2018-02-28 / Features

Off the Beaten Track: Memories at Moscow’s The Trinity Church on Sparrow Hills

By Catherine Tsounis

View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills.
View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills. “Napoleon stood atop Sparrow Hills, the highest point in Moscow, and looked down upon the city as his Grand Armee entered. Tolstoy writes in War and Peace, ‘The view of the strange city with its peculiar architecture, such as he had never seen before, filled Napoleon with the rather envious and uneasy curiosity men feel when they see an alien form of life.” - James R. Holbrook.

We saw autumn flowers on Sparrow Hills on the way The Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills.
The Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills. to the Trinity Church in a recent trip to Moscow, Russia. A beautiful pastel green church, with beautiful outdoor mosaics, attracted our group’s attention. “This is the highest point in Moscow,” said our guide Irina. “I went to Moscow State University that is called one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ of Stalin. We would stop by the Trinity Church as college students.” Outside, we saw an impressive mosaic of St. Alexander Nevsky (savior of Medieval Russia from German and Swedish invaders) kneeling and asking for a blessing. Would we see this where we come from in 2018? The icon of St. Panteleimon, an early Christian doctor, reminded me of my church’s similar icon in The Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox church of Mattituck, New York. The altar and church interior give one a feeling of calmness and spirituality. Sparrow Hills has a natural beauty.

View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills.
View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills. Sparrow Hills was an inspiration for Russian poets and writers. Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills.
Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills. Sparrow Hills is a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River and one of the highest points in Moscow. On top of the hill, 85m above the river, is the observation platform which gives a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Travelers used to climb on top of the hill to enjoy the view and to see the final point of their destination: Moscow. The name ‘Sparrow’ – in Russian ‘Vorobyovy’ – was originally the name of the village that was located nearby.

The icon of St. Panteleimon, an early Christian doctor. Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills.
The icon of St. Panteleimon, an early Christian doctor. Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills. Standing on the observation platform you can see almost all central Moscow: the Luzhniki Stadium (where the 1980 Olympic Games took place); the domes of Novodevichy convent; the Kremlin churches; Christ the Savior Cathedral; and the Seven Sisters, Stalin's high-rise buildings. Sparrow Hills attracted not only visitors to Moscow but also Russian architects. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was originally planned to be built here. While that didn’t happen, later in the 20th century another temple was put up on Sparrow Hills. It was a temple of knowledge: the famous Moscow State University. It looks spectacular at the top of the hill and thanks to its location the University can be seen from afar.2

I would never have gone to Russia, if I had known what is Mosaic of St. George, Trinity Church exterior, Sparrow Hills.
Mosaic of St. George, Trinity Church exterior, Sparrow Hills. surfacing in the U.S. press. I am glad I was ignorant. I saw the splendor of a civilization that has Byzantine Orthodoxy alive in the Russian Orthodox Church. “Nearly four-in-ten of the world’s Orthodox Christians live in a single country – An impressive mosaic of St. Alexander Nevsky (savior of Medieval Russia from German and Swedish invaders) kneeling and asking for a blessing.An impressive mosaic of St. Alexander Nevsky (savior of Medieval Russia from German and Swedish invaders) kneeling and asking for a blessing.Russia.”3 In this time of “Russian phobia”, the government and Russian people are rebuilding their Christian monuments destroyed by the atheistic communist regime. The majority of Russians have a lifestyle below the standards of our public assistance families and the stipends given by the EU to refugee/immigrants. Seeing Sparrow Hills and The Trinity Church, through the eyes of a university graduate of the communist regime, showed me the spiritual faith of a people whose Christian heritage remained, against the political correctness of an established government.


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