In the mountainous area of Arkhyz in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, one of the rocks depicts the face of Jesus Christ, which locals call hidden. It was revealed under mysterious circumstances only 20 years ago. Scientists argue about its origin, and believers talk about the mystical power of this image.
In the late 80’s in the small village of Lower Arkhyz, don’t know where the old man came from. He was dressed discreetly, walked with a stick and did not talk to anyone. This is not a joke worried astrophysicists who worked at the observatory nearby. When the old man disappeared, they tried to find him in the surrounding forests – without success.
Scientists have only seen him a few times. And, strangely enough, it’s always near the Mitsest mountain, which rises above the valley of the Bolshoi Zelenchuk River.
And one day, in the late 90’s, the old man suddenly came to the local residents Sergei and Anatoly Varchenko. He introduced himself as Ivan Ilyich and told that in the mountains of the Lower Archyz there is a face of Jesus Christ not made by hand. The brothers believed the hermit and started searching.
However, they were constantly hindered by an unknown force: they would get lost or not reach the top of the rock where the image was supposed to be. As Sergei Varchenko later recalled, they passed by the mysterious face of Christ seven times. And finally…
“Meter after meter I went up a steep slope. It rained, lightning sparkled, and the dirt lingered to my shoes. The climb was incredibly hard. I clung to the branches and roots of the trees, but still walked. I don’t know how I got to the site. I just remember that I felt the look on my face, straight, calm. A look that I will not confuse with anything and will never forget”, – Sergey Varchenko remembers.
He turned around and saw a large man’s portrait on a rocky slope, the size of which is almost the same as that of Sergei – about one and a half meters high. This image was well known to Sergei, because it can be seen on the icon “The Saviour Not Made by Hand”: long hair, smooth features and piercing look.
The Varchenko brothers told their fellow villagers about the discovered face of Christ. But when the inhabitants of Lower Arkhyz came to the rock on one of the sunny days, they saw nothing. It turns out that the face clearly appears only in the morning or evening.
A year and a half after these events the mysterious hermit Ivan Ilyich died. However, the house he lived in is still standing in the woods.
Of course, as soon as the face of Christ was revealed, the pilgrims reached out to him immediately. Archbishop of Pyatigorsk and Circassian Theophylact (Kuryanov) was one of the first to pray then.
“I was a seminary student at the time and I remember very well how we climbed the dangerous slope. We grabbed the trees so we wouldn’t fall and held each other,” the bishops said.
He remembers his first impressions of the image clearly after 20 years. First of all, he was struck by the piercing look of the Savior.
“When you pray before this face, you feel well that you are standing before the Eternity. It is an amazing look, a kindness that is especially felt here in the mountains. I was born and raised here. Mountains are always a place of trial, not only for you, but for the people who are close by. The test of mutual assistance and readiness to even sacrifice oneself,” the lord admits.
The mysterious image of the Savior is in a very difficult place, almost on the edge of a steep rock. And only recently for safety of pilgrims and tourists there have made a ladder.
“More precisely, it’s a cascade of stairs. But still the road to the face of Christ is very difficult. By the middle of the way, even strong men get dyspnea. But, surprisingly, both old people and children go to the image – they somehow manage to find strength within themselves. Because at the end of the journey, when you see the image, the piercing look of the Savior, tiredness flies away,” says Orthodox journalist Alexander Yegortsev, who has been here many times.