The Estonian Orthodox Hiiumaa Church of the Birth of the Mother of our Lord in the Village of Kuriste was completed in 1873. The historicist-style stone church was established on the island in the course of the conversion movement. The stones were brought from Riga. Icons and liturgical textiles from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries are on display. The former priest’s house is located next to the stone church. The church is the only orthodox church to have survived in Hiiumaa, where services also take place.
Orthodoxy and Hiiumaa
At the end of the 19th century the “Apostolic- Orthodoxy”, broke in to Hiiumaa.
In the year 1883 four peasants from the village of Lelu were present at a Divine Orthodox Liturgy in Haapsalu. In the beginning of 1884 one of them, Tõnis Padu of Matse, while being at Haapsalu, called a priest (probably Nikolai Poletajev 1879-1888) to the island. Due to the fact that priest could not come to the Hiiumaa, traveled Tõnis Padu on 13th of July, with ten men or so to Haapsalu to adopt the new religion. Already in August were a large number of Lelu villagers newly chrismated. That’s how the Orthodox parish of the Nativity of the Mother of God of Emmaste – Lelu (the later Emmast – Kuriste) got started. The parish was officially created on the 9th of November 1884 at the farm of Matse of the village of Lelu, where also an Orthodox school was soon opened.
After the creation of the Orthodox parish in Kuriste a massive conversion to Orthodoxy began. In the Orthodox religious services all the human senses were absorbed and there were no separate services for the nobles and for the common people, as there were in the Lutheran Church.
At the end of the 19th century there were about 1500 Orthodox believers in Hiiumaa. At the time of the first Republic of Estonia, Hiiumaa had 3 Orthodox parishes and an active religious life. The Soviet time in Hiiumaa had a devastating impact on Orthodoxy and its sanctuaries. The Kuriste church was at that time the only active Orthodox sanctuary in Hiiumaa.
According to the last census (31.12.2011) there are 91 Orthodox believers in Hiiumaa.
The churches of the historicist style were built in Hiiumaa shortly after the introduction of the Orthodox faith to the island. The construction of the Kuriste church of the Nativity of the Mother of God started on the 17th of May 1888. The builders of the church were said to be the inhabitants of Saaremaa. The yellow bricks were brought with horses and oxen from Riga. The architects of the church were K.Nyman and I.Dmitrijevski.
The church was consecrated on the 27th of July 1890 in memory of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The parish celebrates its feast on the 8th of September. The feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God has been celebrated on the 8th of September probably already from the 6th or the 7th century, but it was taken officially to the Liturgical Calendar only on the 9th century.
Next to the church a graveyard was established and a schoolhouse, together with a priest’s house was also built. The teaching in the school of Kuriste was organized according to the program of the Ministry of Education. The headmaster of the school was a priest and there were 3 – 4 teachers. The only lessons not held in Russian were the lessons of religion and mother tongue (Estonian language). The parish school of Kuriste was closed on the 1st of January 1922. After the establishment of the Education Society of Kuriste in 1997 the house was renovated. At the time of the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God on the 8th of September 2012 all the local people together with their priest consecrated the house of the Education Society.
In 2011, after the restoration of the roof, floor and interior solution, the church got back its former beauty. The restoration of the spire was finished in 2013. The Kuriste church of the Nativity of the Mother of God is currently the only active Orthodox church in Hiiumaa.
Troparion, tone 4: „Thy birth, O Mother of God, has brought joy to all the world; for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, Who, having dissolved the curse, has given His blessing, and having abolished death, has granted us life eternal.“
An elderly childless couple Joachim and Anna prayed to God and a miracle happened – to them a little girl was born, whom they dedicated to God. Virgin Mary did the biggest act a human being can ever do – to accept God inside her and to give birth to Him. That’s why Virgin Mary is the Mother of God.
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