The Bell at St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, 1894 Club. Black and white image of St. Nicholas after 1905 (the belltower is present)
The Church sometime after 1905. Fr Peter Orloff is beside the doors. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library (ASL-P243-2-030)
Black and white Image of St Nicholas and Church school (between 1895 and 1905). Before the Bell-tower was constructed.
St. Nicholas and the Church School before the Bell Tower, between 1894, but before the construction of the Old Rectory. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library (ASL-P226-225)
The bell at St Nicholas, Juneau
The Bell as it appeared in July 2010 during Phase One of our preservation project.

“Inhabitants of the island of St. Paul (Aleuts) donated two bells – one for the St. Nicholas Church in Juneau on the Alaska Territory, and the other – for Kuskokwim Mission of St. Sergius. For such exemplary zeal of the inhabitants of the island of St. Paul, Archpastoral gratitude to them was expressed with the invocation of God’s blessings upon them, and the clergy and parishioners of the Juneau Church and Kuskokwim Mission have been obliged, upon receipt of the bells, to serve a Moleben (te deum) for the health of donors, and to write down in the church pomyannik (memorial list) “the Parish of St. Paul being saved by the Lord” for remembrance on proskomidiyas, until sounds of these “church-bells”[1] are voiced to hearing of residents of those areas.”

+ Nikolaj, Bishop of Aleuts and Alaska

Orthodox American Messenger, №2, (Sep. 16-30, 1896), p. 29, Official Section, Paragraph 7 “Donations”, Item “b”

[1]               From the Russian “кампаны,” (pl.), a literal translation of the Latin campana (pl. campanis), and refers specifically to large church bells in the bell-tower.

The Bell and Belfry

Our bell, which has been calling people to worship since its arrival, was a gift[1] from the Aleuts of St. Paul Island, of the Pribilof islands, in 1896. The people of St. Paul and the Tlingit of St. Nicholas have a continued connection through the memorial to all inhabitants of the St. Paul and St. George Islands who died during their forced relocation to Southeast Alaska during WWII. When St. Nicholas church received its bell, the church didn’t have its characteristic Queen Anne Style over-the-narthex belfry, as illustrated by the photograph titled “St. Nicholas and the church school Before the Bell Tower.”[2] It is likely that the bell was simply mounted on a simple ground level belfry, much like the one seen today at the Fort Ross Chapel, until 1905[3] when the bell-tower was installed. The bell in St Nicholas was cast by Mikhail Makarov(ich) Stukolkin, of Stukolkin’s bell foundry in the Malaya Okhta District of Saint Petersburg, Russia sometime around 1850.[4] This is the same bell maker and foundry that cast the original bell at Fort Ross, California.[5]

Belfry Restoration

The bell itself is in very good condition and is stationary-mounted in accordance with the common Russian style of bell ringing. But it was severely threatened by structural issues in the belfry. In 2007 while work was being done on the roof of the narthex, severe dry-rot was discovered in the wood supporting the Narthex. The structure was at risk of catastrophic failure that would have sent the 609 pound bell crashing through the roof, likely destroying the bell and severely damaging the building.

To prevent this, the bell and its Queen Anne style tower were removed from the church and placed on the ground while the church and Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska (ROSSIA) worked to raise the necessary funds to reconstruct bell tower as part of Phase 1 of St. Nicholas’ preservation work.

Plans were completed and funds were raised over the course of several years. Finally, on November 24, 2012, the belfry was returned to its place atop St. Nicholas’ Narthex.

Please consider a donation to Phase 2 of our preservation work so we can continue the work to preserve and protect this unique piece of Alaska’s heritage.

Footnotes courtesy of:

Mark D Galperin.

[1]               Bell Donation– Orthodox American Messenger, №2, (Sep. 16-30, 1896), p. 29, Official Section, Subsection 7 “Donations”, Item “b”

[2]               Russian Orthodox Church and vestry, Juneau, a b&w photograph by William Howard Case, Photograph Id.: ASL-P226-225, Collection Name: William R. Norton Photographs, ca. 1890-1920. ASL-PCA-226; Alaska State Library Historical Collections, Juneau, AK; the image and its description are internet-published at and at respectively. This image is presented also in the article “The History of St. Nicholas Church” published at the web-site of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church of Juneau, AK at; the URL of the image—St-Nick-before-1897-ASL-P226-225.jpg suggests that the photograph had been taken before 1897.

[3]               Alaskan Vicariate (in North America) in the year 1905, an annual report by Bp. Innokentij of Alaska from “Pravoslavnyj Blagovestnik / Orthodox Christian Herald of Good Tidings”, a periodical of the Orthodox Christian Missionary Society, Moscow, 1893—1916, before 1914: bi-weekly with N. P. Komarov as the editor; beginning 1914 – monthly with V. Rev. I.I. Vostorgov as the editor; re-published in Amerikanskij pravoslavnyj vestnik [American Orthodox Messenger], 1906, No. 14, in Russian, pp. 274-278, p. 277: «Джуновская церковь украсилась новой колокольней, устроенной на добровольные пожертвования прихожан».

[4]               Johnson, Priest Simeon B. Initial observations on the Bell of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Juneau. May 12, 2012. Internal Memo from the personal files of Fr. Simeon B. Johnson.

[5]               Bells in Post-Russian Fort Ross, an article by Mark D. Galperin, Blagovest Bells, San Rafael, CA, presented on Apr. 26, 2012 at Fort Ross 2012 The Bicentennial Conference, Apr. 2012, Santa Rosa, CA; 7 p., the original bell by Mikhail Stukolkin– pp. 1-6; the replacement bell by Jacques Sergeys, Leuven, Belgium– p 7.

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