. The iconostasis of the main church has two levels, the others are one level. The church has enough dishes. The parish clergy must consist of a priest and a reader of psalms according to Decree No. 3 of the Holy Synod of March 4, 1883, there was a priest and a reader of psalms in fact.

In 1873 a parochial school for 87 boys and 30 girls was founded in the church. Later there appeared a library that was replenished every year.

At the beginning of the 20and century, the parish had 30 hectares of arable land and 3 hectares of meadow, it had 18 buildings: a church house, a building above the winery, a shed, stable and bench together, two stables, two barns, two sheds, two carters, two barns, a one-story house, a church keeper’s hut.

In 1939, the church closed, the cupola and the bell tower were destroyed. The building was first reassigned to the infectious diseases department of a regional hospital, then it was used as a university residence and bakery.

Credit: State Historical and Cultural Review

Between entrepreneurs and minister among the benefactors

In 2000, a group of local believers wrote a letter to the first president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, asking him to return the church, which then belonged to Tatpotrebsoyuz. In 2004, the church was returned.

With the financial help of the administration of the district, the parishioners repaired the roof, cleaned the bricks, removed the rubbish, cleaned the ceiling and the walls, dismantled the ovens remaining after the bakery. The chief of the local fire station, Anatoly Lapin, returned the old “surviving” bell to the church.

In May 2011, active restoration work began in the church. A stone second story with a domed drum was erected above the building’s historic cage for four years. Three more levels were built on the original foundations of the first floor, aisles were arranged, modern rectangular rooms were built from the south and north sides.

The church had several great benefactors – the contractor from Serbia Vidan Mihajlović did general construction work for one million rubles, with the financial help of the former Minister of Transport and Roads of Tatarstan Lenar Safin, the facades were restored and the territory near the church was improved. Cupolas and crosses were installed on the church on April 5, 2015, and it began to look like it does today.

Large-scale reconstruction works have been carried out with the money of the other benefactors we mentioned above since 2018 until now.

Photo courtesy of Alexei Pavlov

On September 17, 2019, by a decree of the Committee of Cultural Heritage Sites of Tatarstan, the Intercession of Theotokos Church was added to the list of historical and cultural sites, and in December 2019 it was included in a register regional cultural heritage sites.

Eleonora Rylova


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