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Church of the Holy Martyr Saint George the Victorious

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1935–1936
  • Church of the Holy Martyr Saint George the Victorious (exterior)
  • Iconostas
  • Exterior

Unusual among Alaskan Russian Orthodox churches, the Church of Saint George features pointed-arch windows and an ogee-arch doorway. The origins of these Gothic elements are not known, and there is no known architect. Yet the form of the wood-framed, clapboard-covered building is traditional: sanctuary, nave, narthex, bell tower, and porch are all clearly expressed on the exterior. The bell tower is crowned by a large onion dome whose shape is reflected in the ogee arch of the doorway.

The interior contains another unusual and striking feature: a triple barrel arch extending the length of the nave. In the wall above the iconostas, a mural of the Madonna has been painted; the clouds and blonde angels, which look strangely like Hollywood starlets, add a surreal touch. The iconostas is traditional, divided into seven bays by engaged box columns, painted white. Colored light bulbs in porcelain sconces decorate both the vertical and horizontal elements of the iconostas.

The church was built by a local construction crew supervised by a carpenter named Pearson from Seattle and by Paul Swetzof, Sr., from Saint George. Like the earlier churches in the Pribilofs, construction was financed by the local Aleuts, from their earnings from sealing. Converted to Russian Orthodoxy by the Russians in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, the Aleuts have steadfastly held onto this religion, and this eccentric but striking church stands as witness.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Alison K. Hoagland
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Citation

Alison K. Hoagland, "Church of the Holy Martyr Saint George the Victorious", [St. George, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/AK-01-SW019.

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 298-299.

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