Holy Myrrhbearers Cathedral, Baku

The Holy Myrrhbearers Cathedral in Baku is an Orthodox church in the capital of Azerbaijan which, like all religious buildings in the region, has a long and tragic history.

The cathedral was built in the early 20th century in honor of the 206th Salyan Infantry Regiment, which at that time was stationed in Baku. The project was financed by the War Ministry and entrusted to the famous architect Fyodor Verzhbitsky, who designed a house of worship that aligned with the traditional canons of Orthodox church architecture. At that time, there were already 64 such churches throughout the territory of the Russian Empire.

The cathedral was named after the women who, according to the Bible, came looking for the body of Christ on Sunday morning to wash it with myrrh, and thus came to be known among Orthodox believers as the Holy Myrrhbearers. The official opening and consecration of the temple took place in 1909.

With the advent of Soviet power, the Cathedral of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women was one of the first churches to be shuttered. Although not destroyed, it shared the fate of most houses of worship, being repurposed first as a warehouse and subsequently as a sports hall.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the church faced another serious trial. In January 1990, in the days later to be dubbed Bloody January, two shells hit the bell tower of the cathedral. As a result, its roof collapsed, the bell tower itself was seriously damaged and the walls riddled with cracks. Consequentially, the floor began to sag significantly under all the strain. A year later, when the cathedral came under the patronage of the Russian Orthodox Church, large-scale restoration work was begun. The renovations were not fully completed until the early 21st century, at which time the church reopened to parishioners.

At present, several religious relics are kept in the Holy Myrrhbearers Cathedral in Baku, most notably a shrine with the relics of St. Bartholomew, patron Saint of Baku, and two icons of the Mother of God, Caspian and Tikhvin.