The church was founded in 1889 by the Tsar and the Russian government on ground located east of the church of the Holy Sepulcher. The site was purchased in 1859 by the Russian Consul (apparently, by a Coptic priest named George). The original plan was to use the site to build a Russian consulate and a pilgrim house that would be able to accommodate 1,000 people. During the evacuation and excavation of the site before the construction, important archaeological findings were discovered. Among them – the corner of the 'second wall' 'of Jerusalem from the end of the Second Temple period and the remains of an ancient gate. The construction and excavation was carried out by the “Imperial Russian Orthodox Company of the Holy Land”. Due to the discovery of the findings, the construction work was stopped and moved to the Russian Compound (see site no. 500). In 1887, the ‘company’ began to build the current church. The archaeological findings were preserved in the northern wing of the church and declared a historical museum. Offices and housing for company employees (teachers and nurses) was set up in the west wing and in 1890 a hostel for clergy was opened on the top floor. The building is impressive and massive. It was built from ashlar stones in shades of pink and red in 'Ablak' format (in Arabic – Ablaq, a building method of different shaded stones, especially red and white). The site is names after Alexander Nevsky, an esteemed Russian prince and officer from the 13th century, who was the patron of the Tsar Alexander the third and recognized as a saint. The inauguration of the church took place in 1896. The site serves as the representative of the Russian Church (white) in the holy land (Israel, Palestine and Jordon) and the official Archbishopric of the Russian Archimandrite.
The Russian Orthodox Church is a ‘national church’ that was founded in the 10th century and was subject to the authority of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the head of the church, stands the ‘Metropolitan of Kiev’ (the metropolitan is the bishop of main city province). In the year 998, Prince Vladimir I was baptized and he accepted Christianity as the official religion of his reign. He led the conversion movement of all the Slavic nations. The reign of the metropolitan began in Moscow in 1329. In 1448, the Russian Church became independent and separated itself from the Greek Church. In 1589, the independence of the Russian Church was formally recognized by all the eastern churches and its leader was given the title ‘The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia”. In 1721, the church was subjected to the authority of Tsar, who confiscated their assets and monasteries. After the revolution in October, 1918, the Russian Orthodox church split into two factions; the ‘Red’ and the ‘White. The ‘Red’ Church is made up of the clergy who supported and declared their loyalty to the Soviet government. This church operates under the auspices of the government and serves as the official patriarch of Moscow. The second branch is called the ‘White Church’ and was founded by a group who opposed the government. This church was established by exiled Russians and acts as a ‘outside of Russia’ patriarchate, thus, their headquarters are in New York City. Even after the collapse of the communism in the early nineties of the twentieth century, the two factions of Moscow and New York continue to operate separately. However, the two churches recognize one another and maintain dialogue and cooperation. During the days of Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the status of the Russian churches improved and the government began to recognize the church as an important national power, vital to the Russian society, a trend that is continued by their successor, Vladimir Putin.
The Russian Church in Israel:
The church began its work in the Holy Land in the late 19th century. In 1857, a church delegation of the “Imperial Russian Orthodox Company of the Holy Land” came to the country. The company was established in Russia by the imperial family and was put in charge of the Russian pilgrims while they stayed in Israel. The delegation was recognized by the Ottoman power and they established, in the country, hostels, hospitals, churches and monasteries for the Russian pilgrims who began to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The British Mandate in Israel tended to recognize the ‘White’ Church. After 1948, the Israeli government recognize the ‘Red’ Church as the owner of the assets in their field (due to the soviet support of the establishment of the State of Israel). After 1949, the State of Israel took over a significant portion of assets near the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. The Russian churches that were located beyond the Green Line and in Jordanian territory between the years 1948-1967, remain in the hands of the ‘White’ Church until this day. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of believers, belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the number of monks and nuns who serve it. The pilgrimage movement to the Holy Land has also grown. As of today, the Russian Church is biggest of the independent Orthodox churches (with approximately 140 million believers). The Russian Church in Israel is operated independently, but also recognizes the local authority of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and is subjected to its authority in certain matters. At the head of the Russian Church in Israel, stands the Archimandrite Hieromonk Roman Krassovsky who serves as the Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem since 2013.
The sites and stations of the ‘Via Dolorosa’ mark the place where Jesus fell for the third time as the 9th station (see sites 273, 282). This tradition is not supported in the scripture of the New Testament. In the middle ages, this station was marked in the courtyard entrance of the Holy Sepulcher by a stone with a cross on it, but this identifying mark has been lost over the years. In the 19th century, the station was permanently moved to the St. Anthony Coptic Monastery, on the northern side of the Holy Sepulcher. There is a disagreement between different Christian churches regarding this recognition. The most prominent protester to the recognition of the ninth station on this spot, is the Russian Orthodox Church, who recognizes the Alexander Nevsky Church as the ninth station.
Additional sites owned by the ‘White’ Russian Church - The Russian Ascension Church and the Magdalene Church on the Mount of Olives (see sites no. 430, 432).
Sites owned by the ‘Red’ Russian Church – The Holy Trinity Church and the Sergei Courtyard (see site no. 500).
The Pravoslavic Church the operates according to the Julian Calendar (the Gregorian Calendar is not recognized).
Christmas – The holiday begins forty days before January 7 (which, according to their calendar is December 25) and ends with Epiphany on January 19, which is the holiday that celebrates the baptism of Christ.
Easter – The holiday begins on the Holy Monday and ends with the ‘Holy Light’ - the fire lighting ceremony, commemorating Jesus’s rise from the death. Easter itself, lasts from Easter Sunday and throughout the holy week, concluding with the Pentecost holiday.
New Years – There are two dates marking the new year. The national new year (celebrated since the days of Peter the First) on January 1, according to the Gregorian calendar, is the ‘Novy God’, which was the most important holiday during the communist period. In contrast, the Pravoslavic new year is celebrated on January 13 and is known among the Russian community as the “Old New Years’. The holiday marks the beginning of history’s ‘grace’ period.
Mid-Summer – The Kupala holiday marks the longest day of the year. The holiday preserves the tradition of Slavic nations and, as of today, marks the birthday of John the Baptist.
The Russian Pravoslavic Orthodox Church recognizes all seven sacraments (footnote on the sacraments) of the general Orthodox Church according to Greek tradition. Additionally, it is custom to use rosaries, icons and incense.
Visits: The site is open to the public everyday (except for Sunday), between the hours 09:00-13:00, 15:00-17:00.
5 NIS per person.