On the banks of the Don River, in the picturesque Voronezh region of Russia lies one of the most fascinating tourist attractions this country has to offer – the Spassky Cave Church. For hundreds of years, this place has been at the mercy of the elements, then it had to face communist persecution, yet it still stands as a bastion of Russian Christianity.
It’s believed the first caves were dug into the cretaceous mounts of Kostomarovo before the adoption of Christianity in Russia. Hermit monks would use these austere cell-like spaces to hide from persecution, and it wasn’t until the 12th century that the first rock monastery was carved in the region. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact date the Spassky Cave Church appeared near the small Russian village of Kostomarovo, due to the lack of clear historical evidence, but it is now considered one of the most incredible monuments of ancient architecture in Russia. Dug into the cretaceous rocks known as “diva” in the Voronezh region, this unique holy place has a rugged exterior that hints at Byzantine influences, but its interior is much more polished, featuring straight walls, rounded arches and Orthodox decorations. It can accommodate 2,000 people and welcomes thousands of pilgrims from all over Russia, every year.
Those who have visited Spassky Church speak of a fantastic sense of easiness and divine bliss, and it also has a reputation for healing diseases and wounds, helping people make the right decisions and cleansing sins. In fact, there is even a Cave of Repentance inside the chalk church where condemned sinners were once confined to repent for their sins. The sense of easiness may also be influenced by the beautiful natural surroundings that the locals believe look so much like the Holy Land that they named them after it. There is a hill of Golgotha, a Mount Tabor and even a Gethsemane Garden.
During the Communist regime, monks were cast out of Spassky Church and the last hermit, known as Father Pyotr, was shot there. But the place was so well-known in the area that Christians still came to pray in the rock church, so in 1960 Nikita Khrushchev gave an order to flood the church to stop people from coming back, but not even that was enough to keep people away from this ancient place of worship. The first free official religious service at Spassky Church was held in 1993, and in 1997 a group of nuns made it their home. Since then the entire cave complex in the Kostomarovo was reconstructed and roads were built to make access to this place easier.
Although famous among Russia’s religious folk, Spassky Church and the cretaceous caves of Kostomorovo remain almost unknown to the rest of the world.
Photos via uusge’s livejournal