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Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

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  • Exterior (Alison K. Hoagland)
  • Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (Jet Lowe)
  • Iconostas (Jet Lowe)

This church is particularly grand for such a small village. The form of the church is apparently based on that of the cathedral at Unalaska, about 100 miles to the northeast. Lacking wings, the church at Nikolski has a tall, hip-roofed nave framed by gable-roofed sanctuary and narthex. Entrance is through the base of a two-story bell tower. One odd detail is the same as at Unalaska: round-arch windows in the second level of the west end of the nave. Unlike Unalaska, however, this church has three windows on each side of the nave.

The interior of this wood-framed building is large, with the nave measuring 27 feet by 33 feet and the ceiling rising to a height of 17 feet. There is a three-step amvon, or dais in front of the iconostas, with projections along the sides. The iconostas is divided into seven bays and two tiers, ornamented with carving, piercework, and light bulbs. The building has an extraordinary amount of carving, attributed to Sergei Soroff, a member of the church. Ornament includes the fat balusters at the choir loft and amvon and narrower balusters around the warden's desk; candlestands; frames for icons on the iconostas, above it, and on the amvon balustrade; and a medallion in the nave ceiling, reminiscent in design of that at Unalaska, but here carved instead of painted.

The size and splendor of this church, funded and built by the parishioners, is unusual in a small fishing village. Nikolski, however, had a burst of prosperity in the 1920s, stemming from fox trapping on outlying islands. On Nikolski a sheep ranch established in 1926 survives today.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland



Alison K. Hoagland, "Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church", [Nikolski, 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, 295-295.

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