Mental Floss

The bloody history of the boulder church

Ransom Riggs

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.