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Visiting Russian Orthodox Church for the first time

a large body of water with buildings in the background

Russian Orthodox churches are a big part of Russian traditions and history. They are a tremendous example of ancient architecture and are somehow mirror to Russian society. Below we will tell about 5 things one should remember when going to a Russian Orthodox church.

1. Clothes

Try to avoid bright colors and short skirts or shorts, when going to the church. For women ideally to wear a long dark skirt, trousers are also possible, and as “a must” to have the head covered. For men, general rules apply about the color and longer clothing and they should have their heads uncovered (take off hats or caps).

girl in Russian church

2. Behavior in Orthodox Church

  • It is common not to speak with a loud voice, almost whispering or generally avoid speaking inside the church
  • In general, people behave very discreetly: do not laugh or smile, try to be serious and calm
  • When being inside a church try not to turn with your back to the main altar. Even when going out from church people try to move to face the main altar, so they are moving forward with their back
  • Try to avoid crossing your legs or arms, it might be considered to be disrespectful
  • There are no pews in the churches, so everyone stands during entire service


3. Cross

Orthodox cross has its own peculiarities. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams, the lower beam islanted: the side to Christ’s right is usually higher. What is more, orthodox people cross themselves differently: from right shoulder to left shoulder.

4. Candles

Lightening candles are a big part of Orthodox worship. People lighten candles in front of icons of Saints and prey. The most common is to light candles for the health of living and for repose. One candle is lightening for one person.

Russian church

5. Religious Holidays

Main religious celebrations match with other Christian confessions in meaning and naming but differ in date. For example, Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January, Easter in 2013 comes on 5th of May and so on.
If you want to learn more about Russian Orthodox church and religious traditions you may like going to the cities of Golden Ring Russia – the ancient cities to the North-East of Moscow which influenced very much forming of Russian Orthodox Church and religion and preserve churches, cathedrals, and monasteries of XII-XVIII centuries.