The history of the Sitka St Michael's Cathedral begins when a ship carrying the St Michael's icon sunk along with all its valuable cargo 30 miles short of its destination. Thirty days after the Neva sank, the undamaged crate carrying the icon washed ashore at Sitka and was found by local residents.
Construction of the cathedral began in 1844, and the building was finished in 1848. Upon completion, the Sitka St Michael's Cathedral was an imposing domed architectural site housing many church treasures, including religious icons, a chandelier, and artwork.
In 1966, a fire destroyed the cathedral, burning it to the ground along with much of the downtown Sitka district. Through the efforts of the townspeople, many of the religious objects were removed from the burning building within a 30-minute span.
Using the original plans of Russian architect Ivan Veniaminov, Sitka St Michael's Cathedral was rebuilt and completed in 1976 and contains the salvaged artwork, icons, and chandelier from the original structure. St Michael's is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Visitors to the cathedral can attend lengthy Sunday services sung in English as well as Tlingit and Aleut. Tours of the cathedral are available with knowledgeable guides to answer questions about the background and history of the cathedral.
For additional sightseeing on local religious history, tourists can visit St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Juneau, which is the oldest continuous Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska and is open to the public Monday through Sunday before and after services.