Mental Floss

The bloody history of the boulder church

Ransom Riggs
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We can't explain it, but strange things just seem to happen more often in Russia. Take, for instance, the matter of Horse Island. It's a remote place in the middle of an enormous Russian lake, so named for the sizable boulder which rests there, its shape not unlike that of a horse's head. Back in the day -- around the fourteenth century or so -- the island was considered holy by the Finnish tribes who controlled it, and the holiest spot on their holy island was this horse-shaped rock, at which they performed sacrifices (both animal and human, we're led to believe, though this was a long time ago and records are spotty). Needless to say, the Christian monks who began to settle there in 1393 were shocked by the bloody scenes, and promptly built a chapel atop the rock. The Finns stopped their rituals, but the island's troubles weren't over: the Swedes captured the island in 1610, only to be taken back by the Russians again a century later, and switched back to Finnish hands in the early twentieth century (only to be occupied by the Soviet military during WWII -- whew). Anyway, here's the chapel, restored and rebuilt several times since the 14th century, but cool nonetheless:
Link and photo via Englishrussia.

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