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Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church

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  • Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church (Alison K. Hoagland)
  • Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church (Jet Lowe)

Occupying a spectacular setting on top of a high bluff overlooking the village, the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Church is one of only four Alaskan Russian Orthodox churches built in a cruciform plan. Elaborate by Alaskan standards, such a grand church is unexpected here; when this church was built in 1901 the village had a population of only about one hundred. The church was probably designed by Father Alexi Andreev Oskolkoff, then the resident priest. Today, the congregation is served by a visiting priest from Kenai.

The log church with carefully dovetailed corners is covered with beveled siding. At the crossing of the gable roofs of the nave and transept, there is an octagonal cupola topped by an onion dome, one of five onion domes on the church. The square bell tower on the west end is two stories high; its pyramidal roof supports a square belfry, which is also topped by an onion dome.

On the interior, the low ceilings of the nave and transepts rise to an octagonal dome in the center, crowned by the cupola that sheds light into the nave. The church has a surprisingly intimate feel on the inside; the nave is only 24 feet long, and the transepts are only 10 feet wide. The nine-bay iconostas is ornamented with four large oil-on-canvas icons.

The front of the vestibule, under the porch, has been faced with an unsightly varnished wood, but the church otherwise remains remarkably unchanged. The beveled siding was applied some time after 1916. A wider bell tower replaced the original, which had round-arch openings in the belfry; the ends of the original are visible in the interior of the vestibule. The churchyard and cemetery are neatly fenced. The location of the church, high above the village, leaves no doubt as to its intended supremacy in villagers' lives.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland



Alison K. Hoagland, "Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church", [Ninilchik, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 123-124.

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