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.
Christmas Message of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 4 minutes, 14 seconds Topic: Russian Church
God-loving monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters!
Today our churches are filled with people who have come to glorify the newly-born Divine Infant Jesus Christ and his Most Pure Mother the Virgin Mary.
The Nativity of Christ is the central event in all human history. The human person has always sought out God, yet God has revealed himself to humanity in his fullness only in the incarnation of his Only-begotten Son. With the coming of the Son of God and the Son of Man the world has discovered that God is Love and not merely a Higher Power, that God is Mercy and not merely the Dispenser of justice, that God is the source of life and joy and not only a dread Judge, that God is the Holy Trinity, the inner law of which is also love, and far from the solitary Master of the world.
And today we celebrate an event which at its root has changed the entire course of human history. God enters the very depths of human life, he becomes one of us, he takes upon himself the weight of our sins, human infirmities and weaknesses – he brings them to Golgotha in order to free people from this unbearable burden. God henceforth is no longer to be found somewhere in the unattainable heavens, but is here, with us, among us. Each time that the Divine Liturgy is celebrated we hear the words ‘Christ is among us!’ and the reply ‘He is, and shall be!’ This is clear testimony to the presence of the Incarnate God – Christ the Saviour – among his faithful. In partaking regularly of his holy Body and Blood, in striving to fulfill his commandments, we enter into a real communion with him, with our Saviour, and we receive forgiveness for our sins.
Believers in Christ and his faithful disciples are called upon to be witnesses to the Kingdom of God which has been revealed in his earthly life. A great honour has been bestowed upon us – to act in this world as our Teacher and God acted, through the power of Christ to be steadfast in resisting sin and evil, never to weaken in the assiduous accomplishment of good deeds, never to be despondent in our daily endeavour to transform our sinful nature into a new person of grace.
Christ the Saviour has set an unshakeable, absolute criterion for a genuine relationship with God: it is our neighbour. In taking upon ourselves others’ infirmities, in sharing pain and affliction, in being compassionate to the unfortunate and downcast, we fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2) and are likened to the Saviour who has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases (Is 53:4).
And it is impossible on this joyous and light-bearing day of Christ’s Nativity, when all of creation bows down in amazement before the manger of the Divine Infant, to forget about others. The great grace which we today receive in our churches is to be poured out abundantly also upon those who are beyond the confines of the Church and who live after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col 2:8). Yet if we do not encounter Christ together, then this Good News may not reach these people; if we do not open up our hearts so that we may share the joy that has filled us, then this joy may never touch those who do not have it but who are ready to receive it.
The incarnation of the Son of God has elevated human nature to an unsurpassed height. Each one of us is not only created ‘according to the image and likeness of God’ but also through Christ has been adopted by God: we are no more ‘strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Eph 2:19). This proximity and boldness towards God is spoken of in the Lord’s Prayer in which we turn to God as Creator and our heavenly Father.
All human life is precious, for it has been purchased by the Incarnation, Life, Death and Resurrection of the Only-begotten Son of God. All of this compels us to relate with special reverence and attention to every person, no matter how different he or she may be from us. According to Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov), ‘love is the living and active participation in another person’s well being. ‘It is to this active love that I would like to call all of us during these joyous days of the Nativity: to be, as St. Paul says, ‘love one another in mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord’ (Rom 12:10-11; Heb 13:16).
I offer you my heartfelt congratulations on the great feast of the Nativity of Christ. May the God of peace and love (2 Cor 13:11) grant to our people and each one of us peace and prosperity in the New Year.
Russian Patriarch Opens Unity Day Festivities with Liturgy Topic: Russian Church
Hundreds of people came to the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin on Monday morning to pray for the Fatherland. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill lead the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God.
In 1612 this holy icon became the main shrine of the militia, who liberated Moscow from Polish and Lithuanian invaders. After the national victory the Times of Troubles ended and the restoration of Russian statehood began, therefore, this holiday laid down the foundations for the Day of National Unity.
After the religious service Patriarch Kirill together with statesmen and public figures unveiled the obelisk dedicated to the reigning of the House of Romanovs in the Aleksandrovsky Garden at the Kremlin walls after the restoration. The monument, which was built on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Royal Dynasty, was changed for the monument to the ideologues of the Communism in 1918. Now the initial form was brought back to the monument.
Then the celebrations continued at the Central Exhibition Hall Manezh. A large-scale multimedia exposition “Orthodox Rus. The House of Romanovs” will open today. The exposition was organized on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Russian royal dynasty and is devoted to its role in the fate of Russia without any embellishment, but at the same time with the focus on the achievements of each monarch. Russian President Vladimir Putin together with Patriarch Kirill will participate in the opening of the exhibition.
For nine days until November 12 the debates with essayists, historians, diplomats will be held, the first nights of the documentaries about different times of the Russian tsarist dynasty will be showed, spectacles and an opera will be staged at the House of Music.
Meanwhile, from November 4 to 12 at the exhibition people can venerate the miracle-making Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, which is considered as the divine patroness of the Romanov Royal Family. In 1613 first Russian tsar Mikhail from the Romanov dynasty was blessed to rule the country. The shrine is brought to the Russian capital for the first time.
Russia Celebrates Life of St. Sergius of Radonezh Topic: Russian Church
St. Sergius of Radonezh
October 8 marks the anniversary of the death of the St. Sergius of Radonezh, a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia and one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most highly venerated saints. Today Patriarch Kirill will preside over a service in honor of the saint at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
According to the saint’s life tale, he was born to a boyar family near Rostov Velikiy, where Varnitsy Monastery now stands. He was originally baptized with the name Bartholomew. His parents Kirill and Maria became impoverished and moved to Radonezh together with their three sons: Stefan, Bartholomew and Peter.
In 1334, after the death of his parents, Bartholomew moved to to Khotkovo near Moscow, joining his widowed older brother Stefan. In 1337, he was tonsured a monk with the name Sergius and was ordained to the priesthood. In seeking a more secluded place, he and his brother found such a place in the deep forest near the Marovets hill and built a small cell and a simple chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity in 1340.
The brothers lived a secluded life in the forest, and in time Stephen found the life of seclusion difficult and left Sergius to live in Epiphany monastery in Moscow. With the departure of his brother Sergius lived alone for a number of years. The wild animals seemed to recognize him, as packs of wolves and bears would come to his hut but would not harm him. According to legend, one bear came to his hut to share Sergius' last piece of bread with him.
Gradually people learned of Sergius and approach him for spiritual guidance. Soon, the cell grew to a small hermitage of twelve monks. The hermitage of the Holy Trinity soon became the spiritual center that eventually became the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
Sergius of Radonezh blessing Dmitri Donskoi before the Battle of Kulikovo. Artist: Ernst Lissner
As Holy Trinity monastery grew, Sergius began to send his disciples to spread the Gospel to the natives across central and northern Russia during the reign of Dmitry Donskoy. The number of monasteries founded by these disciples approached 400, some of which were established in the most difficult places. These included the monasteries of Borisoglebsky near Rostov, Ferapontov, Kyrillo-Belozersky, Golutvin in Kolomna, and Pokrovsky near Borovsk. All these monasteries formed links of a new country centered around Moscow. As the commerce centering on Holy Trinity monastery increased a settlement was formed at the monastery gates that grew into the town of Sergiev Posad.
The news of his life and works of wonder spread far and wide. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheus sent him a charter confirming the new rules of community cloister life established by Sergius at the Holy Trinity Monastery. Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow honored Sergius as a friend and entrusted him in the tasks of reconciling differences among the princes of Moscow and Russia.
In the Russian struggles with the Tatar Khan Mamai, Sergius blessed the Prince Dimitry Donskoi as he departed for battle in 1380 with the words, "Go fearless prince and believe in God's help". Dimitri's victory at the Battle of Kulikovo was a momentous one in the history of Russia.
There are churches and cathedrals throughout the world built in honor of St. Sergius. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognizes Sergius as a saint, listing him in the Martyrologium Romanum. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on September 25, the date of his death according to the Old Style calendar.
Sergius died 1392 and was glorified (canonized) in 1452. His incorrupt relics were found in 1422 and placed in the new Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra. The church commemorates him on the day of his death, and on July 5, the day his relics were uncovered. Among the many affectionate titles given him, he has been referred to as the "Abbot of Russia" and "valiant voevod" of the Russian land.
In 2014 Russia will mark the 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius. A working group has been established by the president of Russia to organize the festivities.
The Romanovs and the Russian People Forum in Ekaterinburg Topic: Russian Church
On October 10, in the "Kosmos" cinema and concert theatre of the city of Ekaterinburg, the second public forum of Middle Urals "The Romanovs and the Russian people" will take place.
This event will complete a chain of all-Russia celebrations, being held in 2013 in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kostroma and Ekaterinburg, devoted to the 400th anniversary of the end of the “time of troubles" (1610-1613) and accession to the throne of the royal dynasty of Romanov, reports the website of the Diocese of Ekaterinburg.
Ekaterinburg became the site of martyrdom of the last Romanovs, which is why the organizers decided to hold the final event, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the royal dynasty, in this very place.
Leading Russian specialists in state building, demography, interethnic relations, history, and philosophy will take part in the second forum, organized by the Diocese of Ekaterinburg, the governor’s administration, and the “World Russian People's Council”.
The distinguished guests include: Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotury, The governor of the Sverdlov Region Evgeny Kuivashev, chief federal inspector of the Sverdlov region Vladimir Shabanov, Metropolitan Theophan of Chelyabinsk and Zlatoust, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, Mufti of Ural Sibagatullah Hazrat Saydulin, co-chairman of the “World Russian People's Council” Vladimir Khomyakov, Prince Alexander Trubetskoy, test cosmonaut of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and mayor of "Star city" Valery Tokarev, pilot-cosmonaut Viktor Plakida, Russian politician, statesman and scientist Sergey Baburin, writer Sergey Chekmaev, editor-in-chief of the portal Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya Anatoly Stepanov, Russian economist and professor of the Moscow State University Marat Musin.
During the forum, the icon of Holy Royal Martyrs that was taken into near-earth orbit with the crew of the Russian Space Station will be given to the Diocese of Ekaterinburg. At the present time, the icon is in the Zvyozdny Gorodok ("Star city", situated in the Shchelkovo district of Moscow region), where Russian and foreign cosmonauts live and receive training.
New Bell Tower Completed at New Jerusalem Monastery in Moscow Topic: Russian Church
The bell tower that was demolished by Nazi forces in December 1941 has been rebuilt at the New Jerusalem Monastery
The unique 75-meter bell tower that was demolished by Nazi forces in December 1941 has been rebuilt at the New Jerusalem Monastery in the Moscow region. Today for the first time the bell tower resembles its original appearance as when it was first erected during the time of Patriarch Nikon, ITAR-TASS reports.
Founded under Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century in Istra on the outskirts of Moscow, the New Jerusalem Monastery was meant to evoke the Holy Land and serve as a pilgrimage site. Two buildings, the Church of the Tomb of the Holy Savior and the Cathedral of the Resurrection, form the nucleus of the monastery. Inside the two churches, the icon, decoration, and inscriptions represent the most important group of polychrome ceramic work ever produced in Russia. Built between 1658 and 1698, New Jerusalem is an extraordinary example of Russian ecclesiastical architecture.
Bombing by Nazi occupying forces in 1941 destroyed the great dome of the Cathedral of the Resurrection; it was partially reconstructed in the 1980s. Sporadic restoration and maintenance followed, but came to a halt in the 1990s. In 1995, the New Jerusalem Monastery was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church and resumed its service as a male monastery. In 2002, the World Monuments Fund put the New Jerusalem Monastery on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
In 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and then Patriarch Alexy II visited the monastery and later that year organized a Charity Fund for the Reconstruction of the New Jerusalem Monastery, with Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov appointed its head.
New Jerusalem Monastery is an extraordinary example of Russian ecclesiastical architecture
Icons Stolen During Crimean War Returned to Sevastopol Topic: Russian Church
More than 150 years after the Crimean war ended, the spoils of the war have now been returned to Sevastopol.
Since September 6, two Orthodox Icons have been on display in St Nicolas Church on the North side of the city. They will be available there for viewing till September 16 and then the Icons will be visiting various Churches and Cathedrals in and around Sevastopol. Members of "The heritage of St Clement of Rome" public organization found the Icons at an English auction, reports Argumenty nedeli - Krym online newspaper in Sevastopol.
"We were astonished at the inscription that clearly and openly said that the Icons had been moved out of Sevastopol in September 1855 during the Crimean war" said the chairman of the public organization Vadim Prokopenkov.
The auction took place in a small town near London.
The residents of Sevastopol seized the opportunity, purchased the Orthodox Icons and brought them back to their motherland. They carried out necessary laboratory research and proved the Icons' authenticity.
But the attempt to determine their ownership proved to be not successful. Supposedly, the Icon with depiction of Holy Metropolitan Peter of Moscow was regimental and belonged to a "field" Church of one of military sub-units that arrived in Sevastopol.
Note: Personally, I find it appalling that churches, palaces and museums in Russia (including the Ukraine) are forced to buy back icons, and other historical items dating from the Tsarist period, that were stolen by invading armies, and/or sold by the Bolsheviks and the Soviets. - Paul Gilbert, Royal Russia
Orthodox Believers Pay Tribute to St. Seraphim of Sarov Topic: Russian Church
Emperor Alexander I visiting St. Seraphim in 1825
St. Seraphim of Sarov is being celebrated today, August 1, in Russia and other countries around the world. Liturgy services are being held in Orthodox churches worldwide in honor of the 110th anniversary of the saint’s canonization. There are churches named in honor of St. Seraphim in the United States, Europe and Australia, ITAR-TASS reports.
Traditionally the celebrations of St. Seraphim at the Serafimo-Diveevsky Monastery near Sarov attract thousands of pilgrims each year. This year new cathedrals named in honor of the saint are to open in Belgorod and Izhevsk. On August 3 of this year a special bicycle tour is being organized, with stops and excursions at various religious sites in the Nizhniy Novgorod region.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born on August 1, 1754, and is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit.
Seraphim was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903 at the initiative of Emperor Nicholas II. The date of his death is his major feast day. Reverence for him is not limited to the Orthodox church; Pope John Paul II referred to him as a saint in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Tsar Nicholas II, accompanied by his family and nearly half a millon pilgrims, attend the canonisation of St. Seraphim of Sarov, instituted initially at the request of the pious Tsar himself. Emperor Nicholas II and the grand dukes took part in the transfer of the Holy relics.
Celebrations of 1025th Anniversary of Baptism of Rus Topic: Russian Church
On July 24, 2013, the feast-day of St. Olga, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Grand Duchess of Russia, Divine Liturgy was served at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, in the presence of the Cross of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, brought to Russia for celebration of the 1025th anniversary of Baptism of Russia from the city of Patras (Greece) with the blessing of the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece.
The service was celebrated by the heads of local Orthodox Churches and the heads of delegations of local Orthodox Churches, who had arrived to the capital of Russia for participation in celebrations of 1025th anniversary of Baptism of Russia, the Patriarch and members of the Holy Synod, hierarchs and clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Liturgy was celebrated in a special order of services for the day of Baptism of Rus ("The service to our Lord, glorified in the Trinity, in the memory of Baptism of Rus, and Holy Grand Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles"). The chants of the service were composed by Hiero-Confessor Athanasius (Sakharov) and are dedicated to the memory of Baptism of Russia and all the Saints of Russia.
Ambassadors of Slavic countries and representatives of the Russian and Ukrainian governments were present at the service.
Historic Church to be Reconstructed on Khodynka Field in Moscow Topic: Russian Church
The Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh as it looked before the Revolution
On the morning of July 17th, an open-air liturgy was held at the site of the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh on the former Khodynka Field in Moscow. According to some historians, the church was a prominent place of worship for the local military, and the first in a series of churches destroyed by the Bolsheviks in Moscow in the early 20th century.
Built in 1892-93, the wooden church was constructed in 1892-93 by the architect Ivan Pavlovich Herodinov (1827-1896). The four-tiered gold plated iconostasis consisted of 94 icons, and was almost a full copy of the iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.
Before the revolution, the majestic cathedral was a true ornament of this part of the city. It was built for use by the troops of the Moscow garrison during their summer military camps which were held in the Khodynka Filed. The church could accommodate more than a thousand worshipers.
The Khodynka Field is best known for the tragic event that took place during the festivities following the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II on May 30 [O.S. May 14] 1896, in which more than 1,200 people were trampled to death during a stampede.
After the October Revolution, the church was closed by the Bolsheviks in 1919. During the 1920s the church was ransacked by the Bolsheviks, the icons, chandeliers, candlesticks, and other items of any value were distributed to museums or stolen and sold to Western buyers, the church was demolished in 1930.
The restoration of the church will be made for the upcoming 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius in 2014, and is part of a massive construction project by the Russian Orthodox Church to build 200 new churches in Moscow.
Historical plans and drawings of the destroyed church could not be found, so the Society for Protection of Monuments was commissioned to carry out historical archival research. According to the results, it was recommended that the reconstruction of the church would be made from historical photographs.
The community of St. Sergius was established in 2000. In March 2012, a platform and an Orthodox cross were installed on the spot where the church once stood and a liturgy was held. Parish consists of not only the residents of neighboring houses, but the descendants of the test pilots of the former air base dating from the Soviet years.