Most Alaskans have probably never heard of Monk’s Lagoon, nestled just across the water from Kodiak on Spruce Island. But pilgrims from all over the world seek it out because it’s considered one of the holiest places on the planet.
This week on Frontiers, we visit Monk’s Lagoon and look at some of its fascinating history.
It was the home of a monk, only known as Herman, who arrived there in the early 1800s and was canonized in 1970 as the first Orthodox Christian saint in North America.
The hermitage remains much as it was when Herman set foot on its shores. And yes, I did feel something different there, as many people have asked me upon learning of our trip there last month.
Whether it’s the incredible beauty or just the peace and quiet of the forest, once you venture into this sanctuary, something envelops you, warmly and profoundly.
Father Innocent Dresdow, a priest at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak took us there from Ouzinkie, a community on the southwest side of the island.
We traveled in his motorized raft for about 20 minutes. It was quite a trick navigating the tides to get there. Father Dresdow told us that only those who St. Herman wants to be there get there. Apparently, St. Herman wanted us there so we could share the beauty and peace of his home with you.
Here are some highlights from this week’s show:
- A video tour of Monk’s Lagoon with Father Innocent Dresdow.
- Interview with Father Michael Oleksa about the history of St. Herman and his battles with the Russian fur traders, who exploited the Aleut people. Oleksa has served as a priest in rural communities across the state and has written a number of books about the Orthodox church’s history in Alaska.
- Time out to enjoy the beauty of stained glass windows at the Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage. The historic Catholic church recently relocated and restored windows from a church in Philadelphia made in 1889 — a mosaic of color and light, made up of hundreds of pieces of glass.
- A preview of our Sept. 11 show, featuring the Lullaby Project, which brings together two groups of women — inmates at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center and local musicians. Earlier this month, they began to compose lullabies for the inmates’ children. The result is transformative, for both the inmates and the musicians.
I know all of our episodes of Frontiers can’t be this way, but this week’s program — no matter what your faith or spirituality — brings a sense of beauty and wonder.
Special thanks to Father Daniel Andrejuk at St. Tihkon’s for providing us with a recording of the St. Tikhon Orthodox Church choir. We would also like to thank Daria Safronova-Simeonoff and the Kodiak Historical Society, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak, the Orthodox Church in America, Mystagogy.com, and Alex Miller at Holy Archangel Supplies in Palmer.