Old-Tikhvin Church of the Ascension, Torzhok

Wooden Church of the Ascension, Torzhok

Old-Tikhvin Church of the Ascension in Torzhok, Russia, also known as Old Ascension Church and Wooden Church of the Ascension, is a remarkable monument of wooden architecture and one of the city’s most recognizable sites.

The church is located on the banks of the Tvertsa River, where it is surrounded by wooden houses. One of the oldest wooden structures in the city, it is referenced in written chronicles dating back to 1653. In 1717, the four-tiered chapel was reconstructed from pinewood in three gradually decreasing tiers. The church continued to undergo renovations, and in 1854, by order of the archbishops, it was moved to nearby Staritsky District. A new stone church was then built on the site of the dilapidated wooden one.

In 1883, the original wooden Old-Tikhvin Church of the Ascension was renovated and consecrated in the name of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, although it continued to be referred to as Staro-Voznesenskaya (Old Ascension). The church stands 34 meters in height and is noted for the windows on each tier through which sunlight streams in and fills the sanctuary.

As a result of the USSR anti-religious campaign of the 1920s, services stopped being held in the church in 1929. The unique wooden building was preserved, however, and began to undergo restoration in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. As Old Ascension Church was never intended to be a ceremonial church, it had never been decorated with gilded crosses and other elaborate ornamentation. Yet before the Russian Revolution, its interior had been colorfully painted: The ceiling of the upper tier depicted the New Testament Trinity and the smooth-hewn upper tier walls had captivating 18th-century murals, while the walls of the lower tiers were painted with late 19th-century images.

Old-Tikhvin Church once housed many icons, including a magnificent five-tiered iconostasis containing a large depiction of the crucified Christ, with Mary the mother of God and Saint John the Baptist standing nearby. Regrettably, most of these icons were stolen or destroyed when the church was looted during Soviet times and have never been recovered.

Today, the restored wooden Old-Tikhvin Church of the Ascension in Torzhok is open to visitors, with services held in the summer and on public holidays.