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Father Gerasim's Cell and Chapel

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1930s. Monk's Lagoon
  • Father Gerasim's Cell and Chapel (Alison K. Hoagland)
  • Father Gerasim's Cell and Chapel (Jet Lowe)

Along the path to the Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam Russian Orthodox Chapel stands a small complex of buildings, memorials to an apostolic life. In a commitment of faith that is rare in modern times, Father Gerasim devoted his life to the memory of Father Herman, who had been dead nearly one hundred years by the time Father Gerasim arrived on Spruce Island.

Born in Russia in 1888, Father Gerasim came to Alaska in 1915, serving at Sitka, Kodiak, and Afognak. In 1935 he was assigned to the other side of Spruce Island, where he spent winters at Ouzinkie. He spent summers in isolation at Monk's Lagoon, however, increasingly withdrawing from society and devoting his time and energies to the memory of a long-dead priest. After nearly losing his life in the 1964 tidal wave, Father Gerasim's health declined, and he died in 1966.

The small complex of buildings is an evocative memorial to his life of devotion. The small frame cabin he built, with the help of Ouzinkie villagers, has two rooms, a bedroom and a living room, still furnished and lined with icons and books. The small kitchen is in a lean-to addition. A frame chapel, measuring 12 feet by 14 feet, stands on the site of Father Herman's cell; it has a moss-covered gable roof and a plywood interior lined with icons. Nearby, a new well house protects a spring from which holy water is obtained.

Although long vacant, the cell and chapel of this priest, who spent his life in a way that few of us can understand, have an immediacy about them that makes visitors feel as though they have intruded on a very private life, and a very private mission.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland

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