St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
History and museums
The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau, Alaska, United States, was built in 1893 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Though there were never any Russians in Juneau during Alaska's time as a Russian colony (1784–1867), and no missionaries were sent to Juneau when the city was established in 1881, the Orthodox Church became strongly established here through the efforts of the local Tlingit leaders. In 1890, the Taku leader Anathahash traveled to Sitka to be baptized into the Orthodox faith. More traditional Tlingits gravitated toward the Orthodox Church, where local languages had been used in worship since about 1800 in Kodiak and 1824 in the Aleutian Islands. The Holy Scriptures and much of the Divine Liturgy (as the Orthodox call the Mass, or Lord's Supper) had been translated into Tlingit by St. Innocent (Veniaminov) during his years as a priest in Sitka (1834–40) and later as Bishop of Alaska (1842–50).
Anathahash returned from Sitka in 1890 with the Rev. Vladimir Donskoy, who was the first Russian Orthodox priest to conduct services in the area. During Fr. Vladimir's stay, he instructed and baptized many of the local Tlingit people. This same year saw also the conversion of Alexei Yaakwaan, son of a Tlingit leader. He encouraged his father, Yees Gaanaalx, leader of the L'eeneidí (Dog Salmon) people of Auke Bay, to be baptized. Through Sitka Chief Khlantych, the church was informed that Yees Gaanaalx was intent on embracing Orthodoxy and that many would follow his example.
On July 26, 1892 Bishop Nikolai (Ziorov), Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska (1891–1898), visited Juneau from San Francisco, where the seat of the church in America had been transferred in 1872. The bishop was met by the Tlingit leaders who were eager to embrace the Orthodox faith. According to oral tradition, he was told that the Tlingit leaders had been experiencing a common, re-occurring dream. In their dream, a short, white-bearded, elderly man encouraged them to become Christian. When these leaders saw an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, they all recognized him as being the man in their dreams. Three days later, the Priest-monk Mitrofan baptized both Yees Gaanaalx and his wife, giving them the names of Dimitri and Elizabeth. Following their example some 700 of approximately 1500 Tlingit came forward to embrace the Orthodox Christian faith.
With such a large Native congregation to be served, the Orthodox Missionary Society sent architectural drawings, interior church furnishings – such as candlestands, a chalice set, censers, banners, a full iconostasis (the icon screen), and festal icons – and two hundred silver rubles to construct the church. The six large panels on the iconostasis are the original icons received from Russia. The newly baptized Tlingits and Serbian gold miners helped build the traditional structure, a fabulous example of the “Russian Colonial” style of architecture. In June 1894, Bishop Nikolai returned to Juneau and consecrated the new church in honor of St. Nicholas.