In the modest, traditionally working class Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio stands one of the most spectacular churches in America. Built in the early years of the 20th century, and partially funded by Czar Nicholas II’s missionary fund, St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral has onion domes and enough murals to distract even the drowsiest parishioner.
Cleveland architect Frederick Baird designed the church, but he borrowed heavily and so well from Russian models that St. Theodosius is considered one of the best examples of Russian church architecture in America. The church didn’t receive its distinctive murals until the early 1950s. Painted by Andrej Bicenko, the murals cover every wall of the church with Christ and his saints, in rich reds, blues, and gold. Smoke from the steel mills down the hill and the candles burned in church gradually blackened the murals, which were restored 20 years ago.
Don’t miss the leftmost portrait on the iconostasis, the enormous screen separating the sanctuary from the nave: It’s Herman of Alaska, the patron saint of Orthodox Christians in America, a Russian missionary who settled in Alaska all the way back in 1794.
Michael Cimino filmed the wedding scene in his 1978 movie The Deer Hunter at St. Theodosius, and cast St. Theodosius’s actual priest as the officiating priest.