Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Cantor Church

The Cantor Church (کلیسای کانتور), also known as the Bell Tower and the Russian Church, is an Orthodox Church built in Qazvin province during Nasereddin Shah’s reign. Following his frequent trips to Europe, Nasereddin Shah paid more attention to road infrastructure and began constructing roads to connect various cities to each other and the capital. The road from Tehran to Qazvin had already been constructed by an Iranian and the future ruler of Qazvin, however, under pressure from the Russians, the road from Qazvin to Anzali was trusted to a Russian company. They began in the early twentieth century by constructing facilities north of Qazvin such as a consulate, theater, reservoir, and office which became known as Cantor (which in Russian meant office). A small church was built on its southern side to facilitate the Russians’ religious duties although today rather than a religious destination it is mostly just a tourist attraction.

The Cantor Church showcases a unique blend of architectural elements that reflect its Russian Orthodox heritage and the local Iranian influence. The floorplan of the church is an irregular polygon. Red bricks dominate the exterior of the church and decorative columns can be seen. The bell tower of the chapel gives great views of the surrounding field. This interior includes a hall, columns, spiral capitals, arches and ledges and is decorated with a gable, brickwork and horseshoe windows framed with a double row of bricks.

The chapel, like other churches, has a cruciform plan with the altar facing east. The entrance on the western side is covered by a gable roof and surrounded by two walls adorned with crosses. A crucifix wrapped in a crown of flowers is highlighted and beautified with stucco on both sides of the door. 

There is an 11-meter tall, three-storey bell-house at the entrance that is bounded by a small turquoise dome. The hall includes a chapel and altar, and on both sides, are two rectangular areas. It currently contains a shop for local handicrafts. The altar faces east and is in the shape of a semi-circle covered by a dome. The chapel also contains a dome although its surrounding area has flat roofs.

The brick-paved churchyard contains many tombs, one of which belongs to a Russian pilot who was killed when his plane went down during World War I. Another tomb belongs to a Russian engineer who passed away in 1906.

Following the departure of the Russians, the Cantor Church was abandoned and gradually became a historical and symbolic event of the bitter occupation days. It was opened to people as a historical monument and then used as a school warehouse before its current state of housing a small marketplace for Iranian handicrafts.


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