Военная церковь Александра Невского в Бендерской крепости

The need of the Russian people in spiritual life has always been great. This is especially true of the Russian soldier, whose whole life from birth to death was closely associated with the Church. Of course, the vast majority of military churches in the Russian Imperial army were Orthodox. However, we must not forget that in its essence the army was a multi-confessional. Therefore, in its structure there were many so-called Gentile churches, the construction of which was fully or partially financed from the military budget.

An example of this is Kronstadt, where next to the Orthodox churches there were a mosque, two Lutheran churches, a Roman Catholic Church. The same picture was observed in the Russian Bender fortress, which became after 1812, where, along with the Orthodox churches of Alexander Nevsky and George the victorious, there were Muslim mosques, Armenian and Greek churches. Orthodoxy, being essentially Christianity in its original fullness, has never been only a national religion, and therefore took under its protection any sufferer.

map of the fortress of Bendery 1789

Person, after his baptism in the temple, here comprehended the world, learned to read, sing, communicate with other people. Soldiers of the garrison took the oath in churches, confessed, got married, celebrated temple, regimental, General military and state holidays. In military churches worship services were held before being sent to campaigns, served as prayers of thanksgiving for victory. And, at the end of the earthly path, it was from the temple that a soldier, an officer and a General were sent to the last journey. In addition to Church functions, the military Church often became a place of events of secular life – they announced government manifestos and decrees, announced the most important changes in the country and abroad. The temple also served as a Museum, taking custody of priceless Church and military historical relics, weapons and banners captured from the enemy, ancient books and icons. Some temples were even at the location of the Treasury and of the standards of weights and measures. 

It is important to note that the command of the Russian army paid great attention to the religious education of soldiers, the development of a wide network of regimental churches. God's word regimental priest blessed warrior on battle, helped overcome fear and suffering under dire injuries. There was no such case that the regiment or the ship made a military campaign without a priest or a marching Church. 

Marcing Church

Among the first fixed military temples include: Church of the Savior, arranged at the behest of John the terrible in the Spasskaya tower of the Kazan Kremlin; Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Wonder worker in Kiev, built by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in 1695; Church of the Holy Trinity in Poltava Yelets infantry regiment, etc.However, in essence, they were not fully military, and were built in honor of the victory over the enemy or on the battlefield in memory of the killed soldiers. Actually military temples appeared under Peter I. Initially, it was a marching Church, which could be deployed in any suitable place, on the ships under the Church were allocated special cabins. In 1748, the first permanent military wooden Church was built for the Semenov regiment. In 1753 the naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Epiphany was built in St. Petersburg. After 11 years, his Church received the Transfiguration guards regiment. It was from this time in many military garrisons, military units and institutions began to build churches. 

Military temples and ordinary parish, depending on the importance was divided into three types: the cathedrals (guards, regimental, and naval fortress), Church (regular and Hiking) and the chapel, which could accommodate buildings of barracks, headquarters, stables. The largest group were permanent churches, which, in turn, were divided into regimental, garrison, camp, serf, as well as churches in military cemeteries, prisons, hospitals, military schools.                             

The classical fortress Church was the Church of Alexander Nevsky in the Bender fortress; the Church of St. Andrew, though located in the Tiraspol fortress, according to the documents, was listed as a Church at the military local hospital.

Until 1800, all military Church institutions were subject to diocesan administration, depending on where the regiment was stationed. Only Hiking on the outskirts of the Empire or abroad, the Holy Synod from among the hieromonks and archpriests appointed in certain divisions of special officers, who bore the names of the chief priests of the field or of the chief hieromonk fleet. However, in the conditions of constant field and nomadic life, the actual separation of military priests from the dependence of the Holy Synod and full subordination to the military Department gradually prepared the conditions under which the separation of military priests from subordination to the diocesan administration became permanent.

  Nevsky Church in the picture of the XIX century

It was during the reign of Paul I, together with the reform of the army, come the changes in the management of employees in the army, the clergy, and gradually begins the transition to the military field and the sea of churches and their clergy from the authority of the diocesan administration in the newly created in the Russian army, the office of the chief and the chief priests of the army and Navy. Were staffed by priests, held in the Navy, and the field of the chief priests. This transition was fixed by a number of the highest Decrees of the Emperor. All newly appointed military priests fully switched to army and Navy support. 

The Holy Synod throughout the entire period of development of independent military clergy strongly opposed this, repeatedly taking the initiative to return the clergy under his guardianship. Therefore, he took his time with his own decree establishing such a separation. Only in 1826, According to the decree of the Synod for №4352 from 14.04.1826, in particular, the fortress churches (in the list of which under №39 is the temple in the Bender fortress) ordered "to leave ...in charge of the Office of the chief priests of the army and Navy of the General staff of his Majesty." Subsequently, the Holy Synod repeatedly tried to return its leadership over the military priests and, in some cases, only personal intervention of the Emperor allowed to stop the discord between the Synod and the leadership of the army and Navy. 

In 1900, the Minister of war Kuropatkin wrote the report on the Highest name, where, in addition to proposals to improve the life of the lower ranks, asked to find funds for the construction of churches in all parts of the troops, where the state put a priest. On the basis of this report and the outcome of the special Commission was to develop a common military type of the Church, and to the needs of the Church construction and the war Department annually has been allocated 100 thousand rubles. 

Similar type was, for example, built the regimental Church of the 56th Zhitomir infantry regiment, in Tiraspol.

Church of the 56th Zhitomir infantry regiment, in Tiraspol.

Military priests in the army and Navy were a special caste of people who had unquestionable authority and respect. Although soldiers and officers of the regiment tried to protect the priest in battle, he always remained with his flock and never avoided bloodshed. Often with a single cross raised timid soldiers into battle and together they rushed into the midst of enemies.

In connection with numerous cases of heroism by Colonel priests, in 1797 representatives of the military clergy were awarded the Highest decree for special services: the orders of St. Anne, St. Vladimir, St. George and the Golden pectoral crosses on the St. George ribbon, while the last two awards were given only for military services. In 1855, for numerous cases of heroism in the defense of Sevastopol, military priests were given the right to attach swords to the awards. It is noteworthy that the presentation of the awards were held not by the diocesan, but by the military Department. 

Independent management of the military clergy and its development at the beginning of the XX century resulted in the fact that in this period of time on the balance of the military Department was already 24 large Cathedral and about 630 garrison, regimental, fortress, hospital and other churches. 

As follows from the above, military churches served only soldiers and members of their families, although, as an exception, they did not refuse to the civil flock, if there was no other Orthodox parish in the place of deployment of the part.

As in the parish, the military churches had another important function - the maintenance of registers of births. Churches throughout the period of its existence carried out the functions of modern registry Offices: conducted registration of newborns, marriages and deaths – handed out the relevant metric statements, which were sometimes the only document of the act of recording of civil status, which was recognized throughout the vast Empire. 

Marching Church were such parish registers only during campaigns. The registers of births were filled in by the priest in three copies, one of which remained in the temple, the second went to local diocesan management, the third centrally arrived in special management of Naval clergy to St. Petersburg. Thanks to this order, many registers of births, including military churches, have reached our days, and they can be found in the specialized archives of the CIS. Hiking the same metric books allow you to track the movement of a regiment in military campaigns, in the place of his permanent or temporary dislocation. According to these same books, you can trace the names of the dead during the battles in which the unit participated. So, thanks to Hiking the metric books of the 55th infantry Podolsk regiment managed to set the names of the dead soldiers and officers of the regiment, gave their lives in the defense of Sevastopol in 1855 during the liberation of Bulgaria in 1877-1878. 

Church of Alexander Nevsky in the pictures of German military aircraft 1942

In the second half of the XVIII century in the Northern black sea region, with the complete extinction of previously powerful Poland, Turkey has a new serious enemy - Russia, the rapid progress of which in the region could not be stopped. As a result of the war of 1768-1774, the strategically important territories were passed to Russia. She secured a free access to the Black sea. In 1791, as a result of the Treaty of Jassy, the territories between The southern bug and the Dniester were passed to Russia and the annexation of Crimea was confirmed. The left-Bank part of Transnistria was liberated, the construction of Tiraspol and Tiraspol fortress began. According to the results of the Bucharest peace Treaty, Bessarabia became part of the Russian Empire in 1812. Twice returned to the Turks powerful Bender fortress since that time has become a place of permanent deployment of Russian troops, mainly the fortress artillery and pontoon battalions, engineering teams, military workers ' companies, etc.Only for the period from 1827 to 1910 in the Bender fortress and in the city itself were deployed more than 100 different regiments of the Russian Imperial army. This was possible thanks to the study of metric books of the Bendery fortress chapel. Place of permanent deployment from the second half of the XIX century for the 55th infantry Podolsk regiment became the city of Bender, and for the 56th Zhitomir infantry regiment and the 22nd (8) the Astrakhan Dragoon regiment – the city of Tiraspol. These units had a significant impact on the history and appearance of these cities of Transnistria. Since the accession of our lands to the Russian Empire, all those processes, including the organization of military churches and their functioning, also spread to these settlements – the largest in Transnistria, where a significant number of Russian military and fortress garrisons were represented. 

It is known that the oldest Orthodox Church in Bendery was the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God , which is mentioned in the sources of the XV century. In it in 1482 the Moldavian ruler Stefan cel Mare prayed. This Church has not survived to our days. Currently, the military Church of Alexander Nevsky in the Bender fortress is not only the oldest religious building in Bendery, but also one of the oldest – in the whole territory of Transnistria. 

The first Orthodox Church on the territory of the fortress was hastily converted from a Turkish mosque, located at the main Tsar's gate, after the successful capture of the fortress by the troops of G. Potemkin in 1789. This Church was named after St. George the victorious.  November 7, the third day after the occupation of the fortress, Prince G. A. Potemkin in a letter to the Archbishop Amvrosiy said: “from the mosques which situated here, I have chosen the best two to appeal to the Church. Your Eminence, please sanctify one of them to the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Great Martyr and Saint George; the other is to name your blagosostoianie; and to add to this there was a preparation, I gave the command” (For the second Church it probably is a mosque located in the West of the citadel of the fortress, which on the maps of this period will be referred to as the Church.Trinity and which, after 1806 to accommodate the Church Nevsky. Primas'.Forks). 

However, on maps with 1789 in addition to the above mosques, still shows a mosque in the center of the 2nd Bastion of the mosque at a depth of between 6-th and 7-th Bastion, as well as a mosque in the depth, in the area of Jassy (Warnizkiye) gate.

In addition, the maps show the Armenian Church in the North-West of the citadel and the Greek Church in the area of the Ordyn (St. George) gate. 

From the correspondence of General field Marshal G. A. Potemkin, as well as from his order, it becomes clear that these two churches were also converted from mosques – “...two more (mosques) for churches, one for the Roman Catholic religion, the other for the Armenian, which for that and are entrusted: the Armenian-Archbishop Joseph, and the Roman confession-the priest Skirnevsky".  With Greek something immediately went wrong, as the map is already 1790, it is again shown as a mosque. 

If we sum up all the data on mosques, then for this period of time, there were quite a lot of them in the Bender fortress. As many as seven separate buildings and two mosques in the towers – the Gate and The lower fortress. 

In accordance with the Treaty of Jassy of 1791, the Bender fortress was returned to Turkey, and all mosques converted into Orthodox churches regained their status as Muslim religious sites. 

Nevsky Church before reconstruction, 2007In 1806, after the bloodless occupation of the fortress by the corps of Baron Meindorf, the military under the Orthodox Church again adapted the building of a large Turkish mosque, located 65 meters from the citadel, along its Western wall, next to the Turkish baths and wells. It was called St. Alexander Nevsky Church. In connection with the outflow of the Muslim population from Bender soon Turkish mosques in the fortress ceased to operate at all and were subsequently demolished by the Russian military. On the maps of 1847 they already exist. 

In 1807, with the blessing of Metropolitan Veniamin of Iasi, Archpriest Stefan Shamraevsky was engaged in the conversion and adaptation of the former Muslim mosque to the military Church of Alexander Nevsky. This former mosque was a two-storey stone building with two ranges of Windows, covered with tiles on top. In the upper part of the great hall there was a place for the choir, a rich and beautiful iconostasis was installed. As in many churches of the military Department of that time, in the Church of Alexander Nevsky in the place of honor kept the spoils of war, extracted from the Turks – banners, bunchuks, guns, firearms and edged weapons. Having got, as well as many other military temples of that time, in the sphere of the branch of military Church institutions gaining momentum from the management of the Holy Synod, the Church of Alexander Nevsky, in addition to the military district chief and the chief priest, who was with him, also subordinated to Metropolitan Dimitry of Bendery and Akkerman. 

Already after 15 years, the building of the former mosque, which was badly damaged especially during the first assault of the fortress, judging by the correspondence of the military engineering Department, began to collapse and, in its size could not accommodate everyone. Therefore, in 1821, the commandant of the Bender fortress, the County military chief, as well as the Metropolitan were prepared a petition for the allocation of space for the construction of a new capital building of the Church of Alexander Nevsky. Soon it was chosen and, as it turned out, very well: on the site of the demolished former Turkish shopping malls, on the main street of the fortress – Tsaregradskaya, leading from the fortress directly to the city center, between the citadel and the main gate of the fortress. 

However, although the place for the construction of the Church was determined, the funds for its construction could not be found for a long time. Already in 1825, the building of the Church (which previously operated a mosque) was completely destroyed. In this regard, the temple was moved to one of the private houses at the gate of the fortress Varnitsky (modern car repair plant "Dniester-Auto"). Part of the money was found in the following year, 1826, but the solemn laying of the Church was carried out only in 1828. 

In the same year, on may 6, the Russian Emperor Nicholas I and his family visited the fortress Church operating in a private house. Finally, the temple was opened in 1833. It was built in the form of a cross, in the Byzantine style. It could accommodate 600 people. Then the Church was solemnly bestowed on the gospel, the incense and silver brocade. The temple was assigned a stone chapel in the Bender military cemetery. The Church had only one priest and one acolyte. For the priest in the fortress was specially built house. The Church served all the soldiers stationed in the fortress and in the city, as well as their families, allowing for the funeral service of the deceased retired military.

As a result of working with the metric books of this Church is a notable fact – more than 80 years, it served as the dynasty of priests Kogutovskie by the name which was sometimes called a dedicated the military cemetery at Borisovka. 

By 1916, especially for the arrival of Emperor Nicholas II, next to the temple was built the Royal pavilion. Since its construction, the Church bore, like many military temples of the time, a pointed spire, repeating the spire of the Admiralty needle. But later, as a result of numerous reconstructions, the temple was crowned with a massive round dome, made in the form of a heroic helmet. 

The Church of Alexander Nevsky survived the hard years of the 1917 revolution, the Romanian occupation of 1918-1940, and the fascist occupation of 1941-1944. After the liberation of Bender in August 1944, the temple was a pitiful sight. Romanian "liberators" of the Church was plundered almost completely – it was stolen and removed all the property, ranging from icons and ending with benches. The total damage to the building and property of the temple, according to the inventory conducted in October 1944, was estimated at more than 91 thousand rubles.

In 1947, the fortress Church finally stopped service and the decision of the military authorities was turned into a soldier's club. As such, it existed until 1994, when the Russian military missile unit was withdrawn from the fortress. The Church building was abandoned and by 2007 completely lost its roof and floors. 

In 2008, on the basis of the order of the President of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the building of the temple was transferred to the Ministry of internal Affairs for reconstruction and its inclusion in a single historical memorial ensemble of the restored Bender fortress. The reconstruction of the Church of Alexander Nevsky and its opening are scheduled for October 12, 2011, to be visited by his Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia.

Nevsky Church after restoration in the center of the fortress park, 2018

The church of the 55th Podolsky Infantry Regiment has its own history. Formed in the distant Ronchesalm, on the eve of the war with Napoleon, in 1811, like many regiments of that time, the Podolsk regiment passed through the hearth of almost all the significant wars that the Russian Empire waged on its territory and outside. This is the Patriotic War of 1812, the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1831-1833, the defense of Sevastopol of 1855, the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878.

 In 1888, a regiment leading a nomadic march and never before having permanent apartments was determined to be permanently stationed in the city of Bender. Under him, the marching church of the Savior the Arms was constantly operating. Arriving in Bendery, the Podolsk regiment could not stay in the Bendery fortress. It was already occupied by the Largo-Kagulsky reserve infantry regiment, so the companies and battalions of the Podolsk regiment were stationed in all districts of the city, partly in the Parkan and one company even in Tiraspol. Naturally, the regiment could not use the serf church of Alexander Nevsky. In addition to the Podolsk Regiment, other regiments of the 14th Infantry Division regularly arrived in the city of Bender from Chisinau and Tiraspol to train in the Camp Field, who remained in the city for a long time and also needed to go to worship. The city’s Transfiguration Cathedral, which was functioning by that time, could not accommodate everyone, and, in addition, the soldiers and officers of the 14th division needed exactly their “own” military temple, where they could honor the memory of the dead and recall their heroic past. 

In the same year, the commander of the Podolsk regiment, Colonel Rezvy Dmitry Dmitri Modestovich, justifying his name, began to “knock” on all instances with a request to allocate a regiment of land in the center of the city for the construction of his own temple. His idea was supported by the head of the Bendery branch of the Kiev gendarme railway department, Vyrubov, who personally submitted this petition to the city Duma for consideration. The following fact played a favorable role in making a positive decision in favor of assigning land: in the petition, a gendarme official did not fail to note that the temple was built in honor of the happy deliverance of the royal family during a train crash that happened in the same year at Borki station. With him, more than 20 people died, but none of the royal family was hurt. 

Church of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment, photo of the end of the 19th centuryOn October 10, 1889, the City Council allocated a plot of 600 square meters for the construction of a regimental church. fathoms on the corner of Sophia and Vladimirskaya streets (modern kindergarten No. 23, opposite the building of the Department of Internal Affairs of Bendery on Dzerzhinsky St.). Simultaneously with her decision, the Duma allocated 1 thousand rubles for the construction of the temple. Almost immediately began collecting voluntary donations to residents of the city. People donated quite significant amounts - from 500 to 5 thousand rubles. Those who could not give money, contributed by building materials. Already during the construction of the temple, the City Duma in 1892 additionally allocated another plot of 300 square meters. fathoms for outbuildings. In 1899, the construction of the temple was completed, it was consecrated and from that moment became the official regimental church of the 55th Podolsky Regiment. 

In the annual reports of Bendery Chief Officer, it was always mentioned that the serf of Alexander Nevsky and the regimental Spasskaya are independent churches "with orders from the military department." In addition to the military, residents of nearby Protypailovka and Khomutyanovka began to come to the newly rebuilt regimental church, the military priests did not prevent this. In the temple itself, military holy relics were kept, witnesses of the heroic deeds of Podilians during the defense of Shipka. On the walls, on the marble slabs, the names of the soldiers and officers of the regiment were carved, who laid down their heads when crossing the Danube, on Mount St. Nicholas, on the rocks of the Eagle's Nest. 

The church continued to operate even when the 55th Infantry Podolsky Regiment went to the battlefields of the First World War, with which he was never destined to return, at least in the old capacity of the heroic infantry regiment of the Russian Imperial Army. 

Since the occupation of the city in 1918 by the troops of royal Romania, the flow of parishioners has plummeted, and soon the regimental church was assigned to the Transfiguration Cathedral. We mentioned above the damage inflicted on the serf Alexander Nevsky, but the damage caused to the regimental church was incomparably greater. Commission of 1944, he was estimated at 743 thousand rubles! 

Already in Soviet times, the regimental church was transferred under the railway club, then - under the authority of Moldknigorg, the city stadium for a sports hall, and, ultimately, in the early 60s of the last century, the building was demolished. Some of the relics from the regimental church were deposited at the Transfiguration Cathedral, but most of them disappeared, and their fate is still unknown.

Unfortunately, photos of this church of good quality have not reached our time. In one of the photos you can see that the roof of the church was crowned with a small dome in the form of a bulb, in front was a small belfry. 

From the statistical description of the churches by the military department in the city of Bender it is known that “the church of the 55th Podolsky Infantry Regiment in honor of the Miraculous Image of Christ the Savior is a stone building in the shape of a cross with a capacity of 500 people. Built in 1899 with private donations (about 35 thousand rubles). The Holy See of the Church is named for the glory of the great Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky. ” That is why two of these military churches are often confused, one of which was in the fortress and bore the name of Alexander Nevsky, and the second was in the city and its throne was also named after the Russian prince-warrior. 

Even in the inventory act of the regimental church of the 55th Podolsk Regiment, located on ul. Sophia, from 1947, he was named not by his name, but by the name of Prince Alexander Nevsky. Therefore, after getting acquainted with this act, it was necessary to search the Sophievskaya Street for a long time and carefully on the old maps of the Bendery Fortress, until finally it became clear that all the confusion was due to the same names of the serf church and the throne of the regimental church.Church of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment, photo of the end of the 19th century 

It is known that a chapel at a military cemetery near the village of Nevsky was attached to the church of Alexander Nevsky. Borisovka. How it looked and when exactly it was built is unknown. Some of the old-timers claim that it was built in the center of the military cemetery, while the latter - in its upper part, on the site of the current store "Prague". When cleaning the cemetery in 2007, the Ministry of Internal Affairs officers discovered a major foundation in the middle part of an abandoned cemetery, judging by which the chapel was small, with an area of no more than 25 square meters. 

The chapel was not fully understood by the church, services in it were either not conducted at all or were conducted on major church holidays. Often, military chapels could not even be presented as a room, but as a monumental sign in the form of a cross or a small temple roof on props. Chapels were built, as a rule, on the battlefields or in places of military graves, in memory of those who are at peace in this place. 

During the construction of the military-historical memorial complex at the site of the military cemetery, in memory of all the soldiers and officers, as well as in memory of the regimental church of the 55th Podolsky regiment not preserved, a stone chapel was built on the territory of the memorial - a small copy of the temple on Poklonnaya Hill, which was named after the Miracle Image of Christ the Savior. As in the old heroic times, on the granite slabs placed on the walls of this chapel, the names of those killed during the storming of the fortress, the battle landmarks of the Podolsk Regiment are inscribed. Also appear the names of those who died during the storming of the fortress in 1770, is a list of the regiments of the Russian Imperial Army, who took part in this assault. 

This chapel was so visited by the residents and guests of the city that the decision of the Holy Synod in 2010 gave it the status of a church. At present, she, like the serf church of St. Alexander Nevsky, is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, while the priors in them are appointed by decrees of the Bishop of Tiraspol and Savva of Dubossary.

Chapel of the Holy Savior’s image at a war memorial in Bender


(published in the Historical Almanac of Transnistria in 2011).

In 2018, the electronic version of the article was amended.


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