Annenkirche Lutheran Church: A Trip through History
From church to cultural and religious centre, passing through rock nightclub and cinema, the building has adapted to the social, cultural and political changes that Saint Petersburg has experienced throughout its, and thus, it has managed to perdure to our current days as a witness of the history of the city.
The memoirs of the church run much in tandem with the ones of the city of Saint Petersburg. During the imperial period the building was consecrated as a Lutheran church in order to accommodate the demands of the captured German and Swiss population hosted in the city during 1715 to 1720, serving as part of the first wave of Lutheran churches that would slowly appear throughout the city during the following years.
In 1935, some years after the Bolshevik revolution, the label of “church” was abruptly removed from the building in 1935 as it was forced to shut its operations. A few years later, in 1939 it was slightly remodelled and reopened as a cinema under the name “Spartak”, and quicky became part of the Gosfilmofond of Russia (the main cinematographic archive of the country).
Later, in 1992 the projection of films had to share its space, after the building was reinstituted again as a religious space, and the Christian ceremonies that the walls of Annenkirche’s church almost forgot filled its main chamber once again.
This period, as all the ones that the church undergone also ended in 2001, this time, when the property was bought by a private company and turned into a rock nightclub. The church had now traded the quiet and introspective environment of a religious ceremony and the cultural scene of a projection room for the loud scene of a rock concert.
Until that moment the building had witnessed the imperial age of Russia, the revolution of the working classes and the fall of the Soviet Union standing firm through the changes of its purpose and even the environment itself, but it had never witnessed a tragedy in 2002 the building was engulfed in flames. The same year that the city government took the decision of declaring the building a city monument and retuning its ownership to its origins, the Lutheran church.
Not much of the church remained after the incident, only the charred exterior and an almost irreparable interior. Its husk marked the grave of this historical building for six years.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the facade of the building was restored to its former glory, despite this measure the building continued to be in disuse, as the interior, still bearing the scars of the fire, remained untouched.
Finally, in 2013 the church, still with an unrepaired interior, reopened its doors for the pubic, hosting the first mass since the incident and giving way to a set of reforms that would turn the building, not only in a place of religious praise, but also in a peculiar cultural centre, and as such has remained until now.
After this long history lesson, you might be wondering, what can I do now with all this information?
Well, wonder no more, now you are prepared to attend and fully understand the art exposition that the church of Annenkirche hosts within its walls. From the 1st of October to the 20th of November, visitors can traverse the halls of this historical building while imagining how it would have looked during its long life, this exhibition is presented in honour of the 300th year anniversary of the building and it’s inspired by its history and all the events that it witnessed.
I personally attended the exhibition, and the only thing I can say without spoiling the whole experience is that by roaming the halls and catacombs of the building you are able to see and even feel the history trapped in its walls, all of that experience is enhanced by the alternative art exhibition that adds to the atmosphere without taking the away the spotlight from the main event, the church itself.
If you happen to be reading this article after November 20th, 2022, fear not, the church of Annenkirche hosts regularly different kinds of expositions covering multitude of topics, so you won’t miss the chance to visit this historical location.
Dates: 1/10/22 – 20/11/22
Address: Кирочная улица, д. 8, лит. В / Saint Petersburg, Kirochnaya, 8V