Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but Alaska is certainly full of unexpected wonders. Case in point is a small historic church designated only be a small worn sign on the outskirts of Ninilchik. I must have traveled this stretch of road between Homer and Kenai a dozen times before taking notice of it. I caught a glimpse of the sign with just enough time to read Russian Orthodox Church before the cutoff was behind me. Not sure what prompted me to u-turn by I’m certainly glad I did.
As I began reading the headstones, I found graves from as far back as 1880 and as recent as this 2014 so it was still an active cemetery.
Behind the Photo
I imagined as I looked over the church for different site lines and compositions, that their were thousands if not tens of thousand of photos of the church itself out in the wild. And although the church as very photogenic, what really caught my eye was the number of plots surrounding the church as well of the large range of dates represented.
I chose a low angle to olde weather Russian double cross in the foreground and newer better maintained crosses in the middle ground to highlight that fact. The church is placed in the background to give the shot context, but it’s really the historic cemetery that’s the focal point of this photograph.
Ninilchik was first settled by Russian immigrants from Kodiak Island in 1847. In 1896 a school was built and staffed by Russian Orthodox priests. The church, Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel, being followed 5 years later in 1901.
Two things immediately caught my eye. First was the obvious Russian style of architect with it’s signature onion domes. No missing that.
The second wasn’t quite as obvious from the roadside but once I reached the picket fence I was amazed and how packed the grave plots were packed in around the small church. With the exception of the path meandering throughout them, every bit of free space was filled with a plot. As I began reading the headstones, I found graves from as far back as 1880 and as recent as this 2014 so it was still an active cemetery.