5 Ancient Wooden Churches of Karelia Land

Ancient Wooden Churches of Karelia Land

Posted on October 29, 2015 by tim

If you really want to see a lot of old Russian traditional wooden architecture, namely churches and chapels, then for sure you need to visit Karelia. This land borders Finland for over 1,000 km along its length on one side, and like Finland is called “Land of the Lakes” with over 90,000 small lakes. Since the early times people have lived here and built these beautiful, unique wooden churches. Let’s see inside, thanks to the Russian blogger Alexei, who took those awesome photos!

This wooden church is in Sheleiki village. It’s dated to 1783. The early snow is already there in early October.

Alexei says it’s very quiet there – your footsteps sound very loud. He walked right up to the church and he was able to look inside. It was empty.

So he moved on and went to the neighboring village of Gimreka. Here he found another church that dated back to 1659. Just imagine – a wooden structure that is almost 400 years old still stands with all this snow, wind and sun and still stays strong. They knew how to build back then!

He again approached the church and it was just as empty as the previous one. He couldn’t enter though, as it was locked.

However he could take plenty photos from the outside.

Every detail counts! Just see how meticulously made and cut the wood is.

Also see how the shadow repeats the wooden carvings. This is an old Russian Solar sign called “Kolovrat” – sort of an ancient Russian solar swastika.

A real thing of beauty.

And here is another church and some other old wooden structures.

Like this house from the 19th century.

Everything is abandoned.

This building was marked, probably back in Soviet times as “Architectural legacy” – just marked and then abandoned.

Then he went to the next village. Just forty five kilometers from the region’s capital city of Petrozavodsk there is a 42 meter tall Uspenskaya Church which is leaning to one side now. It’s dated back to 1774. Before, there was one more church next to it which didn’t survive the Soviet reign when the churches were totally neglected.

Here he could go inside and take some photos. This is a figure of Jesus the Christ with 16 cherubim around him.

If you remember – we posted about this church recently.

Some houses have their windows covered from inside for some reason – probably because the people inside want to save warmth during long winters, defying the purpose of a window at all. They have a red-blue-green flag of Karelia, though.

Then 35 kilometers further on and he has reached the old village of Virma.

The nature is astonishing around there too, says Alexei.

This village has a wooden St. Peter and St. Paul church – dated as far back as 17th century.

Sometimes this church is even being opened to serve a mass.

Then another village – Manga – known as far as back from 1563. This houses even built maybe two centuries ago – still inhabited and well serving their current residents.

It also has an ancient wooden church. Alexei says he couldn’t reach it by car, had to walk, and to walk you had to cross private properties all the time.

Looks like it has been renovated recently.

You can see a highway from the church.

And then he went to another village – Kotchura, near Pryazha town.

There is a St. Johns church built in 18th century.

Besides a church there is an ancient section of fencing – the portal or gate to the church territory – now all full of overgrown weeds.

Alexei says it looks very amazing – he never saw anything like this before. It is like a fairy tale.

And so he enters thru the gate and comes closer to the old church.

Just one look at its lumber can tell how old this building is.

And again very intricate detailing, hand carved back then.

Covered with forest moss.

Moss is everywhere.

And again,  Soviet markings – posted by Soviet Ministry of Culture – reads  “This Chapel must be protected as an all people’s wealth”.

But it is not very protected – nobody cares and of course this sign is old.

Hope you liked this story. If you get chance ever to visit Russia – you might really want consider visiting Karelia too! It’s a cool place with awesome nature and traces of old civilization and its architecture!

Alexei’s site is below:


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5 Responses to “Ancient Wooden Churches of Karelia Land”

  1. Yuri says:

    These buildings need to be saved. They have existed this long, it would be bad to let them rot away. If people would only buy these buildings and renovate them as a dacha. They would be saving a big part of history.

    • MattNSW says:

      Is it possible to renovate them without destroying them? Perhaps the wood is too old and fragile to survive any work. My house is wooden and, although it’s only 90 years old, the wood crumbles easily. The conditions here are very different (Australia) but I doubt Russian timber would be in any better condition. It could be that finding a method of either slowing or stopping the deterioration of the building would be best. It’s just a minor problem of finding the method and someone willing to pay for it all :D

      But yes, beautiful buildings, beautiful natural surroundings.

  2. john says:

    Great posting, such a beautiful place, and places.Amazing wood working. I wood like to see more pic’s.

  3. Jim says:

    These are Russian Orthodox Temples (churches to the western world) and are considered holy sites. A place where 100’s of worshipers over the centuries have received the sacraments of Orthodox Christianity. Some may even have cemeteries attached. They are not something to be sold to the highest bidder and turned into a vacation spot. I do however agree completely that these buildings of antiquity need to be preserved.Not just for the Orthodox Church but for all humanity.

  4. pechorin says:

    Similar structures can be found in Tomsk and Kiev! They have their own soul–it doesn’t matter what your religion, or if you are atheist. You must feel them!

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