Kirches

The Kaliningrad region has many ancient religious buildings still preserved. The very first of these were built as Catholic churches in the 13th century by the knights of the Teutonic Order, who conquered the land of the ancient Prussian pagans. After the proclamation of Prussia as the first Protestant state in Europe in 1525, new churches began to be built in the spirit of Protestantism - they were distinguished by a simple architecture that was bright, yet powerful.

Approaching many cities and towns of the region by car, you will notice from afar the Gothic spires of the old churches. Most of the former East Prussian religious buildings have now been transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church. Many of them are restored and Orthodox services are held there. Some of the kirches suffered badly during the Second World War or in the post-war period and were not restored: their ruins, sometimes very picturesque, can also be witnessed across the area.

 Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

Judittenkirche is considered to be the oldest building on the territory of Kaliningrad. Historians argue about the temple’s founding date, the most common version refers back to 1288 - the date of first mention in the written chronicles. The building stands on a hill and partly resembles an ancient fortress because of its powerful walls, loophole windows and the main nave made from untreated boulders. This monument of early Germanic Gothic architecture became a place of religious pilgrimage even before the Reformation. Here was the famous wonderworking sculpture entitle Virgin and Child on the Crescent Moon, which, as the legend says, was always warm. It was credited with numerous miracles. Throughout its history, the church was rebuilt several times, and in 1907, during another restoration, the frescoes of the late 14th century were cleaned of whitewash. Unfortunately, they did not survive to this day.

Judittenkirche was not damaged in the war, but fell into disuse and became desolated during the Soviet era. In 1985, the ruins of the church were given to the Russian Orthodox Church, and in 1986 it was consecrated in honor of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Thus the first Orthodox church appeared on the territory of the Kaliningrad region. In 1999, the first Orthodox monastery appeared here, with church as its basis. Judittenkirche (St. Nicholas Cathedral), although located on the outskirts of Kaliningrad, is one of the symbols of the city: it is depicted on a coin issued by the Central Bank as part of the Architectural Monuments of Russia series.

Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
Just 500 metres (1,640 feet) away from the Fishing Village, visitors come face to face with another wonder of Kaliningrad: Church of the Holy Cross (formerly known as the Lutheran Kreuzkirche). There are several buildings like this one in the Baltic states, in the art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. However, the unique amber iconostasis that was dedicated in the early 21st century is definitely worth seeing.

The cathedral is located on the huge Oktyabrsky Island (formerly Lomse), which was once home to numerous wood warehouses and carpentry workshops. In the middle of the 18th century there were even plans to develop silk manufacturing and grow hundreds of mulberry trees on the island, although those plans were not fulfilled.

The route takes us to the city of Guryevsk, located seven kilometers to the north-east of Kaliningrad. Until 1946, it was called Neuhausen. The local church was built in the very end of the 13th century, and then rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century.

On the western side of the church there is a looming tower, the first floor of which is built from boulders. At the end of the 17th century, a new cathedra, altar and confessional were installed in the church. During the Second World War, the church suffered artillery shelling, but was restored and repurposed by the city club. After the fires of 1970-1980 the building became dilapidated and was restored only in 1993, after its transfer to the community of the New Apostolic Church.

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

On the way from Guryevsk to Polessk there is a very small village of Turgenevo, which used to be called Gross Legitten. The Kirche here was built in the 13th century, and after numerous reconstructions only the choirs of 1400 remain intact; All the remaining parts of the building were erected later. Boulders and bricks were used to build the church.

In the 19th century, the Baroness Jenny von Gustedt, the illegitimate daughter of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's niece was buried by the walls of the temple. On the north wall of the church there is a monument to those perished in the First World War, represented by a figure of a German soldier. The Second World War did not affect to the church, but in the postwar years the building fell into disuse. In the 1990s, several people who lived in Gross Legitten back when it was still a German village raised funds for the conservation of the building. Now the church belongs to the Lutheran community of the region and religious services are held here.

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

The village of Zheleznodorozhny is located in the south of the Kaliningrad region. The building of the Church of Gerdauen (former name of the settlement, used until 1946), preserved to this day, was built in the second quarter of the 15th century. The northern part of the church originally performed a defensive function and was part of the city wall, so it did not have windows. At the end of the 17th century an organ appeared in the church. In 1913, a major fire broke out in the tower, and in 1914 the church was damaged during World War I. The restoration of the building dragged on until early 1920s. Unlike many other churches in the region, the Gerdauen church, like the city itself, was not damaged during the Second World War. In the Soviet era, the building was used as a House of Culture. In the 1990s, works on the preservation of the historical structure were carried out. It is located among the old buildings of Zheleznodorozhny, and the area is a landmark in its own right.

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

25 kilometers from Zheleznodorozhny, on the Lava River, is a cozy and green city of Pravdinsk. The local church, founded in 1313, is perfectly preserved to this day. Currently it the Orthodox St. George's Church. 

Originally the church was wooden, then it was repeatedly rebuilt with bricks. After the fire of 1772, the upper part of the tower was rebuilt, an observation deck was added, and now it is possible to climb up there - it offers a stunning view of Pravdinsk and the settlements near it. The height of the tower is 60.6 meters. The kirche was practically untouched by the Second World War, but it was badly damaged in the Soviet years. The former residents of Friedland and the Russian Orthodox Church helped the restoration effort, and the building was transferred to the Church in 1990. Today the church, located on the high bank of the Mill Pond, is a postcard landmark of the city.

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

Approaching Kaliningrad from the east, from the town of Chernyakhovsk, it is worthwhile to visit the village of Ushakovo, where the very beautiful church of St. Nicholas stands preserved. Bear in mind that there are two villages in the Guryev district with the same name of Ushakovo. The one to the south of Kaliningrad, located on the bay, is also very interesting, but the Ushakovo village we need located to the east of the regional center, not far from the main river of the region - Pregolya. Until 1946, this settlement was called Heiligenwald. The church was built here in 1344, and its modern appearance was acquired in the 15th century after the construction of the tower. Boulders were used in the structure of the building, later plastered with lime, along with bricks. In the church there were unique religious sculptures, including the carved figure of Mary, mother of Jesus of 1510. In the 1990s, the restoration of the church began.

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

Right near Kaliningrad, in the village of Rodniki (the German name of the village is Arnau), there is another beautiful church, the spire of which is visible from the nearby federal highway. The church is unique primarily due its medieval frescoes dating back to the 14th century. The temple was built in the 14th century as well. 

Frescos were part of the rich interior of the church. Next to it is the grave of the President of East and West Prussia, Theodor von Schön, a well-known German statesman, reformer and defender of civil liberties. Currently, the building of the kirche is used as an Orthodox church, restoration is underway.