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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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Tuesday, 7 January 2014
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.



© Department for External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. 07 January, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:34 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 8 January 2014 9:40 AM EST
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Monday, 4 November 2013
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. 
© The Voice of Russia. 04 November, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:32 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 4 November 2013 6:43 AM EST
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Tuesday, 8 October 2013
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. 
© Russkiy Mir. 08 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:41 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 10 October 2013 6:51 AM EDT
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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.
© 08 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:16 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 8 October 2013 7:20 AM EDT
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Monday, 30 September 2013
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
© Russkiy Mir. 30 September, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:07 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 30 September 2013 2:17 PM EDT
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