St. Petersburg’s Annenkirche is a sight worth seeing. An Evangelical Lutheran church built in the 1770’s, the building has seen many reincarnations throughout its life. During the time of the Soviet Union the building was used to house a cinema, then until the early 2000’s the space was transformed into a nightclub. The nightclub remained until 2002 when a fire burned most of the inside of the church. After the fire the outer walls remained undamaged, and in 2012 the Evangelical Lutheran Church began restoring the building. During restoration the decision was made to keep the interior as it was left after the fire. Now, baring the scars of the fire, the church looks more like the set of a horror film than a place of worship, yet there is something eerily beautiful about this building.
Today Lutheran church services are held in Annenkirche every Sunday in Russian, and during the school year they offer a weekly service in English. In addition to religious services, the Annenkirche also serves as a venue for events including art shows, concerts, and a Christmas market. Occasionally the church provides tours open to the public in Russian, which I was lucky enough to experience thanks to SRAS for notifying us when the tour would be. The tours cost approximately 200 roubles (roughly $3) per person, the cost of which was covered by SRAS when we went as a group.
The tour was conducted by the pastor of the church, and included an overview of the history of the church, a walk through the upper balcony of the main hall, a tour of the cupola and the attic crawl space, as well as performance by the choir followed by the opportunity to ask the pastor questions about the history of the building and Lutheranism in Russia. For me personally, the most interesting part of the tour was being able to stand in the cupola and then tour the attic crawl space. To reach the cupola we had to climb a winding staircase in the back of the church, up a narrow set of old wooden steps, and into the bright, airy dome at the top of the church. From there we toured the crawl space, with its dirt floor and exposed rafters. This part of the tour really made it feel like we were getting a special behind-the-scenes look at this beautiful old church. The only possible downside to the tour is that it is given entirely in Russian, which can be a great opportunity for language practice, but at times it could be difficult to understand all of the information. That being said, I would recommend taking the tour even if you do not speak any Russian just to see the church in person.
To get to Annenkirche from the UNECON dorms via the metro, first walk to the Spasskaya station and ride the yellow/orange line for one stop to Dostoyevskaya. At Dostoevskaya transfer to the red line, and ride for two stops to Chernyshevskaya. At Chernyshevskaya exit the metro onto Prospekt Chernyshevskovo and take a right onto Kirochnaya. Walk along Kirochnaya for approximately 5 minutes and Annenkirche will be on the right. To find events at the church, simply google “Annenkirche St. Petersburg” and a list of upcoming events will be generated in the right hand column of the page, but act fast because tickets for events at the church sell out fast. For more photos and information follow the #annenkirche on Instagram.