Explosion at the Kursk Znamensky "The Sign" Monastery
On March 8th, 1898, at 1AM, a massive explosion suddenly waked all the brethren of the Kursk Znamensky Monastery up. The windows in many cells were shaken and the cell-attendant of Metropolitan Iuvenaly was thrown down from his bed. In deep fear the monks ran to the courtyard. Metropolitan Iuvenaly with the brethren tried to enter the main church from which a terrible smell was coming out. When they tried to open the door, they realized that the whole church was filled with suffocating smoke. Immediately they called the investigator and the police, and the horrible news got quickly spread around the town.
In front of the eyes of the local authorities arose a picture. Pieces of wood and broken glass, which was later realized were from the bell tower, were scattered throughout the church floor. A huge door on the north side was broken into pieces. Church paintings and the alabaster were damaged. But more damaged then anything was that place which had constantly held the highly respected Holy Relic - Miracle Working Icon of the Sign of the Mother of God.
That place which was decorated with ornaments was severely damaged: inside the golden frame and the pillars were burned; all the decorations and oil lamps were thrown to the sides. A big candle stand used for 150 candles was unrecognizable and also thrown to the side. The steps leading to the icons were also severely damaged.
Despite of all these damages, which could happen only because of an explosion of some very powerful substance. The precious Image itself, the 600-year-old Relic, the Icon of the Sign of the Mother of God left us with another great miracle by remaining whole and undamaged lying on the burned walls of the place where she was kept. The Icon was found to be only tilted a little bit to the left and the smoke blackened the Icon’s crown. The authorities also found the machine, with the timer inside, which produced that terrible explosion. The measurements of the box with foreign stickers on it could allow more then enough of dynamite, which was more than enough for the complete destruction of the Icon and the whole place where it was held.
The above story reveals a terrible power of the explosion and a miraculous preservation of the Icon that was only a little bit tilted to the side as if the Queen of Heaven turned Her face away from the horrible and evil act. What could have been the outcome if the explosion happened during the all night Vigil or during the Liturgy when up to 5000 people could have been present (that’s how many people the church could accommodate). Obviously, many hundreds of people could have been killed since many of them were especially close to the Miracle working Icon. The timer of that machine was set to take off during those times when most people could have been present.
Those were two great miracles from the Miracle working Image of the Sign: the Icon itself remained undamaged and the not a single soul was killed.
News about this wondrous miracle flew around Russia and even penetrated abroad. On the following Sunday, on March 5th, throughout all the Russian churches were served special thanksgiving services to the Theotokos. Kursk began to be flooded with pilgrims and over 60,000 pilgrims visited the exit of the Icon on the 9th Friday from Pascha.
Why Would Someone Do Such A Thing?
Who Did This?
Exact copies of the Kursk Root Icon “The Sign” were in royal palaces in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. There were also miracle-working copies of the Kursk Root Icon which appeared, for example, in Seraphim Ponetaevsky Monastery in Arzamas, Church of the Sign in St. Petersburg, and other places. Such veneration of the Miracle-working Image across Russia attracted attention of socialist-revolutionaries who decided to destroy one of the most venerated relics of Russia.
He decided to carry out the explosion during the feast day Divine Liturgy. They chose the week of the Holy Cross. Executions of such desecrating act of Ufimtsev a realist from Kursk. He was expelled for participating in the revolution and who Gorky would later call “poet of scientific technology.”
Ufimtsev, as he himself later admitted, brought the machine wrapped in canvas during the All-Night Vigil, when the Cross was carried out from the Alter, and quietly placed the bomb on the floor right next to the Kursk Root Icon as his “offering.” Nobody paid any attention because peasants would often bring offerings wrapped in canvas that would remain there till evening.
There was another person who participated in this act with Ufimtsev whose name we will not say. In 1949, when Archpriest Georgy Grabbe was in Frankfurt with the Miracle-working Image, an old man came up to him. Asking him to step aside, he told him the following: “I was the co-participant with Ufimtsev in the explosion of the Kursk Root Icon. I was a boy then and I didn’t believe in God. I decided to find out if God really doses exist. If He did, He wouldn’t allow the destruction of such a great Holy Relic. After the explosion, I became a strong believer in God and up till now I’ve been deeply repenting of my horrible act.” After this, the old man bowed down with tears before the Holy Icon and went out of the temple.
After that conversation, Fr. Grabbe allowed me to publish. The criminals, who had committed the explosion, were not found right away. However, two years later when Ufimtsev was arrested on the grounds of a different crime and he was exiled to Siberia. There he boasted in front of his inmates that it was him who set up the explosion at the Znamensky Monastery. One of his inmates, who turned out to be a Christian, was absolutely astonished at such blasphemy and told about it to the prison authorities. Since Ufimtsev was a minor when he had committed this crime, they only gave him a couple of years in prison.
After that he returned to Kursk and opened a repair shop. It was a shame of many of the Kursk residents. Ufimtsev had quite a few clients. He even became kind of a celebrity who people would come to look at and he openly professed himself as a revolutionist. After the October Revolution, Ufimtsev decided to attach to the Bolsheviks and moved to Moscow. He was under the protection of M. Gorky.