Church of the Sign in Dubrovitsy, photo and description

Church in Dubrovitsy

Church in Dubrovice

The Church of the Sign in Dubrovitsy is a magnificent monument of the Petrine era and an object of cultural heritage of federal significance in the Moscow region. The Orthodox shrine attracts many travelers from Russia. Most are amazed by what they see and call the religious structure one of the most beautiful and rare in our country.

What causes such emotions? First of all it is atypical for orthodox constructions architectural style, which can be classified as Golitsyn baroque. Its features are embodied in the openwork gilded crown crowning the church instead of the traditional dome, the abundance of stucco decoration, intricate patterns, statues and other details.

As we approach the church, the features become clearer. The white-stone sculptures become distinguishable. For example, above both sides of the western staircase there are statues of Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom with mitre, on the roof of the western annex it is possible to notice a statue of Basil the Great. Twelve figures of apostles share borders of an octagon. A closer look shows the traces of time – one statue lacks a head, another lacks a wing. The foundation of the church also needs restoration. To draw attention to this issue, the World Monuments Fund even included the structure in one list with the Peruvian Machu Picchu and the Spanish Sagrada Familia cathedral.

View from above

History of the church with the crown in Dubrovitsy

The religious structure is valuable not only for its architectural component, but also for its rich history. It is known that on the site of the temple there used to be Ilyinskaya Church made of wood. The construction of the future object of cultural heritage started in 1690 and lasted 14 years.

The process, which was led by Boyar Boris Golitsyn, involved masters from different countries, including people from Italy, Poland, Sweden and Germany. The exact name of the chief architect, we are unlikely to learn. There is one version, according to which it could have been the Swedish court master Nikodemus Tessin the Younger.

Decorative white stone from stone quarries in Syany was used as a building material. It was transported along the river Pakhra.

The constructed church was named in honor of the icon of the Mother of God “The Sign”. But the elaborate decor and the non-traditional architectural style had unexpected consequences: Patriarch Adrian refused to consecrate the construction. The consecration took place after the death of the priest, on February 11 (22) 1704, by Metropolitan Stephen. At a ceremony attended by Peter I.

In XVIII century the Ascension temple in Dubrovitsy was replenished with a bell tower. The tower did not survive – it was blown up in 1931. At one time the church together with the Dubrovitsy estate, of which it is a part, was a museum. In 1990 the Orthodox shrine was given to the community.

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Crown instead of dome

Inside the church in Dubrovitsy

The decoration will surprise you no less than the exterior. The walls are richly decorated with sculptures and are designed in heavenly tones. A considerable part of the internal space is allocated to them. They all have different motifs, but all are united by biblical motifs and made in stucco technique. The figures were made of broken bricks and lime mortar, with a metal frame used as the basis.

The largest composition is located above the iconostasis and represents the central subject in the cycle “The Passion of the Lord”. In the center is a crucifix, to the right is an inscription in Latin, next to it are two seated angels.

Note also the coeval of the church, the baroque carved iconostasis. Some of the icons were returned here from the All-Russian Institute of Animal Husbandry in 2000. Some of the icons are attributed to the masters of the Armory Chamber. There is also the icon of the “Sign”, painted 150 years ago. Prayers and akathistos are often served in front of the image of the Heavenly Protector.

It is impossible not to notice the two-tiered choir, which occupies the top of the western ledge. The balconies repeat the outlines of the narthex and are supported by carved columns, resembling a bridge. It is known that Peter I prayed here during the consecration of the temple.


Divine services in the Church of the Sign in Dubrovitsy

The temple is active, services are held here daily. Typically, prayers are read in the morning at 07:00 and evening at 17:00. About sacraments and ceremonies you should agree in advance with the priest. For parishioners and tourists the church is open every day from 08:00 to 17:30, during evening celebratory services until 20:00.

Since 2003 a Sunday school has been working at the church. The students study the Law of God, the history of the Church and Russia, the Church Slavonic language, singing, liturgics and do creative work. The spiritual leader of the school is archpriest Andrei Gritsyshyn.


How to get there

Dubrovitskaya pearl rises on a high hill, formed at the confluence of the rivers Pakhra and Desna. The town is a part of Podolsk urban district. It is easy to get to it from Moscow – the distance from the ring road is 16 kilometers, from the center of the capital – 36 kilometers. Coordinates for navigator: 55.44139802304196 and 37.49451920013428 . As for transport, you can get here by train or bus, except for cars.

From Moscow, there are trains leaving from the Kursk station every 15 to 20 minutes. The trip will take about an hour. In Podolsk you will take bus number 65. The bus will take you to “Dubrovitsy village” stop. From there it will take about five minutes to get to the estate.

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If you are in Moscow, go to metro and metro station “Lesoparkovaya” of Butovskaya line. Once there, wait for minibus 417. It will take you to the stop mentioned above.

By car: From the center of Moscow take Warsaw highway or Moscow Ring Road and then go along M2. The car should be parked nearby the fenced area of the estate.

By cab: There are no problems with calling a car. Use taxi services “Maxim”, “Yandex. Cab”, “Veset”, “Citimobile”, Uber.

Church of the Sign in Dubrovitsy on Google panorama: view from outside

Church history

The Church of the Sign of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Dubrovitsy estate, Podolsk district, Moscow region is one of the most extraordinary monuments of church architecture of the XVII-XVIII centuries. No other temple near Moscow is not as mysterious as this one. Neither the author of this masterpiece, nor the craftsmen who worked here are known to us with certainty. One can only say with certainty that both foreign and Russian craftsmen worked on the Dubrovitsy temple.

Boris Alexeevich Golitsyn

The construction of the Church of the Sign dates back to the times when Prince Boris Alexeevich Golitsyn, the tutor of Peter the Great, owned the Dubrovitsy estate. In 1689 he was slandered before the tsar and the tsar ordered him to retire to his village. Emperor’s anger passed quickly, and in 1690 Boris Alexeevich was summoned to Moscow and he was granted boyar dignity. It is believed that it was as a sign of reconciliation with Peter I that the prince decided to erect a new white-stone church in Dubrovitsy.

Originally at the place of the Church of the Sign there was a wooden church in the name of the Prophet Elijah. It was built in 1662, and in 1690 was removed to the village of Lemeshevo next to Dubrovitsy. The Church of the Sign of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built of local white stone, found everywhere in Podolsk region. This material, on the one hand, easy to handle, and on the other – is strong enough to work out the fine details, such as a fine carving of the decorative decoration of the temple.

There is no doubt that the construction of the temple was finished by 1699, or maybe even earlier. However it took another five years before it was consecrated. This was probably due to the intention of Prince B. Golitsyn decided to invite Peter I to the consecration of the Church of the Sign to Dubrovitsy, which was impossible before 1704, because the Tsar hardly visited Moscow at that time. First of all, the prince had to ask Patriarch Adrian for permission to consecrate such an unusual church, built in the baroque style and decorated in the European manner. It is possible that during the construction the original plan was changed, and it took several more years for the masters to build the white stone gallery of the temple.

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Metropolitan Stephan

After Patriarch Adrian died, Metropolitan Stephan (Yavorsky) of Ryazan and Murom became the Patriarchal Locum Tenens of the Moscow Throne. On February 11 (old style), 1704, the Locum Tenens consecrated a new church at Dubrovitsy. The service on that day was attended by Tsar Peter I himself and his son, Tsarevich Alexei. Celebrations on this occasion lasted a week and all local residents were invited to them. After that Peter I apparently did not visit Dubrovitsy any more.

Architecture of the temple

In plan the church is a central building: an equal-pointed cross with rounded lobes. The height of the temple with a dome is about 42, 3 m. Around the temple, following the contour of its plan, is a narrow gallery which rises above the ground by ten steps and is enclosed by a high parapet. The plinth of the building and the parapet are covered with a whole network of ornaments.

Sculptures of apostles

The whole temple is richly decorated with round white stone sculptures – something unprecedented for those times. Near the western doors the figures of two hierarchs are placed: Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. The statue of St. Basil the Great is located above the western door of the temple. The sculptures depict tall elders dressed in robes.

In the entering corners of the plinth there are statues of the four Evangelists, at the base of the octagonal tower there are figures of the eight Apostles, besides the facade is decorated with many different images of Angels.

The spherical arch of the pillar of the Church of the Sign is closed by eight spiked arcs of a metal gilt crown. Such an accomplishment of the temple in the form of a crown is quite original. In another estate of B. A. Golitsyn near Moscow. Golitsyn, Bolshiye Vyazemi, the prince also decorated the church with a crown. But it differed from the Dubrovitsa crown in shape and was made of white stone.

Interior of the temple

The interior of the Dubrovitsa Church also has abundant sculptural decoration. Relief compositions occupy a significant part of the space. The subjects of sculptures made in stucco technique are very diverse, but they have one thing in common: all of them are made on biblical motifs and arranged in a certain system. The sculptures were made on the spot, using a metal frame and a base consisting of broken bricks and lime mortar. The base was daubed with a special mixture, then the contour was cut through the raw mortar and the figures were modeled finally.

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The sculptural composition “Crucifixion

The largest sculptural composition in the interior of the church is Crucifixion, the central subject in the cycle Passion of the Lord. To the right of the “Crucifixion” is an inscription pointed by two seated angels. Similar texts accompany other scenes and are arranged in cartouches decorated with shell, acanthus leaves and garlands. The inscriptions were originally in Latin, but during the 19th-century restoration they were replaced by Church Slavonic quotations from the Gospel, as requested by Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow. During restoration works in 2004, the Latin texts were restored in their original form.

In the northwest pylon of the temple is a small door leading to the stairs to the two-story choir, which occupies the entire top of the western ledge. A stone staircase from the pylon leads to the lower tier, which is a balcony, repeating the contour of the wall of the western vestibule of the church. Light carved columns support the second tier of the choir, which has the form of a bridge. It was here, during the consecration of the church in 1704, that Peter the Great prayed. The carving of the iconostasis and the two-tiered choir is remarkable.

The icons are in perfect harmony with the carved part of the iconostasis. Their creation is ascribed to masters of the Moscow Kremlin Armory. Undoubtedly, the images, as well as the decoration of the temple, were influenced by Western European iconography.

Two-tiered choir

History of the parish

During its three hundred year history the Dubrovitsa church has undergone three major restorations, and only one of them was completed. It dates back to the time when Dubrovitsy was owned by Count Matvey Dmitriev-Mamonov.

The restoration of the church in 1848-1850 was entrusted to academician Fyodor Richter. Up to 300 masters were involved in the work in Dubrovitsy.

The consecration of the renewed Church was performed on August 27 (old style), 1850 by Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow. In memory of his visit to the Church in Dubrovitsy, St. Filaret left there a gilded silver basin and a dish which were used for divine services.

In 1812. Dubrovitsy was occupied by Napoleon’s army, but no damage was done to the church by the French. Not all churches were treated this way.

The Soviet period of our history turned out to be more cruel to the Dubrovica monuments than the time of Napoleon’s invasion. In the beginning of March 1930, according to the newspaper “Podolsky worker”, permission to close the church in Dubrovitsy was received, and on March, 8 it was planned to remove the bells. A year before the decision of the town executive committee, all the clergy and churchmen were evicted from their homes on the territory of Dubrovitsa, and their homes and lands were given to the state farm “Dubrovitsa”. Thus opened a tragic page in the history of this majestic temple.

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Mikhail Andreyevich Poretsky

The last rector of the Church of the Sign was the priest Mikhail Andreyevich Poretsky, who was exiled in 1930 to Semipalatinsk, from where he never returned. At the end of the 1950s the church was transferred to the All-Union Institute of Livestock, which is located in the mansion Dubrovitsy. For 40 years, the Institute had been doing restoration work on the church, which, unfortunately, was never finished.

From October 1989 to October 1990, the faithful fought for the return of the Dubrovitsa Church to the Russian Orthodox Church. On October 14, 1990 the first service was held in the Church of the Sign. It was headed by Archbishop Grigory of Mozhaisk.

Since then, the forces of the parish have been carrying out large-scale and complex restoration work in the church and on its territory. Several projects to restore the church, from the narthex and foundations to the iconostasis and choir, have been drawn up.

During the year 2000, all four large white stone porch walls of the temple were restored, and the carved decor of the white stone narthex was started to be restored. These works are not completed yet. A specialized restoration organization has also strengthened the foundation of the temple with a special mortar that has filled any cracks and voids at all levels of the foundation of the temple and the narthex.

The interior of the temple underwent a cosmetic restoration of sculptural high reliefs. From 2003 to 2018, the carved, gilded iconostasis of the temple was restored. The surviving icons of the late 17th century were fully restored and the lost icons were recreated. The restoration of the carved and gilded choir was also started.

The iconostasis of 2003

The iconostasis of 2003.

2005 iconostasis

The iconostasis of 2005

2019 iconostasis

The iconostasis of 2019

In 1910, the architect Sergey Makovsky said of the Dubrovitsky church, “You will never see anything like this in Russia; there is nothing more extravagant and charming than this! These words, having gone through times of persecution and devastation, revival and restoration, have not lost their relevance. And today everyone who comes to Dubrovitsy, the Church of the Sign of the Most Holy Mother of God charms just as centuries ago!

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