Faith and Community
The Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church has been the principal and most enduring representative of Russian culture in southcentral Alaska from 1841 to the present. For the Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina (Kenaitze Indians), the church was the major institution for acculturation of western culture, serving as an educational, religious, administrative, and judicial center into the twentieth century. The Church is a fine example of a Russian village church of the Pskov (vessel or ship) design.
Construction of the Holy Assumption began in 1894, to replace the previous church that was built in 1849. The church has a high, square, pyramidal-roofed nave framed by two gable-roofed sections. The belltower, 81-feet to the top of its cross, was added five years after initial construction. The church is built on an east-west axis, with the altar at the east end and a small porch with a gable roof on the west end. The building in covered with clapboard siding, painted white, and has brown trim around the windows and door, along the exterior corners, and outlining the center of the nave. The two story belltower has saw-tooth wooden molding painted blue at the eaves. The pyramidal roof-line of the tower is broken by an octagonal belfry, with eight windows with semi-circular arches. Three onion domes of varying shape and size sit at different heights along the central axis of the church, each topped with a cross.
Entering through the ground floor of the belltower (the narthex), one continues on through a pair of French doors into the nave. On a one step platform (the amvon) on the eastern end of the nave is the ikonostasis, a wall of icons and religious paintings which separates the sanctuary from the nave. An octagonal “dome” is centered above the nave, and a large brass chandelier hangs from its center.
Although some minor modifications have occurred over the years, it retains a high degree of integrity, including its original log walls which were stabilized in 2010. Construction of a separate outbuilding was completed in 2014 to house mechanical, electrical, and fire suppression equipment for the church. This building also serves as a gift shop for the church.