The Church-Lighthouse of St. Nicholas in the village of Malorechenskoye near Alushta, Crimea, is unique in every respect. It was built entirely from donations from sponsors. People living near the sea in this area dreamed of honouring the memory of all those who had perished at sea. Today it is a functioning Orthodox church, standing like a beacon on the shore of the Black Sea in the village of Malorechenskoye, which is on the road to Alushta from Novy Svet. While it is not listed in the Black Sea sailing register as a lighthouse, twice a year, on New Year’s Eve and at Easter, they turn on its powerful lighthouse lamps and the church is then visible far out to sea.
The Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev was a patron and major sponsor of the project, and in 2004 he invested funds in constructing this new Crimean Wonder. It is reported that at the time of laying the first foundation stones of the church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker (Archbishop of Myra, and patron saint of sailors) that dolphins regularly appeared at the shoreline. The father superior of the church stated that this was their way of communicating that they welcomed the construction.
The construction of the church took almost three years. The result still fascinates everyone who visits the church (either on purpose or accidentally on their way to visit other destinations).
In general, the entire complex looks like a ship, the base (deck) of which is a basement where the round decorative stained glass porthole shaped windows give the church the appearance of floating on the sea. The ship motif was chosen deliberately. According to Christian teaching, the Ship of the Faithful delivers the souls of those who perished on the waves of earthly existence onto the quiet pier of eternal life. The symbolism of the architecture and the decorative elements of both the interior and exterior of the church and the surrounding area is in keeping with the maritime theme.
The dome of the church is crowned by an equilateral Greek (heraldic) cross – the sign of the square, towering above the openwork luminous ball, symbolizing the Earth. In the middle of this ball, there is a lighthouse, which gives a guiding ray of hope for salvation to all travellers who have lost their way in the world’s sea.
At 66 metres, the Lighthouse Church of St.Nicholas is the highest temple on the Crimean peninsula.
Some of the architectural elements that are worth seeing with your own eyes include:
- The facades, which are decorated with niches in the form of a cross, each 15 meters high. Inside are laid out Nicholas of Myra and the Mother of God.
- The bell tower uses an electrically operated bell, not one rung by hand.
- The entrance to the carved doors and the iconostasis is made of expensive wood, and the altar of the church also employs gilding on the wood.
- On the inside of the church, in addition to traditional biblical stories, there are several “non-religious” murals, including dinosaurs playing in the waves.
- The sides of the temple are decorated with four metal sailboats representing the four cardinal points.
Outside the temple is an exhibition of old anchors, anchor chains, bollards, and light supports resembling Byzantine crosses. From the observation platform of the church, visitors can admire stunning views of the Black Sea coast up to the Au-Dag (Bear) Mountain.
Icons in the Technique of Netting-Macramé-Collage – The Only One in the World!
Vladimir Denshchikov, is the only person in the world who creates icons from linen thread. This Master craftsman uses his own special technique of “netting-macramé-collage” to create voluminous and airy icons made entirely of linen. This painstaking work can take six months or more to create just one handmade icon, some parts of which may be no thicker than 2 mm. Every hand-tied knot is a labour of love by the master himself. The material for the icons is also not accidental, according to Denschikov. Linen, apart from being the most simple, clean, affordable and durable material is also associated with Orthodoxy.
The Malorechenskoye Lighthouse-Church possesses four of these great works by the master of this new type of iconography. These are the icons of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker; Our Lady of Kazan; the Seraphim of Sarov; and the Blessed Matrona of Moscow. Each icon consists of more than 8 million knots.
Museum of Water Disasters
Located on the ground floor of the church is the Water Disasters Museum. Occupying approximately 1000 square meters, the exibits resemble a sunken ship with real compartments and authentic objects raised from the seabed. They tell sad, but informative stories. There are exhibits dedicated to almost every marine disaster from the Royal Mail Ship “Titanic” to the nuclear-powered Russian Submarine “Kursk”.
The Museum of Dead Ships is considered central to the memory of those heroes who have perished at sea.