1917-2017: On the Holy Relics of the Imperial Family and Their Faithful Servants Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
This article written by Father Andrew Phillips was originally published by Orthodox England on 9 July 2017
I write as a priest who has served the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in Paris, Lisbon and England, who loves the Russian Orthodox Tradition, and as a monarchist who hopes for justice through the restoration of Tsardom in Russia. Since the 1970s I have venerated the saint-loving St John of Shanghai, founding the first church in Western Europe dedicated to him after his canonization. I have also always venerated the other saints of the Church Outside Russia, like St Seraphim of Sofia, and our founding bishops, all of whom revered the Tsar-Martyr. Part of my veneration also comes from the fact that the internationally-minded Tsar was a forward-looking missionary, building seventeen magnificent churches precisely in Western Europe for the Orthodox faithful, and looking after Orthodox on three continents.
Like all his followers, the Tsar-loving St John of Shanghai was opposed not only by liberals, ecumenists and modernists, who despised, compromised or had entirely lost the Faith, but also by narrow, Old Believer-type nationalists, some of whom put him on trial in San Francisco. In general, it can be said that attitudes to St John, as to the Tsar, are litmus papers that tell us of love for the Church or, on the other hand, contempt for the Church. I have now been asked what I think of the remains disinterred near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and claimed to be those of five members of the Tsar’s Family and their four servants. With my great-grandfather born in the same year as the Tsar-Martyr and myself born on 19 July, the day of the final disposal of the remains of the Imperial Martyrs, my eagerness to see truth and justice before I die is also personal.
Father Andrew Phillips
How My Views Were Formed
I was brought up surrounded by the blasphemous Western propaganda which asserts that the last Christian Emperor, the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, was a weak-willed, decadent, incompetent reactionary, who was controlled by others, did not care about his people, and in general ‘got what he deserved’. Significantly, in those Cold War times, this propaganda was more or less identical to Soviet propaganda. This indicated that Western materialism and Soviet materialism were essentially the same. I disbelieved all such propaganda, sensing that it was lies with ulterior, power-grabbing motives, but I lacked arguments to counter it. In the 1960s I neither mastered Russian, nor had access to the often obscure émigré publications about the world-changing overthrow of the Tsar which told the truth. So I waited to discover more.
From the mid-1970s onwards I came to discover émigrés, truly White ones, all of whose words and writings have been confirmed by historians and researchers in the new, post-Soviet Russia, where truth is valued by many, even though a legitimate Tsar has not yet been restored. I understood that the Tsar had fallen victim, not to old-fashioned Marxists, but to an elitist conspiracy of aristocrats, generals and Duma masons, strongly backed by the Western Powers, supposed ‘Allies’. After very careful examination of the evidence over decades, I also came personally to venerate those around the Royal Martyrs. These included the much-slandered St Maria of Helsinki (Anna Vyrubova) and the Martyr Gregory (Rasputin), to whom I composed an akathist in English, published last year on the centenary of his martyrdom.
As a priest I met the last émigrés both in the Church Outside Russia and those in breakaway groups, like that in Paris. I was acquainted with many of the last exiled representatives of the Tsar’s Russia to have been adults before the Revolution. I knew both sides of the emigration. Some were truly White, patriots who honoured the Tsar, both when he was alive and afterwards. With others, it was the opposite, they simply wanted their money, estates and lost power back. They had little love for the Church, Russia or its people, contemptuously calling them ‘Soviets’, and many of them were compromised by sympathy for Hitler or by working for spy agencies, whether in Britain, France, Canada or the USA. They would never accept the miraculous 2007 act of repentance between the Patriarchate and the Church Outside Russia.
There was something rotten in parts of the emigration. It may be called ‘Paris-ism’. The aristocratic émigrés who confessed this ideology and who often lived in Paris had inverted the Imperial Christian motto of ‘Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and the People’, ‘the Faith, the Tsar and Rus’. They had abandoned the Russian Orthodox Church, were anti-Tsar and anti-people (by being anti-Rasputin – his great grand-daughter is still alive, despised by them, in Paris). It was precisely the Rus-hating oligarchic aristocracy, greedy for power, which had overthrown the Tsar. Those so-called ‘White’ émigrés, in fact not White at all, had carried out the February Revolution that had led directly to the Red Revolution of October. The noble Tsar, forced into abdication, had stood above them all, rejecting the bloodshed of civil war among his beloved peoples.
In the 1990s, amid the political manipulations of the shameful, anti-Russian, US-backed Yeltsin and his corrupt regime, like most other Orthodox I had not been convinced of the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains. I distrusted the political appointee investigator of the 1990s, V.N. Solovyov, a disrespectful non-Churchman. There were far too many contradictions and inconsistencies in the results, not least in the DNA results. Nothing was satisfying. In any case two of the eleven skeletons of the Imperial Family and their servants were still missing. Then, in 2007, the remains of two skeletons were found. One of our hierarchs, Bishop, now Archbishop, Agapit of Stuttgart, became convinced of the authenticity of the remains, which for him had become holy relics. For my part I awaited the results of a Church investigation with an open mind.
I wanted the list of questions about the remains submitted by the Church to be answered. At last, the much trusted Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) was put in charge of a new, Church-led investigation, to be published in this centenary year of the so-called ‘Russian Revolutions’ of 1917. On 3 July 2017 a first interview was published with Professor V.L. Popov, once a sceptic, confirming that the remains were authentic (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/104826.html). It seemed that Nikolai Sokolov, the White Army’s investigator into the Imperial Martyrs, had been mistaken in his report, which had been rushed, through no fault of his own. Not a chemist, he had thought the Martyrs’ bodies had been destroyed by fire and acid and so had not followed his investigation by digging at Porosenkov Log. My view of what had happened has become clear. 
Porosenkov Log (Pig's Ravine)
With the results now appearing and publication of the vital DNA results eagerly awaited, it seems that the story has become clear. The remains entombed in the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral and those of Sts Alexei and Maria kept in store are authentic and so must be enshrined. The great Church-on-the-Blood that stands on the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg will continue to be a place of veneration. The shrine and the seven churches at Ganina Yama will remain as the first place where the martyrs’ relics were taken. However, at Porosenkov Log, a great new Cathedral has to be built, a Cathedral of Reparation for the greatest crime of the age, a twelve-domed Cathedral dedicated to the seven Royal Martyrs and their four martyred servants, who joined Christ. Building can begin on the centenary of their martyrdom, in 2018.
This is called on to become a great centre of pilgrimage, the third and final destination for the faithful after Ekaterinburg and Ganina Yama. The holy relics can there be enshrined for the veneration of pilgrims from all over the world. We have no doubt that then, once the relics are properly enshrined and honoured, long-awaited miracles will begin. Tiny fragments of the relics may be distributed elsewhere, especially in Saint Petersburg, but the place where their relics were finally buried is to become a centre of worldwide repentance for all, Russians and Non-Russians alike, who committed ‘treason, cowardice and deceit’ against the Faith, the Tsar and Rus. Only then can the injustice committed 100 years ago be paid for and humanity, descended since the Piglets’ Ravine to the level of the Gergesene swine, turn back from the brink.
 What Happened
The seven Royal Martyrs and their four servants were horribly and brutally martyred in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, in the Urals between Europe and Asia, in the darkness just after midnight on 17 July 1918. Their bodies were taken some nine miles north by lorry to marshy ground called Ganina Yama (Gabriel’s Hole). Here, the lorry bogged down, the bodies were laid on the grass, stripped, burned, dumped into a supposed mineshaft and sprinkled with sulphuric acid.
We now know that only then was it discovered that the supposed mineshaft was quite shallow, only some three metres deep. The exhausted murderers learned of deeper mines west of Ekaterinburg, some four miles away. They obtained barrels of petrol, kerosene, sulphuric acid and firewood and returned at about 4.00 am on 18 July. They hauled the corpses out of the shaft and loaded them back onto the lorry, awaiting final disposal in the new location under cover of night.
In the early morning of 19 July, the lorry transporting the bodies again got stuck in mud on the Koptyaki Road near a place called Porosenkov Log (Piglets’ Ravine). The exhausted murderers decided to bury them here. They dug a shallow grave, doused the bodies in sulphuric acid again, smashed their faces with rifle butts and buried nine of them, covering them with quicklime, hoping to prevent identification, and placed railway sleepers over the grave so as to disguise their crime.
In an attempt to confuse anyone who might discover the first grave with only nine, and not eleven, bodies (the confusion caused was for long successful), the murderers had separated the bodies of the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters from the nine others. These were to be buried about fifteen metres (fifty feet) away. These two bodies were also burned, their remaining bones smashed and then they were thrown into a smaller pit. The burial was completed at 6.00 am on 19 July.
After Ekaterinburg was liberated by the White Army on 25 July, a Commission was established under a legal investigator called Nikolai Sokolov. He discovered a number of the Romanovs’ belongings in and around Ganina Yama where the bodies had first been buried. However, not a chemist, he wrongly concluded that the bodies had been utterly destroyed (an impossibility) in a bonfire there with petrol and sulphuric acid. He had failed to find the real burial place on the Koptyaki Road.
The return of Bolshevik forces in July 1919 forced the conscientious Sokolov to leave in haste, his enquiry incomplete, taking only the box containing the items that he had recovered. His preliminary report was published that same year. On 30-31 May 1979, after years of research, a local amateur and a film-maker located the grave. They removed three skulls but, worried about the consequences of finding the grave, they reburied them. Only on 10 April 1989 was the find publicly revealed.
As a result, all the remains were disinterred in 1991 by Soviet officials in a hasty ‘official exhumation’ that destroyed precious evidence. In February 1998 the Yeltsin regime (twenty-one years before, Yeltsin had been responsible for destroying the Ipatiev House) decided to reinter the remains in the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. Although they were interred here in July 1998, their identity had still not been authenticated beyond doubt, leaving many questions unanswered.
On 29 July 2007 amateur investigators found the small pit containing the remains of Alexei and his sister, located not far from the main grave on the Koptyaki Road. Although criminal investigators and geneticists initially identified them as Alexei and Maria, they were stored pending a decision from the Russian Orthodox Church, which had requested a thorough and detailed authentication to eliminate all doubts. This has only recently been allowed and the results, positive, are now being published.
The Imperial servants (clockwise), Dr Evgeny Botkin, the cook Ivan Kharitonov,
the footman Alexei Trupp, the maid Anna Demidova
Suggestions for a Future Cathedral on the Site of the Martyrdom of the Imperial Family and their Faithful Servants
In my article of 9 July on the authenticity of the remains disinterred near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 and said to belong to the Russian Royal Family and their servants, I suggested that a great Cathedral be built on the site of the martyrdom of the seven members of the Imperial Family and their four faithful servants. I have been asked how I see this. Not in any way responsible for this and with no influence with the powers that be, I can only make humble suggestions, like anyone of the 164 million strong flock of the Russian Orthodox Church. Here they are:
Firstly, all four of the Imperial servants, the cook Ivan Kharitonov, the footman Alexei Trupp, the shy parlour-maid Anna Demidova, as well as the distinguished and learned Dr Evgeny Botkin, must be canonized by the whole Russian Orthodox Church, and not just the New Martyr Evgeny. Although canonized long ago by the Church Outside Russia in 1981, three of them still await canonization by the whole Church. Of them Alexei Trupp, a Roman Catholic, was considered by the Synod of Bishops of the Church Outside Russia, as explained to me by the late Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles, to have been baptised in his own blood (as so many of the early martyrs of the Church and those of the Old Testament). All four were faithful to the end to the Imperial Family, preferring to be martyred together with them than to run away. It seems strange to canonize one and not the three others.
Secondly, special geological and engineering surveys would have to be carried out before any building could begin. The area is marshy and mining has been carried out. Piles would have to be driven and other preparations made in order to avoid possible subsidence.
Thirdly, the Ekaterinburg area would have to be renamed and all other traces of Soviet-period commemoration of the monsters who carried out the martyrdom removed, through renaming and removal of statues.
Fourthly, in collaboration between Church and State, the State and local authorities would have to provide appropriate infrastructure, in particular roads to the site.
Given this, we can imagine a Cathedral with a central cupola for the Saviour, seven others around it for each of the five women and two males of the Imperial Family, and then a further ring of four cupolas symbolizing the faithful servants. That for Alexei Trupp would represent that part of the Western world which in penitence also bows before the feat of martyrdom of the Imperial Family. That for Anna Demidova would represent faithful womankind. That for Ivan Kharitonov would represent the faithfulness of those who labour with their hands. That for Evgeny Botkin would represent the faithfulness of those who labour with their minds. This Cathedral would be built on the contributions of the Orthodox faithful from all over the world and of all nationalities. It would be a ‘Universal’ Cathedral, welcoming the penitent and pilgrims from all over the world. And alongside the Cathedral would grow up a pilgrimage centre, a monastery and a convent.
The forensic tests performed in the case involving the killing of Russia's last Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and children have revealed indirect evidence that the 'Yekaterinburg remains' belong to the tsar's family.
"We have found traces of a sword blow to the head [presumably of Nicholas II]," forensic scientist and criminologist Vyacheslav Popov said in an interview posted on the website Pravoslavie.ru.
Popov was involved in the study of the remains found on the outskirts of Yekaterinburg, which were buried in the Peter and Paul Fortress as the presumed remains of the tsar's family. He participates as an expert in the forensic and anthropological studies conducted in connection with the re-opened criminal case involving the killing of the family of Nicholas II.
The expert said the traces of blows were sought in 1991 on the presumed skull of Russia's last emperor, but they were sought by mistake on the other side of the skull, on the left side, because it was believed that the Japanese police officer who attempted to kill Tsesarevich Nicholas in 1891, striking him with a sword, hit him on the left side of the head.
Two modern X-rays have now been done, the expert said. Multispiral computer tomography showed two lateral dents on the skull: it is an old healed fracture because the elevated parts developed bone tissue sclerosis, which healed after the injury.
"However, we did not stop at that procedure and we performed an X-ray with direct image enlargement, we studied the tone tissue structure, which is different on the edges. It can be said with confidence that the fracture was sustained when the person was alive, that it was an old fracture and it was most likely caused by a strike delivered with a long cutting object, for example, a sword," Popov said.
He also confirmed that the grave found near Yekaterinburg in 1991 contained five relatives and that was proven by dental tests.
The Investigative Committee earlier allowed the publication of forensic evaluations in the case involving the killing of members of the tsar's family. Thus, the publication of the interview with Popov marks the beginning of the publication of the first results.
A study on the issue of determining the identity of the 'Yekaterinburg remains" was held in Moscow in mid June. The meeting was chaired by Patriarch Kirill and was attended by Investigative Committee officials, including Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, and also embers of the special church commission for the 'Yekaterinburg remains.'
In July 1991, the remains of nine people were found in a mass grave discovered on the Staraya Koptyakovskaya Road near Yekaterinburg. The investigators believe they belonged to members of the tsar's family: Nicholas II, his wife, their daughters, as well as their doctor and servants. Members of the imperial family were buried at a sepulcher of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg in 1998 after forensic tests.
The remains of another two people were found during archeological excavations conducted south of the first grave on July 29, 2007. Numerous expert evaluations indicate that the remains belong to the children of Nicholas II, Alexey and Maria.
Pilgrimage Route to Open for Centenary of Imperial Family's Martyrdom Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
The Holy Royal Martyr Family
This article was originally published by Pravoslavie.ru on 14 June 2017
An All-Russian route in memory of the imperial family will be opened for the 100th anniversary of their martyrdom, reports Interfax-Religion, with reference to the Department of Information Policy of the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region.
It is planned that the route will pass through Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kirov, Perm, Ekaterinburg, and Tobolsk, according to the statement on the Sverdlovsk site.
The possibility of opening the pilgrimage project was discussed by experts in the 5th International Academic-Public Forum “Elizabeth’s Legacy Today. Moscow-Perm,” involving representatives of the Ekaterinburg Diocese and the Sverdlovsk Region government.
Part of the route, passing through the Sverdlovsk and Tyumen Regions is the active inter-regional “From the Spiritual Capital of Siberia to the Spiritual Center of the Urals” trail. The project unites Tobolsk, Tyumen, Ekaterinburg, and Verkhoturye. Tour operators from the Urals and Tyumen have noted the growing interest in the route from travelers and pilgrims from all over the country, according to the site of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.
Pilgrims on the memorial route will be able to see the Ekaterinburg Church-on-the-Blood, built on the spot of the Romanovs’ martyrdom, visit the monastery in honor of the Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, where their holy bodies were discarded, visit the house for receiving honored guests in Verkhoturye which was built for the tsar’s planned visit, visit Tobolsk, where the Royal Martyrs spent the last months of their lives, and visit the village of Pokrov.
It is also expected that new tourist and pilgrimage routes will appear in the Sverdlovsk Region by the 100th anniversary of the Royal Family’s martyrdom in 2018. Regional governor Evgeny Kuyvashev has also supported holding a public forum and a whole series of events dedicated to the centenary of the martyrdom of last imperial family of Russia.
A special commission has approved the model for a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The announcement was made at the Lit Art sculptural production plant in Zhukovsky. The monument will be established in July 2017 at the Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery, which is situated near Sarov, in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast region.
The Commission, headed by the His Eminence Metropolitan Georgy of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas, approved a full-size clay model of the monument, which will later be cast in bronze, according to the press service of the Foundation of St. Basil the Great - one of the initiators of the monument.
“Today our homeland is moving towards the revival of the spirit of Holy Russia. Let this work - the creation of the image of the Tsar and his family - will serve as a blessed thing” - said Metropolitan Georgy while offering a prayer.
“We will begin with a clay model and make some adjustments, but overall the monument has been approved and adopted by the Commission. We have received the blessing of Bishop Georgy for the continuation of our work” - said Konstantin Malofeev, the founder of the Foundation.
According to the creator of the monument - sculptor Irina Makarova, the next step will be the removal of plaster moulds and the casting of a bronze monument.
“The cast of the monument will be made in separate parts, which will then be assembled into an integral composition. The monument will be moved to the monastery at the end of July. Its total height is about 3.5 meters, its weight - more than a ton” - said Makarova.
The monument will be installed on the Cathedral Square of the monastery between the Transfiguration Cathedral and the Refectory Church of Alexander Nevsky.
The inauguration and consecration of the monument is scheduled for August of this year and will be timed to the anniversary of the canonization of the Imperial family by the Moscow Patriarchate, on 20th August, 2000.
For more information on this monument to the Holy Royal Martyr Family, please refer to the following article:
2018 Calendar to Honour Emperor Nicholas II and His Family Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
OUR 2018 CALENDAR WILL BE AVAILABLE THIS SUMMER
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic deaths of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II and his family. Royal Russia will honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs with the publication of a very special calendar.
Our 2018 calendar will celebrate the private lives of the Imperial family during happier times. Vintage photographs and accompanying text will depict the Imperial family at rest and play: sailing on the Imperial yacht in the Finnish fjords, picnics and other outdoor activities, at home in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Lower Dacha at Peterhof, and Livadia in Crimea.
Unlike previous years, our 2018 calendar will be a limited printing of only a few hundred copies, thus making it a unique collectors item. A portion of the net proceeds from the sale of each calendar will be donated to a Russian charity in their name and honour.
Our Holy Royal Martyrs 2018 Calendar will be available from the Royal Russia Bookshop in July of this year. Please help keep their memory alive by purchasing one of our calendars for yourself, or multiple copies as gifts for friends and family.
Patriarch Kirill to Lead Ural Celebrations for Centenary of Romanov Family Martyrdom Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
Sverdlosk governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev meets with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill in Moscow
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is planning to head the commemorative events that will take place next year in the Sverdlovsk region in honor of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Royal Martyrs, Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
On 17 February, a working meeting between Sverdlosk governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, took place at the Patriarchal Compound in Moscow. Also in attendance were the head of the Archdiocese of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Metropolitan Kirill, and Bishop Savva, the first deputy governor of the Moscow Patriarchate.
It was during the meeting that Kuyvashev discussed the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their retainers, to be held next year in Ekaterinburg. He noted that the main event will be on the night of July 17, 2018, and invited the patriarch to attend and lead the services, saying, “We are preparing for this event with the Ekaterinburg Diocese and, of course, we want to invite you to participate in the celebrations which will be dedicated to this tragic date.”
In return, His Holiness stated, “As next year will be the centenary, we must do everything to go on this pilgrimage, if we will be alive and healthy.” He stressed that the date is a momentous one for the Urals, for the whole Russian Church, for the people, and for history.
“I have long wanted to visit Ekaterinburg during these days, to go on the cross procession and pray with the people,” Patriarch Kirill stated.
In the ensuing conversation, they discussed the development of church life in the Urals, and church-state cooperation. Every year in July, the Royal Days is held in Ekaterinburg - a series of commemorative events dedicated to the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family. More than 100,000 Orthodox faithful are expected to take part in the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Holy Royal Martyrs on the night 16/17 July 2018.
Kuvayshev assured the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, that the authorities in the Sverlovsk Oblast are actively preparing for this date together with the Ekaterinburg for large-scale events to be held during the Royal Days from 14 to 19 July, 2018. He noted that a joint working group is actively working to develop educational programs and museum exhibits, new pilgrimage routes, as well as conferences and other events.
The members of the Imperial Family, along with Dr. Eugene Botkin and three servants: Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp, and Anna Demidova accepted a martyr’s death on the night of 16/17 July 1918 in the basement of engineer Ipatiev’s house in Ekaterinburg. Since September 2012 a Liturgy has been held on the night of the seventeenth of each month in the Church-on-the-Blood built on the site where the Romanovs were martyred. Every year, following the Liturgy on the night of 16/17 July a cross procession takes place from the church to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (13 miles from Ekaterinburg), where their holy bodies were disposed of, in which tens of thousands come from across Russia and around the world to participate.
The Royal Martyrs—Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei—and their servants were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on November 1, 1981, and the family on August 20, 2000 by the Moscow Patriarchate, with Dr. Eugene Botkin’s canonization following on February 3, 2016.
The proposed St. Catherine's Cathedral (left) and the Church on the Blood (right)
Governor Kuyvashev also spoke with His Holiness about cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the authorities of the Sverdlovsk Oblast. According to Kuyvashev Ekaterinburg currently has 88 functioning Orthodox churches, with a further 20 to be constructed by 2020. In addition, the construction of St. Catherine's Cathedral - also known as the Church on the Water - built on an artificial island in the waters of the city pond (formed by the Iset River) is expected to be completed by 2023, the year marking the 300th anniversary of Ekaterinburg.
In November 2016, the Foundation of St. Basil the Great issued an appeal to collect donations for the construction and installation of a monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs Nicholas II and his family. The Foundation announced this week, that a total of 1.8 million rubles had been raised so far.
The monument will be installed on the grounds of the Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery, a women's monastery (convent) located near Sarov, in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia. The monastery is the final resting place of the relics of one of the most revered Orthodox saints - St. Seraphim of Sarov, venerated by more than one million pilgrims every year.
The convent is famous because Saint Seraphim of Sarov served as Staretz (Elder) for the nuns of this monastery, though he only travelled to the convent once during his lifetime. He was a monk at the nearby monastery of Sarov. After the fall of communism, his relics, which had been feared lost, were discovered in the storeroom of a "museum of atheism" in Saint Petersburg and solemnly transferred to the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery, which has come to be named after him.
The monastery is also famous for possessing the only portrait of Saint Seraphim that was painted of him by a contemporary, the "Diveyevo Portrait". During the years of Communist persecution, the portrait was smuggled out of Russia and is kept to this day in the Novo-Diveyevo Convent in Nanuet, New York.
Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery
St Seraphim (1754-1833) is inextricably linked with the last Russian emperor who played a major role in the canonization of the elder Seraphim. The celebration of the glorification of St. Seraphim was held on 1 August (O.S. 19 July) 1903. The Divine Liturgy was attended by Emperor Nicholas II and his family - including the Dowager Empress, grand dukes and duchesses, princes and princesses of the Imperial blood - and thousands of people from all over Russia. The Emperor of the Russian Emperor, the autocratic ruler of 1/6 of the world, knelt in front of the relics of the holy man, and helped carry them on his shoulders.
St. Seraphim of Sarov had prophesied in clear words about the tragic fate foreordained by God for Russia's last Emperor and Tsar. According to his prophecy, if there would be repentance in the Russian people, God would yet have mercy on her, but first He would allow for a time the triumph of lawless men: the Tsar would to overthrown and killed, so that the people might know in experience what life was like under the Tsar anointed by God, and under the rule of men who have trampled underfoot the law of God. St. Seraphim, by revelation from God, wrote in his own hand a letter to the Tsar who would come to Sarov and Diveyevo, entrusting it to his friend Motovilov, who gave it to Abbess Maria, who in turn handed it personally to Emperor Nicholas II in Diveyevo on 2 August (O.S. 20 July) 1903.
What was written in the letter remains a secret, but one can suppose that the holy elder saw all that was to happen and warned against the frightful events to come... (Source: Abbot Seraphim, Peking, 1920, in Orthodox Russia, 1981, No. 1).
The monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs Nicholas and his family was designed by Russian sculptor Irina Makarova, from the Ilya Glazunov Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow. The total cost is estimated at 16 million rubles. The installation is scheduled for late 2017, although the exact dates and specific location within the grounds of the monastery are not yet known.
There are currently only three monuments which represent Nicholas II and his family in Russia: Church on the Blood (Ekaterinburg); Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs (Ganina Yama); and the Zurab Tsereteli Museum (Moscow)
On July 17th 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp and Anna Demidova were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Not only was I both privileged and honoured to attend this historic event, I was also hopeful that the burial would bring some closure to what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of 20th century Russian history. Sadly, this was not to be.
The questions raised by the murders of the Russian Imperial family, including the discovery of their remains in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg, as well as the recognition or non-recognition of their authenticity, have been unsettling both Russian and Western society for the last 25 years. Recently, many people have been looking to the Russian Orthodox Church for its verdict on the matter. But expressing an objective view requires the Church to conduct a thorough examination of the historical records as well as the investigation materials and the results of scientific enquiries.
In September of 2015, I published an article on my Royal Russia News blog announcing that the investigation into the Ekaterinburg remains had been reopened. The investigation would include a new series of genetic studies, and a comprehensive review of the evidence accumulated since 1918 into the murders of the last Russian Imperial family. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and at his request to the Investigative Committee a new team of experts was formed. A complex examination would be carried out for the first time – a historical, anthropological and genetic one - one in which the ROC would be involved in all aspects of the investigation. Russian President Vladimir Putin consented to an a new open-ended inquiry by the Church.
More than 20 years of scientific testing, extensive theological debates, and the enormous public outcry for resolution on the issue has failed to deter the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to resolve the issue any time soon. In early January 2016, Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk noted that the “examination of the Ekaterinburg remains may take several years.” This statement was confirmed the following month during the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia announced at the opening ceremony that “the inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order establish the truth”.
In the last six months, I have published more than 30 news stories and articles on the subject, mainly translated from Russian media sources. During that time, I have received numerous emails and telephone calls from readers frustrated by the ROC's position on the Ekaterinburg remains. The idea that the Church wanted to launch a new investigation from scratch provoked further exasperation.
With a lack of reliable information published in the Western media and social forums on the subject, much of what has been written has caused a wave of indignation towards the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Imperial House. Many Westerners felt that the ROC should have taken the findings of the original DNA and forensic tests carried out years prior at face value, simply because a team of "experts" found the remains to be authentic. As Archpriest Oleg Mitrov points out in his recent essay The Investigation Into the Deaths of the Russian Royal Family and Persons of Their Entourage (published in Royal Russia No. 9 Winter 2016, pg. 31-44), in the early 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate suggested "a temporary burial, then completing the investigation which, once it produced indisputable results, could stop all discord that this question created in society.” Their request fell on deaf ears, "the voice of our church wasn't heard at the time,” added Mitrov.
Non Orthodox Christians must understand the position of the ROC on the matter of both relics and canonization. The Legitimist web site notes: “Any remains of the murdered Imperial Family are ipso facto religious relics, and therefore the internal procedures of the Russian Orthodox Church in completely satisfying itself of their genuineness must be followed. The Russian Orthodox Church wants to address any remaining doubts about the remains, given the fact that, once accepted by the Church as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, they will become relics venerated by the faithful.”
Given the weight of evidence accumulated by experts in their respective fields since the early 1990s, it is highly unlikely that the Moscow Patriarchate will dispute the remains recovered from the two burial sites in Ekaterinburg between 1979 and 2007 any further. Recent statements made in the Russian media offer some hope that they are moving in that direction:
"The re-examination of the criminal case is not an attempt to reconsider the evidence received earlier and established facts, but rather represents the necessity of additionally investigating the new facts, which was requested by the Russian Orthodox Church," Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the TASS News Agency (24 September, 2015).
Markin went on to say, "an interdepartmental working group for the study and burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria gave its consent to conducting additional identification studies of the objects previously inaccessible for investigators." To this end, the investigators exhumed the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Blood samples of Emperor Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather who died in a terrorist act in 1881 and whose blood stains are found on his full-dress uniform, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, have also been taken. Additional DNA samples were extracted from Emperor Alexander III in November 2015, in a bid to conclusively answer questions about the fates of Nicholas II and his family.
Markin’s statements would suggest that the Moscow Patriarchate have accepted the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, although no official statement has yet been issued by the Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church also believe that it is necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II's children. Presumably, only a small part of the remains of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been found, therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the royal family should also include an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels.
In the meantime, as the world awaits the final results of the new DNA and forensic studies on the Ekaterinburg remains, and the conclusion of the investigation headed by the Russian Orthodox Church into the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, further new questions are sure to arise about the fate of the remains.
Here are some further points to ponder on the fate of the Ekaterinburg remains:
in the summer of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized the Holy Royal Martyrs as Royal Passion-Bearers. The ROC’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would result in their glorification as saints to be venerated by Orthodox Christians. This will result in an elaborate glorification ceremony headed by Kirill Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. It could also mean imposing new funeral rites, in that that the relics of saints must be preserved above ground
many people are expecting that the remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those of their family in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The ROC’s recognition of these remains would make this highly unlikely. Both the Saint Catherine Chapel and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral are museums under the administration of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, in which visitors must pay an admission to gain entry. This is something that the Church would vehemently oppose, and rightly so
it seems highly likely that the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei, and their four faithful retainers would be reinterred in another church. It is very likely that a new church would be constructed in their honour, one which would allow Orthodox Christians to enter freely to venerate the Holy relics. During the past few months, there has been some speculation in the Russian media that such a church would be constructed in Ekaterinburg, which many now consider the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals
despite the ROC’s earlier statements that the examination and investigation may take years, it seems highly likely that the canonization and veneration of the remains of the Holy Royal Martyrs will take place around the date marking the 100th anniversary of the murder of Russia’s last Imperial family on 17 July 2018
I am very optimistic that both the examination and investigation will conclude before the 2018 centenary. At long last, the remains of all members of the last Russian Imperial family will be laid to rest together. Not only will their holy relics be venerated by the faithful, they will receive the honour which they truly deserve. Their glorification will continue to help Russia heal the wounds of the Bolshevik regicide which has haunted the nation for more than 70 years.
To review nearly 70 articles on the Ekaterinburg remains and the Holy Royal Martyrs, please click on the link below:
The Abbot of Moscow's Sretensky Monastery Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Egorievsk, has announced that the Russian Orthodox Church will soon know the results of the investigation into the criminal case of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Bishop Tikhon, who is a member of the church investigation commission, made the announcement during the annual Diocesan Assembly of Moscow held on 22 December 2016.
"We hope that, as the work is quite voluminous and the report will be very large, that we will be able to present the results at the upcoming Synod of Bishops, sometime before June of this year’ - Bishop Tikhon said during an interview this week.
With regard to the recognition or non-recognition of the remains of the holy relics, Bishop Tikhon said that "the final conclusions will be made by the Council of Bishops, once the investigation is completed."
"The investigation has involved intense work carried out by a new team of "very professional" expert, which includes forensic scientists, criminologists, anthropologists, leading historians, and archivists," - he noted.
"The team of experts have made a number of new discoveries, fundamentally important to the overall investigation into the deaths of the Holy Royal Martyrs and the Ekaterinburg remains. Since the case is not yet closed, we are not at liberty to disclose the details of the investigation at this time," - Bishop Tikhon concluded.
Since March 2012, I have published nearly 70 articles on this blog about the Holy Royal Martyrs and the Ekaterinburg remains. Click on the link below to review:
Monument of Last Imperial Family to be Established in Russian Convent Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
Artist concept of the proposed monument to Russia's last Imperial family at the Holy Trinity-St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent
This article has been translated from Russian by Dmitry Lapa
On November 17 representatives of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Fund and the Nizhny Novgorod Metropolia announced the beginning of collecting donations for installing a monument to the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The monument, which will also be dedicated to the family of the Russian tsar, is to appear at the Holy Trinity-St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent as early as 2017.
Founder of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Fund Konstantin Malofeyev; Metropolitan George of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas; Abbess Sergiya of Diveyevo; representatives of the business community and public organizations that honor the history and hope for the resurgence of the former glory of Russia were present at the event, reports Tsargrad TV.
According to Konstantin Malofeyev, “the Russian people are beginning to realize the gravity of the crime of apostasy and betrayal of the tsar.” He also stressed that they have also now come to realize the significance of the martyrdom of the Holy Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
The date of unveiling of the monument was not chosen at random—2017 will mark the 100th anniversary since the tragic events of 1917. The location was chosen intentionally as well. The St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent and the family of Nicholas II are inseparably interconnected. It is much to the credit of St. Nicholas II that the holy elder Seraphim of Sarov, the patron of Diveyevo for many years, was canonized. The emperor insisted on his glorification in spite of the opposition of almost all the members of the Holy Synod. “The ceremony of the Church canonization of Venerable Seraphim took place on July 19 (August 1 according to the new calendar), 1903. The imperial family along with thousands of people from all corners of Russia took part in it,” representatives of the metropolia noted.