Top 10 Things To Do In Juneau – #3 The Russian Orthodox Church

Things to do in Juneau should include a drive to see the Russian Orthodox Church, a favorite Juneau attraction with historical significance to native Tlingits. The iconic Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox church was established in 1894 by the Tlingit people long before the area was settled by the Russians.

Early American missionaries in the area discouraged the use of native languages and customs among the Tlingit people, but the majority of Tlingits had already embraced Eastern Orthodox Christianity. When Nikolai Ziorov, Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, visited Juneau in 1892, he was welcomed by the Tlingit leaders. According to oral tradition, a common dream among the Tlingit leaders was that one day a “short, white-bearded, elderly man” would come and he would urge them become Christian. When they saw an icon of the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, known as “St Nicholas the Wonderworker”, they recognized him as being the man in their dreams. This led to more and more of the native Tlingits being baptized and becoming part of the Orthodox Church community.

Eventually, through the efforts and initiative of Tlingit leaders, an Orthodox chapel of their own was constructed using local timber and local labor under the supervision of a local contractor. The Orthodox Missionary Society in Russia sent architectural drawings and two thousand silver rubles to build and equip the church and to provide it with articles of interior furnishings – candle stands, chalice set, censer, banners, a full icon screen and festal icons. The characteristic onion dome was later constructed and placed in 1895. The bell, according to inscriptions, was cast in St. Petersburg, Russia.

When planning your itinerary of things to do in Juneau you should include seeing these historic items, some of which are still in use at the Church today.

In 1894 His Grace Nikolai was transported to Sitka by the USS Pinta to oversee the consecration of the church of St Nicholas and preside at the ordination of the first resident priest, Father John Bartnovsky.

Since 1894, the Saint Nicolas Orthodox Church has been in continuous use serving Juneau and the surrounding areas. This church has the distinction of being the oldest, continual use Orthodox structure in Southeast Alaska and is a rare treat for visitors looking for interesting things to do in Juneau.

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