Church of the Prophet Elijah, Torzhok
Church of the Prophet Elijah in Torzhok, Russia, also known as Elias Church, is a work of art along the banks of the Tvertsa River. It is best known for the graceful, slender shape of its free-standing bell tower which offers a matchless view of the city landscape.
According to historians, Church of the Prophet Elijah is built on the site of a church as old as Torzhok itself. The earliest known reference to Elias Church is found in the Scribe Book of Torzhok, written in 1625. According to the source, there were originally two wooden churches on the bank, the first built in honor of the prophet Elijah and the second in honor of the martyr Paraskeva (Friday) of Iconium. Although both wooden buildings were destroyed in a fire, in 1737 the stone Church of the Prophet Elijah and corresponding St. Paraskeva Church were built in their place.
In 1818, a new Elias Church replaced the original ones, now long dilapidated. The new church was consecrated in 1822, although its upper walls were not painted until the latter half of that century.
Church of the Prophet Elijah is known for its association with key historical events. On February 13, 1826, the body of Emperor Alexander I was laid for the night in the church before being transported from Taganrog back to the capital. On May 31 of that same year, the body of the emperor's wife, Elizabeth Alekseievna, was also transported to St. Petersburg via Torzhok.
As with many religious buildings in Russia during the Soviet anti-religion campaign of the 1920s, Church of the Prophet Elijah in Torzhok was closed in 1929, and the building repurposed as a hostel for a pedagogical technical school. In 1971, the church building was handed over to the Spartak Sports Society and converted into a boxing school.
Church of the Prophet Elijah was finally returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2005.