St. Sofia Orthodox Church

St. Sofia Orthodox Church

Preserved as one of the state’s Key Cultural Relics in 1966, St. Sophia Orthodox Church proudly stands as a recognizable landmark within the city of Harbin. Considered to be the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the Far East, St. Sophia is known for its Byzantine beauty. A complex historical past surrounds the church, which was first founded in 1907 using timber posts at the hand of Russian immigrants. Still under Russian observation, the church was rebuilt in 1911 using a mixture of masonry and timber construction. In 1923 the church was again rebuilt, and just nine years later gained widespread acclaim as a monumental architectural and artistic accomplishment. The structure is defined by its Latin cross footprint, which remained intact throughout its multiple reconstructions. It’s four stories reach a height of 53.3 meters, topped by a bell tower that until 1960 housed seven operable bells of varying size and tone. The bells were often used to signify religious festivals. For decades the church was unmaintained and unoccupied, eventually undergoing considerable decline. During this period of time a number of apartment and office buildings were built, surrounding the empty relic. In 1997, the government of Harbin approved a renovation proposal to revive the beautiful church from decades of abandonment. Although many of the original Russian murals have been lost completely due to lack of preservation and a number of the church’s crosses have been removed, St. Sophia’s has been restored to its original magnificence, and is known now as the Harbin Art Gallery.