Russia’s only church built in honour of Nicholas II’s Coronation

PHOTO: view of the Holy Trinity Church, built in the Neo-Russian style in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The beautiful Holy Trinity Church, in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka, Rostov Oblast, was built in the Neo-Russian style[1], it is the only church in Russia constructed in honour of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, held in Moscow on 27th May (O.S. 14th) May 1896.

The Holy Trinity Church was built on the site of the original wooden church, built in 1799, which consisted of a parish school, a hostel for pilgrims, a priest’s house, as well as service and outbuildings. In May 1895, the inhabitants of Bolshaya Martynovka decided to demolish the old wooden church, and in its place build a new stone church.

The site of the new church was consecrated on 14th (O.S.) May 1896, on the day of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. The first stone of the buildings foundation was laid the next day.

For the construction of the new church, the inhabitants made 300 thousand baked bricks, collected 3 thousand measures of grain and raised about 15 thousand rubles, which was then an impressive amount. Unfortunately, this money was not enough and in 1900, the residents were forced to turn to the diocesan authorities with a request to allow them to collect additional donations. Their request was granted and by 1902, the additional funds had been collected, which allowed construction to resume.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The Holy Trinity Church was completed in 1904. It consisted of three chapels: the central one – in the name of the Holy Trinity, the right one – in the name of the Holy Tsarina Alexandra[2], the left – in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker[3].

According to local residents, the renowned Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) visited Bolshaya Martynovka on two separate occasions. The first time was in 1904, shortly after the consecration Holy Trinity Church. It was during this visit that Chaliapin sang along with the church choir. His second visit occurred during the Russian Civil War, when he came to visit the local landowner Suprunov. It was during this visit that Chaliapin was almost shot, having been mistaken for a bourgeois, due to his attire, which included a luxurious fur coat and hat. A singer of the church choir recognized the opera singer and saved him from execution.

In 1930 the Soviets ordered the Holy Trinity Church closed. Local residents recall how Bolshevik thugs broke the iconostasis, destroyed the domes, removed the bells and threw them in the river, and plastered over the unique frescoes made by the icon painter Elisey Grigoryevich Cherepakhin (1837-1922). In the years which followed, the former church housed a granary, a convoy and an MTS workshop, and from 1951, a utility warehouse.

When the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, the artists who began the restoration discovered bullet holes made by drunken Bolsheviks some 60 years earlier.

In 1991, the Holy Trinity Church was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and restoration began, which was completed in 2004. In 2013, the windows of the church were replaced and heating installed, while a beautiful garden was planted on the grounds surrounding the church. According to Father Vladimir, additional restoration work is ongoing.

Situated near the church is a small brick chapel commemorating the martyrdom of Emperor Alexander II[4].

PHOTO: views of the interior of the Holy Trinity Church, showcasing it’s frescoes and icons (above) and view of the main iconostasis of main central chapel (below)

The Holy Trinity Church exists today only thanks to donations, which, unfortunately, are not enough and the abbot has to ask for financial assistance for the upkeep of the church from local business representatives. Today, the church is once again open to locals for prayer and worship, but there are few parishioners who attend. About 50 people attend the service on weekends. The relics of Paul of Taganrog, the Great Martyr Timothy and the Matrona of Moscow are even kept in the church.

Despite the fact that the Holy Trinity Church in Bolshaya Martynovka is recognized as a historical and cultural monument of the 19th century, the rector of the church Father Vladimir notes that church is virtually unknown to pilgrims and tourists visiting the region, as it is not even listed in any tourist guide. In addition, the village Bolshaya Martynovka [pop. 6,000] has no hotels or places where one could eat and rest.

PHOTO: icon depicting the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, located in the chapel of of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, located in the Holy Trinity Church, in Bolshaya Martynovka

On 14th May 2021, a memorial plaque (above) was installed on the facade of the Holy Trinity Church, bearing the images of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The plaque marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the church and the historic Coronation in 1896. The inscription reads:

The Holy Trinity Church
was founded on 14 May 1896
on the day and memory of the
sacred coronation of
Sovereign Emperor Nicholas
and Sovereign Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna
125 years from the date of foundation 2021

© 12 November 2022


[1] Neo-Russian style is also referred to as Russian Revival, Pseudo-Russian, or Russian Byzantine style: a number of different movements within Russian architecture that arose in the second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of Byzantine elements and pre-Petrine (Old Russian) architecture.

[2] St. Alexandra, Empress, Martyr, Wife of Diocletian

[3] St. Nicholas the World Wonderworker is the patron saint of Emperor Nicholas II

[4] the chapel was built in memory of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II in St. Petersburg on 13 March (O.S. 1st) March, 1881