Alexander Batyokhtin, a 41-year-old man from the Siberian village of Sosnovka, spent six weeks shaping around 12 cubic meters of fresh snow into a three-meter high church, where his fellow villagers can now to say a prayer and light a candle.
There is no real church in Sosnovka, or in any of the nearby villages, for that matter, and people who want to visit a place of worship have to drive for tens of kilometers to the city of Omsk. This is often an impossible task for the sick and the elderly, and it was this unfortunate situation that inspired Alexander to use the most abundant resource in his village to build a temporary church. He had worked in construction for years, and even though he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with a serious illness, the man was determined to offer Sosnovka a place to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany in properly.
Photo: Natalia Graf/RG
Last year, as soon as the first snowflakes started to fall, Alexander started drawing up the plans for his epic snow church, and after the first serious snow, he got to work. Lucky for him, there was plenty of snow to work with this winter. He first laid the foundation, then moved to the walls, before completing the twelve arches symbolizing the 12 apostles, and an impressive church tower complete with a giant cross. He worked on it every day for six weeks, even when temperatures dropped below -30 degrees Celsius, and he managed to finish it in time for the holidays. The three-meter-high church is still around today, and is expected to last until early spring.
The snow church only has enough room to accommodate two or three people at a time, but no has complained about the lack of room so far. On the contrary, locals were so thrilled to finally have their own church, that they all brought icons and crosses to decorate its walls and altar. Alexander sees their gesture as the biggest miracle. He simply went home one day, and when he returned, the church was full of icons, some of them brought from as far as Spain or Jerusalem.
Photo: video screengrabs
As word of the snow church of Sosnovka, the only one in Russia’s Azov region, spread, more and more people came by to see it for themselves. Both Alexander and his fellow villagers have been overwhelmed by the attention, even though that just like the church, it’s only temporary.
News of the snow church has even reached the bishop of Azov, who congratulated Batyokhtin on his work and drawing attention to the fact that there are no churches in that area of Siberia. Hopefully, work on a real church will begin in spring, he said.