Varnja Old Believers Prayer House

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Orthodox sermons were held both by Constantinople and Jerusalem liturgical rites until the 17th century. In 1652, Moscow and all Russian patriarch Nikon, supported by the Tsar Alexei I, initiated reforms aimed at bringing rituals and doctrines in line with the ruling Constantinople church. However, the liturgy of Constantinople Orthodox Church has already changed in the meantime. The Tsar and the patriarch called for help from a number of foreign advisers (primarily the Greek-Catholic Church clergy from Greece and Ukraine) and, in part, also relied on their personal preferences. However, not all believers and clergy were in favour of reforms. In their view, it was an abandonment of Christian authority based on ancient heritage, the discrediting of Orthodox history, opening the path to further modernisation and secularisation.

The church councils of 1681 and 1685 gave a blessing to the so-called Eastern Orthodox Inquisition, and the persecution of Old Believers began. The first Russian Old Believers appeared on the coast of the Peipus in Mustvee and Kallaste area just then, at the end of the 17th century.

Varnja Old Believers Prayer House is a lovely and cozy place with a rich iconostasis on the shore of the Lake Peipus. The local guide, also an Old Believer, will give an interesting overview of the life and history Old Believers in the area. Plan about an hour for your visit – this unique experience is well worth your time!

Important information

Prayer house opens on pre-booking: please call Zoja to arrange a visit.

The cost of a single visit for a group is €1 per visitor (but no less than €50 per group).

Remember: it is customary and polite for women to enter with a head covered. Also, taking pictures and videos is not appropriate in the prayer house.

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