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Sunday, 26 July 2015
ROC Seek Return of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg
Topic: Russian Church

St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg
The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have confirmed that they have filed a petition to local politicians in St Petersburg to discuss the return of St. Isaac's Cathedral, which is currently an historical monument and a museum. Russian media sources report that the news of the proposal has generated heated discussion in Russian society.

Maxim Reznik, the deputy of the St. Petersburg legislative, and who also chairs the legislature’s commission for culture, confirmed on Thursday that he had received information on a petition filed by Metropolitan Barsanuphius, the ruling hierarch of the diocese for the return of the city’s landmark cathedral.

The State Historical Museum is not opposed to the transfer so long as the ROC will not prevent tourists from accessing the cathedral. A representative from the museum cited the example of St Basil's Cathedral, which has long been operated jointly by the organisation he represents and the ROC without causing any hindrance to the thousands of tourists who visit every year. The cathedral is open to visitors throughout the week, the price of admission is currently 250 rubles or the Sunday service with free admission. 

Emperor Alexander I, ordered the famous architect Auguste de Montferrand to construct the cathedral on St Isaac's Square. The cathedral took 40 years to construct, from 1818 to 1858, at the incredible amount of 1,000,000 gold rubles. St. Isaac’s is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint. 

During the Soviet period, the cathedral was stripped of religious trappings. In 1931, it was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. During World War II, the dome was painted over in grey to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main body of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only.

Services resumed in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in 1990, after an interval of 59 years. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, several notable funerals have been held in the cathedral, including Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich in 1992, and the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 2006.

At present, the cathedral is owned by the city and is part of a state museum monument along with the Church of the Saviour on Blood, St. Sampson’s and Smolny Cathedrals. The city authorities are already considering a handover of the Smolny cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 July, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:14 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 July 2015 8:17 PM EDT
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Sunday, 14 June 2015
Giant Statue of Orthodox Prince Vladimir the Great Stirs Controversy in Moscow
Topic: Russian Church

Scaffolding surrounds the vast clay sculpture-in-progress of Prince Vladimir the Great  inside a warehouse on Moscow's outskirts
Scaffolding surrounds the vast clay sculpture-in-progress inside a warehouse on Moscow's outskirts, yet already the statue of Vladimir the Great has caused an outcry as big as the monument itself.

The 24-metre (78-feet) high likeness of the man who brought Christianity to Kievan Rus - the forerunner of modern Russia and Ukraine - is set to tower over the capital, the latest potent symbol in a surge of patriotism taking hold in Russia.

Prince Vladimir is revered as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church and a hero by others, including the noted sculptor of the work, Salavat Shcherbakov. But not all Moscow agrees.

"He's a figure whom the people, the country, can rely on. And he is important right now" he said, working on the ornate robes as Vladimir looms above, right hand raised high ready to hold a cross.

Russian sculptor Salavat Scherbakov climbs the scaffolding around his model for a monument of St. Vladimir at his orkshop in Moscow 
Public outcry

The final, cast bronze is scheduled for installation in September on a prime spot called Sparrow Hills, overlooking all of Moscow - and where all of Moscow will see Vladimir.

But the choice has proved so divisive it may be changed.
In a flurry of public anger, more than 59,000 people joined an online petition against the planned location, one of the city's best-loved viewpoints high above Moscow's centre.

Several thousand students and staff at the nearby Moscow State University also signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin opposing the statue.

Even some of the leather clad bikers who roar up to Sparrow Hills each evening are not happy. "Who is this statue for? I think it's totally inappropriate here," said Sergei Govinov, two gold crosses dangling on his tanned chest "Where are we going to meet now?"

"It outrages all sorts of different people," said local councillor and anti-statue campaigner Yelena Rusakova. "In recent years in Moscow, I can't remember another example of so many people signing a petition and writing letters."

Tall as it is, the statue is still dwarfed by Moscow's biggest such monuments, like the Soviet-era Worker and Collective Farm Worker that stands 25 metres high on a 33-metre pedestal. And a widely reviled monument to Tsar Peter the Great by Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli is even taller, at 98 metres.

An artist's concept of the statue of Prince Vladimir the Great overlooking Moscow from its proposed location on Sparrow Hills
Church backing

Backed by the Russian Orthodox Church and the culture ministry, the Vladimir monument is part of a drive to boost patriotism by evoking historic glories and conservative Christian values.

An Orthodox youth group gathered more than 62,000 signatures online in support of the project.

But opponents say Vladimir the Great has no historic links to Moscow, which did not exist at the time.

And they say he is already commemorated with a large statue in Kiev, the capital of former Soviet neighbour Ukraine with which Moscow is locked in a bitter standoff after it annexed the Crimea region and was accused of stirring a separatist conflict.

Other opponents have warned that the 300-tonne statue perched on the edge of a steep 100-metre high slope above Moscow River could cause a catastrophic landslide.

Scuffles recently broke out at a protest at the site when pro-Kremlin bikers tore posters and shouted abuse at people campaigning against the statue.

In a surprise, last-minute turnabout, the pro-government military history society that commissioned and financed the monument has now asked city authorities to consider other locations.

The statue, the society said "Citing the protests and 'safety concerns', should be an indisputably uniting factor".

Anti-statue protestor Rusakova has cautioned opponents not to relax and to continue the campaign, noting the city council will not rule on the matter until July.

"The most important thing is that there is a shared desire among the citizens of our country for this sculpture to go up," said sculptor Shcherbakov, denouncing what he sees as "some people are purely ideological" arguments against the monument.

©  Agence France-Presse. 14 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 June 2015 7:53 AM EDT
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Friday, 8 May 2015
Historic 18th Century Orthodox Church Reconstructed in Moscow
Topic: Russian Church

Originally constructed in 1781, the historic church was demolished in 1963 to construct a new Metro line in Moscow
The consecration ceremony of the reconstructed Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior on Moscow’s Preobrazhenskaya Square was held on Friday. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia led the dedication service.

The Russian prime minister’s wife Svetlana Medvedeva, Minister of Healthcare Veronika Skvortsova, Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin, Deputy Minister of Defence Nikolai Pankov, Presidential Envoy to the Central Federal District Alexander Beglov, and other officials attended the ceremony and laid flowers at the plaque honoring the soldiers of the Preobrazhensky Regiment.

“Thousands of people gathered on this square in the days of the Great Patriotic War to find courage, strength, and faith at this church, faith in our victory over the Nazi legions,” Sobyanin said. “This church really did give our soldiers faith and strength. It is no coincidence that this church and memorial have been restored and are being opened on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory.”

Patriarch Kirill called the reconstruction of the Transfiguration Church an important historical event. The Patriarch presented The Image of the Lord Jesus Christ Not Made by Hands to the church, saying “Let it remind those who will serve and pray here about this wonderful day when the soldiers’ church, which was once destroyed, was opened again. The reconstruction of this church was finished on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.”

The patriarch awarded Svetlana Medvedeva with the Insignia of Saint Olga, the church’s highest award for women. Russian Orthodox Church awards were also presented to Mikhail Abramov, the founder of the Museum of Russian Icon and a number of other city and church officials 

The stone Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour in Preobrazhenskoye was built in 1781. The soldiers and officers of the Moscow Guard Battalion sponsored the construction. The decision to demolish the church was made by the Moscow State Executive Committee in 1963 under the pretext of needing to construct a new section of the Kirovskaya Line of the Moscow Metro.

The church was blown up on the night of July 18, 1964, despite public protests (about 2,500 signatures to protect the church had been collected). The demolition of the church on Preobrazhenskaya Square was the last case of demolishing operating churches in Moscow.

The altar screen and some furniture and interior details were moved to other churches in Moscow.

The decision to restore the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour on the site where it once stood was taken by the Moscow Government on 17 July 2009 (Directive No 1580-RP) upon the initiative of the public. The restoration began in September 2009 and ended in April 2015. The project was financed by private donations.

The facades of six nearby buildings have also been renovated, as well as the sidewalks and the road pavement. The lawns on Preobrazhenskaya Square, which was decorated for Victory Day, have been replanted. 
© Moscow City Government. 08 May, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:05 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 May 2015 4:21 AM EDT
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Saturday, 21 March 2015
Moscow's Novodevichy Convent Bell Tower Damaged in Fire
Topic: Russian Church

Fire rages in the Bell Tower of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow on March 16th
Photo © EPA 
On March 16, a fire that raged at the bell tower of Moscow's iconic Novodevichy Convent may have been caused by a short circuit or gold thieves, Russian media reported.

A 300-square-meter blaze spread along the scaffolding which had earlier been erected around the convent's bell tower for renovations. The fire was extinguished at 1:23 a.m. on Monday after some 100 firefighters were dispatched to the scene, the press service of the Emergency Situations Ministry's Moscow branch said in comments carried by Interfax.

No one was injured in the incident.

According to Interfax's report, a short circuit could have occurred as a result of restoration work that had required the use of heat guns, tools that emit a stream of hot air and are used for stripping paint and similar activities.

Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov cast doubt on this possible explanation for the fire, saying that restoration work on the bell tower had been completed some 12 hours before the blaze broke out and that workers had switched off all power sources.

"The heat guns had been turned off one week ago," Interfax quoted Pirumov as saying. "There were no power sources in [the bell tower.]"

A range of alternative theories about the origin of the fire have emerged in Russian media. The RIA Novosti news agency cited an unnamed source in Moscow law enforcement as saying that the fire could have been sparked by thieves who had climbed the scaffolding to steal the bell tower's gilded ornaments.

Pirumov added that the bell tower's interior had largely been spared from the flames and that private contractors would assume the cost of further restoration, Interfax reported.

The Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent, one of Moscow's top tourist attractions, was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2004. The convent was founded by Grand Duke Vasily III in the 1520s to mark the return of Smolensk to Russia from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, according to UNESCO.

© The Moscow Times. 21 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:20 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 21 March 2015 4:23 AM EDT
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Thursday, 5 March 2015
25-Meter Statue of Orthodox Saint to Protect Moscow
Topic: Russian Church

Approved by the Moscow city legislature last week, the state-funded monument will cost 150 million rubles ($2.5 million)
Moscow will erect a 25-meter statue of Vladimir the Great, the ruler of Kievan Rus who converted his nation to Christianity, as Russia and Ukraine vie to claim the Orthodox saint on the 1000th anniversary of his death.

Standing on Vorobyovy Gory overlooking Moscow city center, the giant figure of Vladimir could be unveiled on National Unity Day, a Russian national holiday on Nov. 4, the city's Moskva news agency reported, citing a city official. Approved by the Moscow city legislature last week, the state-funded monument will cost 150 million rubles ($2.5 million).

The decision comes as Moscow swells with patriotism amid a standoff with the West over Ukraine, where Russia has backed separatists fighting in the country's east.

"Saint Vladimir is a great defender of our country and our capital. … The monument will not be seen as a representation of a specific historical figure but as a sort of spiritual talisman," Yevgeny Gerasimov, head of the culture and mass media committee in the Moscow city legislature, was quoted by Moskva as saying.

The statue, which will be the height of an eight-story building, will depict Vladimir with a sword strapped to his thigh and holding a cross above his head.

Born around 960 AD, Vladimir was a price of Kievan Rus, a forerunner to the modern Russian state with its capital in Kiev. In 988, Vladimir ditched the paganism of his ancestors and converted his realm to Orthodox Christianity. He was baptized in Crimea, the region annexed from Ukraine by Russia last year.

With relations between Ukraine and Russia at rock bottom, both nations are trying to claim Vladimir as their own. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko last week signed a order for the commemoration of the 1000-year anniversary of Vladimir's burial this year. The document calls Vladimir a creator of "the European state of Rus-Ukraine in the middle ages," and says the marking of the prince's death aims to "preserve and confirm the traditions of Ukrainian statehood," according to a translation on Russian news website 
© The Moscow Times. 05 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 7:52 AM EST
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Thursday, 29 January 2015
Romanov Tabernacle Found in the United States, Returned to Russia
Topic: Russian Church

A rare Russian Orthodox tabernacle with a Romanov provenance found several months ago in an antique shop in the United States, was been returned to Russia earlier this week. It is currently in the hands of the Church on Spilled Blood in Ekaterinburg. It is believed that the tabernacle is about 150 years ago, and was presented as a gift to an unknown church by the Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich (future Emperor Alexander III). 

The tabernacle was made in 1865, by the then-future Emperor Alexander III in memory of his deceased brother Nicholas Alexandrovich who died of tuberculosis in Nice. It is interesting to note that while the inscription on the relic has been well preserved, the name of the church has been removed. One theory suggests that this was done on purpose, alleging that the relic was stolen. It is quite possible that Alexander III presented the tabernacle to the memorial church in Nice, where a daily commemoration for the deceased tsesarevich was held.

The silver plated tabernacle was recently found by an Orthodox priest in an antique store in Jacksonville, Florida. The priest was responding to an appeal made by the Church on Spilled Blood in Ekaterinburg, who have made repeated appeals to Orthodox Christians during the past year, with a request to locate and return any artefacts and personal items related to the Romanov family to Russia.

The inscription on the relic has been well preserved, however, the name of the church has been removed. Photo © E1.RU
The church which is built on the site of the Ipatiev House, maintains a museum dedicated to the Romanov family, and currently housed in the Patriarchal Compound. For many years now, it has collected hundreds of items connected with the Imperial family. I had the opportunity to visit this museum during my visit to Ekaterinburg in 2012.   

The fate of the tabernacle has not yet been determined, however, there are two possible options. The first would transfer the relic to the permanent collection of the Romanov Museum. The second would see the tabernacle used for its intended purpose in the church itself. The tabernacle are usually located in the sanctuary, and as you might guess from the name, to hold sacred gifts: bread and wine consecrated during the liturgy.  

The tabernacle is to be cleaned and repaired, restoring the missing details, after which Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye will decide whether it will be stored in the church or become a museum piece. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:28 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 29 January 2015 10:04 AM EST
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Thursday, 8 January 2015
New Jerusalem Monastery Reborn: Russia's Equivalent to the Holy Land Reopens its Gates
Topic: Russian Church

The Resurrection Cathedral, New Jerusalem Monastery
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the January 7th, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Yevgeny Smirnov, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

The monastery of New Jerusalem, near Moscow, was conceived as the Orthodox world’s equivalent to the Holy Land. The monastery survived several stormy periods in Russian history, was closed by the Soviet government and later destroyed by Nazi forces. RBTH found out how the renowned religious complex is being renovated.

From Moscow, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is not far – just 25 miles, in fact.

Just northwest of the city lies one of Russia’s historically most significant Orthodox shrines, the 17th-century monastic complex of New Jerusalem. Abandoned for decades during Soviet rule, the monastery is now being restored and visitors are returning.

In November 2014, the monastery saw the opening of the largest museum complex in Moscow's environs, the New Jerusalem Museum, containing 100,000 exhibits in total, including masterpieces of religious art and some of the oldest examples of Russian portrait painting. However, besides the museum, visitors should also see New Jerusalem itself - the monastery that represents four centuries of Russian history.

A new center for the Orthodox world

The construction of New Jerusalem was first planned by Patriarch Nikon in 1656. Back then Moscow was considered the center of the Orthodox world, the Third Rome, and the New Jerusalem monastery was supposed to support its claim to this title.

Nikon did everything possible so that the new center of the Orthodox world would have its own Holy Land. Thus, all the villages and hills neighboring New Jerusalem received biblical names, and the Istra River was renamed Jordan. The monastery's principal cathedral was supposed to be built along the patterns of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. A monk was therefore sent to Palestine to measure and sketch the shrine.

However, in 1658, just two years after beginning the construction of the monastery, Nikon quarreled with Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and went into self-imposed exile to New Jerusalem. Construction restarted in 1678 and continued during the reign of the new tsar, Fyodor Alexeyevich. By this time Nikon had been deprived of his sacerdotal functions.

However, Russia’s ideological shift westward in the 1700s brought great changes to the social position of the church in Russia. Even though New Jerusalem remained the most important Orthodox shrine, its subsequent construction and development came to a halt with the arrival of the new era. The next Russian monarch, Peter I (the Great), concentrated on developing the sciences and considered religious ideas secondary.

Yet Peter the Great's reforms did not stop the monastery from becoming one of the most cherished sites for Orthodox believers for the next two centuries. Some believed that the monastery had indeed become the center of the Orthodox world, while others were simply fascinated by its beauty and power.

The monastery in the 20th century - devastation, German bombs, restoration

When the Bolsheviks came to power in the early 20th century, New Jerusalem found itself in a quandary. On the one hand, the new government, with its atheist ideology, did not encourage religious services, but on the other, it made efforts to preserve the monastery's cultural legacy. In the 1920s a State Artistic-Historical Museum was set up at New Jerusalem, housing items from the churches and the monastery as well as paintings and icons.

The issue of religious service was more complicated. Hundreds of pilgrims would come to pray at the monastery even under the new Soviet regime. Obviously, this did not please the communist leaders. The monastery's relics - impeccable replicas of Palestine relics - were seized by the government and taken to various museums.

In 1941 Nazi sappers blew up New Jerusalem, leaving the Church of the Resurrection and most of the other structures in ruins. But the monastery was so highly valued that reconstruction began immediately after its recapture by the Red Army, in 1942.

Despite state policy, the pilgrims did not stop coming. Even after all the religious services at New Jerusalem had been curtailed, people would come to see the stone tablet that, according to legend, had been brought from Jerusalem. The tablet disappeared in 1961, and only then was New Jerusalem completely abandoned.

The new museum and the end of the restoration

Today it seems that New Jerusalem has never been static or finished: Something is always being built or restored here. In 2014 a belfry and bells destroyed during the Soviet period were restored. The restorers intend to complete the renovation of the entire complex by 2016, bringing the unlikely resurrection of the monastery to completion.

"Our museum, like a phoenix, was reborn after the war," Deputy Culture Minister Yelena Kutsenko said, speaking in the presence of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during the museum's inauguration. 
© Yevgeny Smirnov / RBTH. 08 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:02 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 11 January 2015 8:45 AM EST
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Friday, 12 December 2014
Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh at Tsarskoye Selo Consecrated
Topic: Russian Church

On December 8, 2014, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia performed the consecration of the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh at the theological and educational center of the Tsarskoe Selo Deanery, reports the Synodal Information Department.

The ceremony served as the main event to close the anniversary year of the All-Russian celebration of the 700th anniversary of “the Abbot of the Russian Land.” The Patriarch bestowed a reliquary with a portion of Relics of Venerable Sergius upon the newly consecrated church.

The festive events on December 8 included:

- Consecration of the Church of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh at the theological and educational center of the Tsarskoe Selo Deanery;

- Unveiling of a monument to St. Sergius, Abbot of Radonezh;

- Opening of the theological and educational center of the Tsarskoe Selo deanery: creative workshops and the museum of the 2nd Infantry Tsarskoe Selo regiment of His Majesty with the exposition, “Guards-riflemen in service of the fatherland”;

- Unveiling and blessing of memorial plaques with the names of riflemen of the 2nd Infantry Tsarskoe Selo Regiment of His Majesty, World War I heroes.

Honored guests, included President Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Federation’s Foreign Affairs minister and chairman of the board of trusties of the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, took part in the festivities.

Historical background

The Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh was built for soldiers of the Life Guard of the 2nd Tsarskoe Selo rifle battalion (1910) in 1904. The patron of the military subunit was Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (1857-1905), son of Emperor Alexander II.

On November 19 ( O.S. December 2 )  1904, the church was consecrated by Protopresbyter Alexander Zhelobovsky in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II, the grand dukes Vladimir and Sergei Alexandrovich, and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (Senior).

From the moment of its foundation the church became a monument to the heroic riflemen: among those who were buried in its crypt are the builder of the church, battalion commander Major General Sergei Ivanovich Kutepov (1853-1905) as well as some regiment officers killed during the World War I. The regiment’s training hall and armory were once located in the same building with the church.

In 1921 the church was closed, its interior decoration destroyed, and bell tower demolished. In the 1990s and 2000s a driving school and a café were located in the church.

In 2012 the church was officially returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Work on design and restoration of the church were carried out by “BaltStroi”, a closed joint stock corporation under the auspices and supervision of the board of trusties.

On its 110th anniversary the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh was reconstructed at the theological and educational center of the Tsarskoe Selo deanery. Creative workshops and the museum of the 2nd Infantry Tsarskoe Selo Regiment of His Majesty are arranged at the center.  

© and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 December, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:09 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 12 December 2014 2:11 PM EST
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Tuesday, 11 November 2014
New Jerusalem Monastery - Restoration Update
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 10 minutes
Topic: Russian Church

The Resurrection Cathedral, New Jerusalem Monastery
On November 7, 2014, His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill visited the New Jerusalem Monastery. He was accompanied by Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who heads the Board of Trustees commissioned to restore the historic monastery.

The New Jerusalem Monastery, also known as the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Monastery, is a male monastery, located in the town of Istra, which is situated about 40 kilometers (25 mi) west of Moscow.

The New Jerusalem Monastery was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon as a patriarchal residence on the outskirts of Moscow. The monastery took its name from the New Jerusalem. This site was chosen for its resemblance to the Holy Land. The River Istra represents the Jordan, and the buildings represent the 'sacral space' or holy places of Jerusalem. In his time, Patriarch Nikon recruited a number of monks of non-Russian origin to populate the monastery, as it was intended to represent the multinational Orthodoxy of the Heavenly Jerusalem. 

The architectural ensemble of the monastery includes the Resurrection Cathedral (1656–1685), identical to a cathedral of the same name in Jerusalem, Patriarch Nikon's residence (1658), stone wall with towers (1690–1694), Church of the Holy Trinity (1686–1698), and other buildings, all of them finished with majolica and stucco moulding. Architects P.I.Zaborsky, Yakov Bukhvostov, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Matvei Kazakov, Karl Blank and others took part in the creation of this ensemble. In the 17th century, the New Jerusalem Monastery owned a large library, compiled by Nikon from manuscripts taken from other monasteries. By the time of the secularization of 1764, the monastery possessed some 13,000 peasants.

In 1918, the New Jerusalem Monastery was closed down. In 1920, a museum of history and arts and another of regional studies were established on the premises of the monastery. In 1935, the Moscow Oblast Museum of Regional Studies was opened in one of the monastic buildings. In 1941, the German army ransacked the New Jerusalem Monastery. Before their retreat they blew up its unique great belfry; the towers were demolished; the vaults of the cathedral collapsed and buried its famous iconostasis, among other treasures. In 1959, the museum was re-opened to the public, although the bell-tower has never been rebuilt, while the interior of the cathedral is still bare. The New Jerusalem Monastery was re-established as a religious community only in the 1990s.

VIDEO: Patriarch Kirill and Prime Minister Medvedev tour the New Jerusalem Monastery to inspect progress on its  restoration
In March 2009, then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev signed a presidential decree on the restoration and renovation of the New Jerusalem Monastery. The federal government was instructed to subsidize the monastery restoration fund from the federal budget from 2009, with deputy prime minister in Putin's cabinet, Viktor Zubkov estimating it will cost about 13–20 billion Russian roubles.
Restoration has been carried out on 22 of the monastery’s 31 buildings. From January 2013 to September 2014, the full restoration of the bell tower, the western and eastern communal buildings, the palace of Princess Tatyana, monastery of Patriarch Nikon, guard chambers, walls and towers of the monastery had been completed. Ongoing restoration includes the Resurrection Cathedral, Edicule, underground church of Saints Constantine and Helen, Namestnichih Chambers, necropolis, and the refectory in which will house the monastery museum. It is expected that the restoration project will be completed in 2016, marking the 360th anniversary of the monastery. 

Royal Russia has published a number of articles over the last few years updating readers on the progress of this restoration project. The video included with this current article offers the latest look behind the walls of the New Jerusalem Monastery - including the magnificent interiors of the Resurrection Cathedral - and the progress made by architects, artists and other experts and their efforts to restore this historic monastery and its buildings. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 11 November, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:40 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 November 2014 12:13 PM EST
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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Desolate Temples: How to Save Russian Churches
Topic: Russian Church

Reconstruction of the Holy Protection Cathedral at the Martha and Mary Convent in 2008. The cathedral has been completely restored in Moscow
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 25th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Daria Alyukova, owns the copyright of the article presented below.

Hundreds of Russian churches are now spending their last days of a centuries-old history. RBTH reports on the difficulties facing restorers of Russian churches.

Moscow is famous for its abundance of Orthodox cathedrals and churches, built in a whole variety of styles during completely different historical periods. However, an inhabitant of pre-revolutionary Russia would gaze up at these cathedrals with tears in his eyes – before 1917, in central Moscow alone, there were about 850 functioning churches. By 1991, after 70 years of Soviet power, there were fewer than 200 churches in the whole city. Churches were either destroyed completely or converted into shops, planetariums, cinemas and warehouses.

The religion which we have not lost

The Bolsheviks fought the Orthodox Church which had unified Russians in an ideological way. But churches are not only religious buildings. They are also outstanding monuments of architecture and art. As Bill Murray once said in an interview to Ogonyok magazine: "War destroys people, but they are born again. But if you destroy their art, then you destroy their souls."

The resurrection of the Russian church began in 1988, when Orthodox Christians celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The restoration of destroyed cathedrals is actually a lengthy process. First, you must find out who actually owns the building: the local rural district or the eparchy.

After that you have to obtain the blessing of the priest and to ensure support from the eparchy: until the church opens a parish, the eparchy will not be able to help restore the cathedral. Besides this, to open a parish you must gather a group of at least 20 people. Neither the state nor the Russian Orthodox Church takes on obligations for the restoration of churches and the opening of parishes – all of this is up to the faithful and enthusiastic local historians.

The charity organisation 'Selskaya Serkov' (Village Church) saves dying rural cathedrals: members of this organisation remove trees from the roofs; they clear broken bricks from the building, and conduct accident prevention work. This organisation exists on charitable donations and subsidies.

"During the last 20 years we have conducted a full restoration process in four churches, and accident prevention work in 12 churches, and our hands have touched more than 50 churches,” says Svetlana Melnikova, director of Selskaya Serkov.

“Sometimes while driving through the Tver region I look around and my heart bleeds at the sight of ruined and half destroyed churches. Even though nobody asks us to, we still stop and try to clean the cathedral of all the trees and grass. Often we volunteer to mow cow parsnip, which gradually destroys buildings. And it needs to be mowed three times during the summer! We receive a great amount of letters from all over Russia, many of which are from young people, saying 'help us save this beauty! Help the church!'"

"War destroys people, but they are born again. But if you destroy their art, then you destroy their souls."
Orthodoxy without a mask

In 1961, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, which was built in the18th century in Malye Vsegodichy in the Vladimir region, was targeted by thieves.

The criminals looked for valuables and dug up graves. A few years ago, at the initiative of Alexei Strizhov, a Muscovite, local villagers decided to rebuild the cathedral. The parish includes 15 whole villages which make up the district. However, only some 30-40 people attend services and 10 are involved in the church restoration process. "I believe that there aren’t any actual Orthodox people left, there are only people with Orthodox masks on," says Strizhov.

"Everybody is busy baptizing their children, because they want to be 'good', but in reality their actions differ from this intention. Even when they come to help build and restore churches, people often just hang out and have drinks, instead of helping to build."
Strizhov said that there are now 170,000 people, including 130,000 adults in the area where he has been living since moving from Moscow. If all these people chipped in and donated $100, then "each month we would be able to restore one cathedral in our district".

The restoration process at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is going very slowly. Five million rubles are needed to reconstruct the church, and Strizhov has only collected 240,000 now, and 150,000 rubles in the past. "Right now the main thing is to stop the destruction of the church," he said.

The destruction of churches in Russia is a real cultural catastrophe. However, many young volunteers have recently begun helping to restore the buildings. They, along with history and architecture enthusiasts offer hope for the best. 
© Daria Alyukova @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 26 March, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:00 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2014 6:31 AM EDT
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