The beautiful Russian Orthodox Parish dedicated to St. Sergius, Hiegumen of Radonezh with its 5 golden domes that add a bright light to the rather drab surrounding landscape was founded as a result of the decision of the Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church on the 29 December 1998.

I met with Denis and Professor Sergy Vybornov who is the chancellor. Denis gave me a tour of the beautiful church and filled me in on the Orthodox religion. Initially the church operated from a small house in Carlswald, Midrand where a house church with regular services was arranged. New land was sought out and funds raised, the building of the new church began with the first stone being laid on the 15 December 2001. Construction was complete by March 2003.

The domes took quite a bit of work, no local company could shape them correctly and eventually with the assistance from Russia did the copper domes with their gold leaf coverings get placed on the church in April 2004. This particular church has 5 domes or cupolas, which are candle shaped, one for Christ and the other four for the 4 Apostles.The shape of the ‘onion-domes’ is in itself symbolic of light, being representative of the flame on a candle.

The church is the only one to be built South of the Equator. Built in the tradition style which is the shape of a cross and with the alter facing East it has been modelled on styles of churches from St Petersburg. This century old tradition is still breathtaking. A bell tower is found in the western part of the property.

Newcomers to the church stand at the back and the older members of the parish stand further in, this area is known as the nave. The church can hold up to 400 people upstairs and downstairs for the 2 hour service. Unlike other churches there are no pews in the nave and the entire service is conducted while standing. Women cover their hair when entering the church and in and Orthodox church the sign of the cross is made in the opposite direction on a person’s body to that of a Catholic church.

In front of the altar stands the priest and servers, these are men, no women may help here. The two doors that ones sees in the middle of the iconostasis which is the large ornate wooden frame covered with icons is, called the Kingsgate, only the clergy may enter here. The wooden frame is divided into three sections with images and designs, the lower, then the middle is the Daity layer and the third layer is the 12 feasts like The Last supper. On the right of the Kingsgate is an icon of Christ and the left an icon of the Virgin Mary. The second image on the right is always the Saint of the that particular church, in this instance it is St Sergius.

Four strong pillars in Byzantium style are found in the church to support the central coupla, as your eyes trace the magnificent art work from floor to ceiling of icons or wall paintings of saints , their lives and stories from the Bible one can only be envious of the incredible talent of the painter who manager this work all free hand and by judging the outcome of the patterns from one side of an arch to the other. Above the nave in the dome of the church is the icon of Christ and below that surrounded by a circle of tears from angels and then a larger circle of angels followed by the 12 Apostles. Around the brim of this is the Slovanik “ Creed”

At the front of the church near the alter you can view a golden box with relics of various saints. If you are wondering what a relics is, its a piece of bone from the saint in a transparent box. Although the entire church was built was in South African the artisans where brought in from Russia to assist, such as the team who did the mosaic work and the 75 year old man who carved the emboya iconostasis was a prisoner of war in World War 2 which is where he learnt his trade, this
was his last work of art before passing away.

Denis has been there since the start and even got married in the church, telling me how someone stands behind the bride and the groom holding a metal crown over their head during the ceremony. One must have strong arms for that. There have been many weddings here and Denis has captured many special moments at the church over the years through his camera lens including a rainbow that looks like it found its pot of gold by landing in the church after a storm.

This was a beautiful experience, I felt lost in my own world and enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the church and could sit for hours appreciating the art work.

For contact details and Mass times see:

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