Metropolitan Feofan asked to recognise church in Tyulyachi as landmark

An old church recognised as a cultural heritage site is restored in Tatarstan

Metropolitan Feofan asked to recognise church in Tyulyachi as landmark
Photo: courtesy of Alexey Pavlov

The work on the conservation of ancient churches with signs of cultural heritage sites goes on in Tatarstan. A unique Orthodox church built in 1771 survived in a primarily Tatar area of the republic. This had an impact on the appearance of the building too, which resembles a mosque’s mihrab. The site’s fate is tough — during different periods it was adapted for a department of infectious diseases of a local hospital, a residence hall and bakery. In 2019, the Intercession of the Theotokos Church was recognised a regional historical landmark. Now it hosts services, restoration works go on. Both an ex-minister and famous entrepreneurs are among benefactors.

Provincial barocco

Restoration works of the village’s only Christian Orthodox church in the regional centre Tyulachi.

The Intercession of the Theotokos Church, which turned 250 years ago, was recognised a regional cultural heritage site and was protected by the state. It is noteworthy that deceased Metropolitan Feofan sent a request to the Tatarstan Committee for Cultural Heritage Sites to recognise the building a landmark.

A state historical and cultural examination confirmed that the Intercession of the Theotokos Church was erected in 1771. The building an urban engineering dominant of the central part of Tyulyachi, shapes its architecture and is perfectly seen at the entrance to the settlement from Kazan.

The church itself hasn’t survived completely. Since the “top” — a part of the bell tower and cupola — was demolished, they had to be built up. Modern forms of the quadrangle with drum and three layers of the bell tower (there were two of them according to historical descriptions) aren’t identical to the first appearance, but in general the building “from a composition and urban engineering perspective correspond to the historical characteristics and its functional content”, the examination reads.

A state historical and cultural examination confirmed that the Intercession of the Theotokos Church was erected in 1771

The church was made of large red brick of lime solution in the style of modest provincial Barocco. The building looks like a “ship” and has cross-like shape. The facade has rectangular pilasters at the corners, window apertures with bow lintels are adorned with ascetic brick frames in the form of cylinders.

It is interesting that the apse of the main altar, by an expert’s evaluation, resembles a mosque’s mihrab. Such a solution isn’t characteristic of Orthodox churches of the Kazan governorate and is probably linked with the ethnicity of Tyulyachi residents. Historical brick vaults with metal ties, a lower tier of the bell tower with brick stairs in the wall.

The vaults of the church were adorned with frescoes. Judging by the technique and images, there were allegedly made in the late 19th — early 20th centuries. Famous Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov’s works are in the foundation.

Photos with Christ Emmanuel and another image on the pillar column have survived. Nowadays all vaults of the church have been plastered, however, the expert noted that the plaster was put onto the paint, the frescoes were preserved.

A wrought iron awning above the entrance to the church, which lived to see 2004, didn’t survive.

The church was made of large red brick of lime solution in the style of modest provincial Barocco. Credit: State historical and cultural examination

“There are huge investments there”

Priest of the church Alexey Pavlov told Realnoe Vremya that a big part of the building was restored, only the works inside the bell tower haven’t ended.

“There aren’t lamps yet, only usual bulbs are hanging, there isn’t churchware in the altar. But services are done, there is the minimum set. The iconostasis has new icons and those that returned to the church. During the Soviet era, they were taken home, now they have been brought back.”

It is interesting that an old bell, which was taken to a local fire station after it was thrown from the bell tower, was found too. As it turned out the landmark is restored with a benefactor’s money, the person wants to remain anonymous.

“There are big investments there. He comes from Tyulyachi, in 2017, he came to his niece’s funeral, saw the church in tatters and wanted to help. He has restored it almost from ruins. We give him a low bow. He provided workers, a foreman, my function was only to feed them, host and recommend something,” Father Alexy shared.

Priest of the church Alexey Pavlov told Realnoe Vremya that a big part of the building was restored, only the works inside the bell tower haven’t ended. Credit: State historical and cultural examination

The territory around the old church is improved too. Last year, a holy spring in honour of the icon Bogorodica Trojeručica was solemnly opened by Epiphany last year. During the Soviet era, after the church closed, people came to this place to pray. A cross was installed there in the 90s, while the territory of the ancient spring was improved, a font was created with money from citizens’ self-taxation in 2021.

Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan managed to visit the restored Intercession of the Theotokos Church, while new His Grace Kirill did a pontifical service last year for the first time in 100 years by the 250th jubilee of the church.

It might seem strange for somebody how there can be such an old Orthodox church in Tyulyachi District primarily with the Tatar population. Tyulyachi itself was founded during the era of the Kazan Khanate. But in the 1560s, this territory was populated by Russian peasants.

The first wooden church appeared here in the early 18th century, it was built with landlord Afasny Skripitsyn’s money. Before the reform in 1861, residents were considered landlords’ peasants. They dealt with agriculture, bred livestock, made carts and rubs, traded. Insurrection (from 1 to 8 October) and Assumption (from 6 to 12 January) fairs took place here from the middle 19th to the early 20th centuries.

A local government was located in Tyulyachi in the early 20th century, a school (from 1875), leather and butter factories, four locksmith’s workshops, a phone station, two stores, a tavern, three pubs, one public vine bar and nine junk shops, one wine cellar, a market on Thursdays operated.

The metal tent from the western facade (lost). Credit: State historical and cultural examination

Before 1920, the village was the centre of Bolshe-Kibyak-Kozinsky District, Laishevo Country, Kazan Governorate. From 1920, it became part of Laishevo, from 1927 Arsk Cantons of the TASSR. From 1930, Tyulyachi joined Saba District, then it was separated. From 4 October 1991, the village got the status as regional centre.

In memory of spouse

The stone church was built in 1771 with landlady Nadezhda Aristova’s money. She did it in memory of her husband who died during the Russian-Turkish War in 1768-1774. It is said the construction site of the new church was indicated by Empress Catherine II herself who passed by the village en route to Siberia.

The church was three altars: the main is honour of the Intercession of the Theotokos, the northern — in honour of Saint Nicholas and the southern one is in honour of the icon of Virgin Mary named Trojeručica.

The parish was considered wealthy before the revolution. Clerical reports of the archive of the Kazan Religious Consistory in 1906, 1909 read: “The building [of the church] is made of stone, with one bell town, it is firm; the whole church is warm; the fence around the church is stone with a wooden rack. The iconostasis in the main church has two tiers, the others are one-tier. The church has enough churchware. The clergy of the parish must consist of a priest and psalm reader according to Decree No. 3 of the Holy Synod as of 4 March 1883, there were a priest and psalm reader in fact.”

In 1873, a church school for 87 boys and 30 girls was founded in the church. Later, there appeared a library that was annually replenished.

By the early 20th century, the parish had 30 hectares of arable land and 3 hectares of meadow, it owned 18 buildings: a church house, a building above the cellar, a shed, united horse barn and bankhouse, two animal stalls, two barns, two sheds, two cart wrights, two barns, one-storey house, a church watchman’s booth.

In 1939, the church closed, the cupola and bell tower were destroyed. First, the building was repurposed for a regional hospital’s department of infectious diseases, then it was used as residence hall and bakery.

Credit: State historical and cultural examination

Both entrepreneurs and a minister among benefactors

In 2000, a group of local believers wrote a letter to First Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev asking him to return the church, which then belonged to Tatpotrebsoyuz. In 2004, the church was given back.

With the financial assistance of the administration of the district, the parishioners repaired the roof, cleaned the bricks, removed litter, cleansed the ceiling and walls, dismantled the furnaces remaining after the bakery. Head of the local fire station Anatoly Lapin returned the “survived” old bell to the church.

In May 2011, active restoration works began in the church. A stone second tier with a dome drum was erected above the historical cage of the building for four years. Another three tiers were built on the original foundation of the first floor, aisles were organised, modern rectangular rooms were built from the southern and northern sides.

The church had several big benefactors — entrepreneur from Serbia Vidan Mihajlović did general construction works for a million rubles, with financial assistance of Ex-Minister of Transport and Road of Tatarstan Lenar Safin the facades were restored and the territory near the church was improved. Cupolas and crosses were installed on the church on 5 April 2015, and it started to look like it looks today.

Large-scale reconstruction works have been done with the other benefactor’s money who we have mentioned above since 2018 until now.

Photo courtesy of Alexey Pavlov

On 17 September 2019, by a decree of the Tatarstan Committee of Cultural Heritage Sites, the Intercession of the Theotokos Church was added to the list of historical and cultural sites, and in December 2019 it was included to a registry of regional cultural heritage sites.

Eleonora Rylova
Tatarstan