Histori - St. Anna

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Short History of the Evangelical Lutheran Parish of St. Anne’s   
The first Lutheran church in the environs of what is now St. Petersburg appeared in 1611 in the Swedish fort-city of Nienshantz, the forebear of St. Petersburg, on the banks of the river Ochta where it flowed into the Neva. After the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703, worship services for Lutherans at first continued in the Lutheran church on the Ochta. But in the summer of 1704 the Church of St Peters in the Peter and Paul fortress was already operating in a wooden structure. The congregation moved to the Liteiny side of the river and ultimately became the St. Anne’s Congregation. After several wooden churches were built and rebuilt, the last one in 1735, the congregation realized it needed a stone structure. In 20 of July 1775 under Catherine II they began building this current building according to the project of one of the best Petersburg German builders, Georgi (Yuri) Matveevich Felten, son of Peter the first’s personal cook. Felten was also the author of the pedestal for “the brass horseman,” the enclosure of the Summer Garden and many other churches and other famous buildings in St. Petersburg (old hermitage, aleksanderovski institute, etc.). On the 24th of October 1779 pastor Thomas friedrich Rainbat consecrated the sanctuary.

Pastor Thomas F Rainbat was replaced by his son, Friedrich. Together father and son served the parish 60 years. In 1826 the emperor Nicolai I sent pastor Friedrich Rianbat to Peter and Paul fortress for spiritual care of the convicted Decembrists some of whom were Lutheran. In 1838 Friedrich Moritz became pastor. After him a series of Russian born pastors served here having been educated by the Theological faculty of Derptskiy University. Services were attended by 1500 members and by 1885 the church had 12109 official members. Besides regular worship services, the parish also ran a school, an almshouse, an orphanage, a home for girls, a hospital and a farm for wayward women.

At the opening of the 20th century St. Anne’s was one of the most visited churches in the city. In the 1920s bishop Artur Malmgren served (he had also been pastor there until 1917), and the church became known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Northwest side. At that time St. Anne’s became the central parish of Petrograd-leningrad. Even though the Soviet atheist attacked the church from all sides, even renaming the street for a time to “Militant Athiest street”, St. Anne’s continued to minister with regular worship, confirmation classes, organ concerts, etc. In 1925 the parish opened the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, set up in the building next to the parish school (which is next to the Church). The necessity of setting up its own seminary was a result of the fact that the only organ for the higher education of pastors in Russia was the Derptskiy University which after 1917 was over the border in Estonia.

In 1930 Evgeni Bachman became pastor having graduated the Leningrad seminary. However, he did not serve very long. In January 1934 he was arrested and that same year the government closed the seminary, which later became known as the seminary of martyrs—all those who served or attended the seminary, even those listed as prospective students were subjected to repressive measures. The government finally closed the Church August 1, 1935 and turned it over to be used as a house of enlightenment, and in 1939 the church was mutated into a cinema, “Spartak.” At this time the religious art was destroyed, and the altar pictures removed: paintings by Ernest Lipgart (1847-1932) of “the Crucifixion” and “the last Supper” and “the Ascension” and statues of St. Peter and Paul. By the beginning of WWII (1939) not one functioning Lutheran Church remained in the city, even though in 1917 there were close to 30 Lutheran Churches and chapels.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, use of churches began to be returned to parishioners, among them St. Anne’s. Even though the building was not returned to the congregation, in 1992 parishioners were allowed to worship in the cinema space on Sunday mornings. This situation continued even as the cinema was replaced by “a house of pleasure” which hosted rock concerts, had a bar, slot machines, and other sorts of shows (for instance, tattoos on men’s and women’s bodies). Of course, the parish protested, and in 1997 the services were stopped. Finally the building was granted to the parish, but before it was returned, on December 6 2002 at 4 AM the building caught fire and was only able to be doused by the evening by the efforts of 120 firemen—by that time the building had completely burned. The German Evangelical Lutheran Church renounced its claims on the building, and late in 2013 the building was granted to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia. Bishop Arri Kugappi in his 2013 Christmas missal gave thanks to God for the building and congregation. The building needs major repairs, so any help in its restoration is welcome.
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