The Kirkha of St. Mary in Buff-garden is a functioning Lutheran church. However, this building is the second birth of the church. It was built in 2006. The first Tomsk Kirkha was eventually replaced by the amusements in the Tomsk City Garden.
What is Kirkha?
Kirkha is the Russian name for a religious building of Lutherans — followers of one of the Protestantism branches. The German word «kirkha» («Kirche») is akin to the Dutch «kerk», the Scotch «kirk», the Swedish «kyrka», the Icelandic «kirkja», the Finnish «kirkko», the Estonian «kirik», the English «church» and the Russian «церковь».
In German, the word «kirkha» means «any church» — as an institution or as a building, regardless of its confession
Where did the Protestants come from?
First Tomsk Protestants appeared in the 17th century. They were mainly foreign service men and Swedish prisoners of war — some of them were Protestant field priests. Before long experts from different trades were heading off to Siberia for deposits development: engineers, doctors, apothecaries, militarists and clerks — most of them were from Germany, but some were from Sweden, Finland and Latvia.
The first abode
While Lutheran communities were vast in other cities and parishes for them were built on the public money, Lutherans of Tomsk could only dream about it — until the 19th century there were only about 50 of them. Gatherings and services were held in private apartments.
By the 1850-s an area for the construction was granted — it was the area where the City Garden is now situated. The constructors broke ground in the summer of 1856. However, the parish only had the half of the needed money and the construction was suspended. A year later the architect Harald Bosse, also known as the designer of the Reformed church in St. Petersburg, developed a new project that cost twice as much as the first one. History has not preserved any record of who sponsored the Tomsk Lutheran community, but the construction of the church had been finished by 1864.
Architectural style of the first Tomsk Kirkha
Lutheranism, as opposed to other branches of Protestantism, has no strict limits in designing religious buildings. Everything is governed by the funds and the imagination of the architect.
The first Tomsk Kirkha was made of brick and had area of 205 square meters. It was a building in neo-gothic style — the mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles, which outstanding feature was dominancy of the building over the landscape.
Where is the kirkman’s house?
25 years later a priest from Barnaul was sent to Tomsk. Next to the Kirkha, at the expense of the Secondary Russian Lutheran fond, there was built a pastorate — a house of the pastor. Its footing still can be seen in the Tomsk City Garden. There were more than 140 Lutherans in Tomsk by then, and by the 1990s there were more than 1000 of them. One day the head brewer Krueger had visited the Kirkha.
In 1908 the Kirkha’s council addressed a proposal to the Tomsk City Duma. They suggested renaming of the street, where Kirkha was located, to the Lutheran street. The Duma entertained the proposal and before long there was a Lutheran alley on the Tomsk map (to be called a street it was two blocks short). Now it serves as the main entrance to the City Garden.
Not by service alone
Eventually the parish founded the Women’s Lutheran Charity Community. It hosted theatricals, lotteries and benefit evenings, and arranged a shelter for Lutheran orphans. After that, the Kirkha’s pastor Alfred Keller set up the private two-year school for Lutheran children. And after that, the primary school was established there.
How the Kirkha became a factory
In 1920 the Kirkha was nationalized. Now the community could use it only by the agreement. The funds became insufficient and the building was barely heated. In addition, those who wanted to join any Soviet institution were not to be members of any community, and the Tomsk Lutherans were leaving the parish.
Soon the agreement with the community was terminated and the building was passed to locksmith’s workshops of the typographical union, and later — to a berry-juice factory. In the summer of 1935 the building was abandoned and a year later it was demolished and the bricks were used in construction of new buildings.
In the 50-s the Tomsk Lutheran Community used to gather in one of the «SibElectroMotor» factory huts, later — in rental apartments, and since 2002 — in the preaching house of the German-speaking Community situated on 3, Lermontov street.
What has Angela Merkel to do with this?
The new Kirkha was built in 2006 just in 3 months. It was possible due to the hosting of the VIII Russian-German Intergovernmental Consultations (Russian-German Summit) in Tomsk. The new building was almost exact copy of the old one, except for the fact that it was constructed with pine bars instead of bricks.
Lutheranism is not only one of the most widespread religious movements in Germany. It actually originated in there in the XVI century. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Tomsk in the course of the summit, comes from East Germany, and her father served as a pastor in an evangelic Lutheran church.
Organ recitals in the Kirkha
Organ music, rightfully considered one of the distinctive features of the Lutheran tradition, can be heard in the Kirkha not only in the time of service, but also on special concerts. First of such concerts was held on August 18th, 2006.
1. Karavaeva A., «The Kirkha of St. Mary» («Tomsk magazine» №4, September 2005)
2. Official site of Evangelic Lutheran Church of St. Mary http://lutherane.tomsk.ru