Orthodox Churches in Asia
Asia is home to the most ancient Orthodox churches in the world and the newest. They can be found from the Middle East through the Indian subcontinent to the islands of Japan. Five of the Asian churches are included in Catherine’s Pascha.
Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nikolai-Do)
Holy Resurrection, the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church in Japan, is better known by its nickname, Nikolai-do, the House of Nicholas. This Nicholas is St. Nicholas, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of Japan. He first came to Japan to serve the Russians living there. He learned the Japanese language and stayed to serve the Japanese people. Once he was consecrated bishop, he built his cathedral on a hill overlooking the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and called it Holy Resurrection Cathedral. The people of Tokyo, though, called his cathedral by his name.
Work on the church began in 1884, according to a traditional Byzantine design by Michael Shchurupov, an architect from Moscow. Work was completed and the church was consecrated in 1891. Shchuropov’s design, however, could not withstand the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1923. The earthquake brought down the main bell tower onto the central dome, collapsing it, and fire destroyed the interior of the building. The cathedral was rebuilt using plans by the Japanese architect Shinito Okada. Okada’s design was more fitting for an area with the potential for great earthquakes, and it was closer to what St. Nicholas himself had wanted. It had a shorter bell tower, a modified dome, and a less ornate interior. The new cathedral was consecrated in 1929.
If you try to visit Nikolai-do and find the main building closed, look for the small building adjacent to the cathedral that’s open all the time where you can light candles and pray.
The website for Nikolai-do provides some information about their parish in English.
Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus
The original Mariamite Cathedral was built during the second or third century. It is one of the oldest churches in Damascus, located on the Street Called Straight, which St. Paul is said to have visited in the Acts of the Apostles.
After the Muslim conquest of Damascus in 634, the church was closed. It was returned to the Christians in 706 by the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid. In 1342, the Patriarchal See of Antioch relocated to Damascus, and the Mariamite Cathedral became the seat of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
The church has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The current building includes renovations from 1953, to repair damage done in anti-Christian riots in 1860.
The Church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity
In the year 2000, the Russian Orthodox priest Archimandrite Oleg Cherepanin arrived in Bangkok. Father Oleg was the first Orthodox priest in Thailand, and he began translating the Holy Scriptures and service books into Thai.
In 2008, the Orthodox Church was officially recognized by the Thai government, and in 2009, planning began for the Church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity.
The church was intended to be the first Orthodox church in Thailand. A financial crisis intervened, however. By the time the church was completed in 2012, three other Orthodox churches had already been built in other parts of the country.
As with the other Orthodox churches in Thailand, the parish is ethnically diverse. In addition to Russians and Thais, there are parishioners from Bulgaria, Romania, France, America, and various countries in Africa.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are sometimes disappointed by what they see when they arrive. This holiest of churches is not a grand and majestic edifice. Rather, it is a conglomeration of structures of varying ages and styles.
Architectural elements reflect the long and complex history of the site. Byzantine, medieval, Crusader, and modern styles seem to be thrown together haphazardly. Each of the Christian communities that control portions of the church has introduced distinctive decorations for their area that may clash with their neighbors. Nearly everything is in need of renovation and repair.
And yet the Church remains the holiest of holy sites. It encompasses both the site where Jesus was crucified and the site where He was buried. Christians in the first and second century were already worshiping at the site. The Emperor Hadrian, in an attempt to wipe out this worship, flattened the site and built a temple to Venus there.
This conveniently marked the spot, and ensured that, in the future, it would be easy to find. When the first Christian emperor, Flavius Constantinus, allowed the church to be built, the Christian community knew exactly where to put it.
According to tradition, Constantine arranged for the rock around the tomb to be excavated. A small building called the Edicule (or, in Greek, the Kouvouklion) was built in the Rotunda to enclose the tomb.
The Church of the Seven Apostles
Capernaum, Galilee, Israel
The Church of the Seven Apostles takes its name from a passage in the Gospel of John when Jesus, after his Resurrection, appeared to Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples. The church is also called the Church of the Twelve Apostles, in reference to the Gospel account of Jesus choosing the Twelve Apostles in this area of Galilee.
The church was built in 1931 on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. It’s in the north-eastern part of the ancient village of Capernaum, where villagers moved after the old town was destroyed, either in an earthquake in 749, or perhaps by some other event in the 8th century.
The village had been in ruins for many centuries when the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem bought the site and built the church. The church had not been in use long when Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 put the church in a demilitarised zone between Israel and Syria. Christians had no access to this zone, and so their church and the adjacent monastery stood empty. Druze residents began using the church as a barn.
After the Six Day War in 1969, Greek Orthodox Church took possession of the church once again. The church has since been completely restored.