Highest and most southern Orthodox church in Russia

 Highest and most southern Orthodox church in Russia

The most high-mountainous and the most southern Orthodox church in Russia - the Alansky Epiphany Monastery -  was founded quite recently, but has already become one of the most important pilgrimage centers in North Ossetia. Initially, the monastery was created in 2000 in the former hotel for train drivers in Beslan, and a couple of years later it received the nearly destroyed Church of the Holy Myrrh-bearers in the Kurtatin (Fiagdon) Gorge, where there was remarkable activity in the construction of churches since the second half of the 19th century, but the 20th century was not merciful to Russian churches ...

There is a chapel situated five kilometers away from the monastery, where the main shrine of Ossetia and the whole northern Caucasus - the Iveron Mozdok Icon of the Mother of God, donated by the Queen of Georgia Tamara - was kept for six hundred years. However, the original icon was lost, and, according to the legend, believers will regain it with the restoration of Orthodox monasteries in Ossetia.

Queen Tamara's years of reign in the late 12th - early 13th centuries were a time of spreading and affirming Christianity in Georgia and Ossetia. The remains of the temples constructed in the mountains and gorges of Ossetia still serve as monuments to this policy. Queen Tamara spared no means to decorate them with icons, she supplied them with utensils and liturgical books.

Ossetian monks like to tell that Tamara was the daughter of the Ossetian princess Burdukhan  (the daughter of the famous king and military leader Khuddan, a close friend of the King of Georgia Dimitry and his son George Curopalate). Burdukhan, besides Ossetian, knew Greek, Latin and Georgian languages. The husband and co-ruler of Tamara, David Soslan, son of the Ossetian king Jadaron, also knew Ossetian, Greek, Latin, Tatar and other languages. The "Kartlis Tskhovreba" (Georgian Chronicle) states: "During his lifetime, King Dimitry married his son to the daughter of the Ossetian king Khuddan - Burdukhan. Kartli has never seen such perfection as Burdukhan. She was extraordinary, quite worthy of her husband. Her husband was a tall, slim, handsome man. Burdukhan was as beautiful as he was. It was impossible to describe her beauty. Everyone knows her. Her daughter Tamara was her ward."

Burdukhan opened a convent in Ossetia and took care of it till the day she died. There she taught Ossetian nuns different sciences, translated Greek and Georgian books into Ossetian. After the death of Burdukhan, the monastery was patronized by the queen Tamara and David Soslan, and at the end of the 13th century the monastery was destroyed by Mongols and Tatars.

A Georgian chronicler, a contemporary of Tamara, wrote: "Ossetians are convinced Christians. They are respectable people. They are able to keep friendship, they are not deceitful, they are not traitors, they are excellent warriors, they are good at weapons, they can build churches, make church utensils, build excellent towers, fortresses, bridges and fords, know their trade, have blacksmith, carpentry and jewelry skills, make utensils, know, make weapons and military armor, grow wheat, barley, they are great riders, honor the elderly. "

Queen Tamara sent the icon of the Mother of God of Iversk to the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God in the village of Mayramykau (the settlement of Mary the Virgin) in the Kurtatin Gorge (the temple has survived to our days, three kilometers from the Alansky Epiphany Monastery). It was written by a court icon painter and subsequently became famous for miraculous signs. The church was on fire three times, and the holy icon was found on the mountain near the church every time after the fire. Also there were mass healings of pilgrims from mental and physical diseases.

For six centuries the miraculous icon was in the Kurtatin gorge, protecting the Ossetian land. The 18th century was the era of Ossetia's rapprochement with Russia. After the Mongol invasion, the Ossetians were on the verge of total annihilation, Christianity started to fade in Ossetia and mingled with various superstitions. But after the voluntary entry into Russia, the Ossetian nation and Christianity started to revive. Ossetia had its own Vladikavkaz diocese, male and female Orthodox monasteries, and Orthodox churches in high-mountain villages. Even the mountains in Ossetia were called Monk Mountain, Monk's Hat, Mountain of Priests.

In the 18th century, the Kurtatin people moved to the plain, to the Mozdok area and took a shrine - the icon of the Mother of God - with them. When Curtatian people stopped for the night in Mozdok, they saw that light comes out of the arba with the icon, which kept shining till morning. The Curtatin people put oxen to the arba with the icon, but the animals did not move. Then people started to flock to the image of the Mother of God to kiss the miraculous icon. In 1797, the Dormition of the Mother of God church was built for the icon there.

Since that time, the religious procession with the miraculous icon was annually performed from Mozdok to Vladikavkaz across Ossetia and the Terek region. The villages through which the procession went were considered happy for the Ossetians. In the middle of the 19th century, Bishop Ignaty Bryanchaninov of the Caucasus wrote to his brother Peter, who was Stavropol governor: "Ossetians recognize the icon as their property, feeling fervent devotion to it. The icon is glorious in the mountains, many mountainous Mohammedans flock to it. Armenians belonging to the Gregorian church also honor the icon along with the Orthodox."

On December 4, 1914, the Emperor Nicholas II also prayed near the icon following his return from the Turkish border. However, in the 1930s the Iveron-Mozdok icon of the Mother of God disappeared, although the monks of the Alansky monastery believe that the miraculous icon will return in its time.

After the tragedy in Beslan, people have started to visit the Church of the Holy Myrrh-bearers in the Kurtatin Gorge even more often to be baptized in the Fiagdon River in the mountains under shining stars surrounded by snowy mountain peaks.

Today, the Alansky Epiphany Monastery is very popular not only among the faithful of Ossetia, but also of other Russian regions. You can get to the monastery by local buses passing through the Khidikus village, or with guided or pilgrim tours. The driving distance from Vladikavkaz is about 55 km. The road passes through Upper Fiagdon and Urikau.

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Vestnik Kavkaza

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