Imagine driving carefully down a country road, and after turning a corner, a boat carrying a golden-domed church with an angelic figurehead appears to float towards you. There is a place in Moscow where this is possible.
The Holy Trinity Church in the village of Pleskovo is one of the most peculiar places of worship in Russia. Not in the sense of ritual but due to its architecture. Its creator was inspired by the words of one of Orthodox Christianity’s saints, who compared life to a rough sea and the church to a ship being steered through it by Jesus. His creation brings that metaphor to life. It also commemorates imperial Russia’s defeat of the Napoleonic invasion in 1812 – and one of the notable battles of that war happened not so far from the village.
The church is all white walls and green roofs, with three golden domes topping its towers. A narrow prow protrudes from one side with an angel blowing a trumpet as the figurehead. The side where the stern of the ship should be is decorated with glittering colors, resembling the St. Andrew’s cross of the Russian Navy. Parked permanently against the background of a forest and with an archaic-looking well in front of it, the Holy Trinity Church makes for a somewhat surreal sight.
The building was created by a local resident – who happened to be a renowned Russian architect – Viktor Zakharov. The architect’s earlier career focused on gargantuan industrial facilities, which he designed for the Soviet nuclear industry, but later in life he developed a taste for religion and became a builder of churches. Some of them were just as imposing as the factories and power plants he used to create. The boat church in his village, however, is just the opposite – a small pet project that he partially funded.
Pleskovo is now technically part of Moscow, since a large part of the surrounding territory in the southwest was incorporated into the city for future development of the Russian capital. In actuality, it’s about 50km from the city center. Not a single large body of water is anywhere to be found nearby, so short of a Biblical-scale flood happening, there is no way the church’s seaworthiness will be tested. Which is good news, since its shape is based more on aesthetics rather than practicality.
Incidentally, Russia has an actual floating church too, although to see it you’d have to travel about 900km south to Volgograd. The city serves as the base for the floating Church of St. Vladimir. It is meant to travel along the Volga River, stopping near remote villages and offering them a nice place to pray. It’s big enough for 120 worshipers and, interestingly, based on a retired military ship, which was repurposed from landing troops to spreading the gospel. Talk about ‘swords’ to ‘plowshares’!
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