Church and Museums Fight
for St. Isaac’s Cathedral

St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Photo © Ivan Smelov

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg should be given to Russian Orthodox Church, instead of being used as a museum, according to chairman of the St. Petersburg committee of state control, use and protection of historical and cultural monuments (KGIOP) Alexander Makarov.

Director of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral public museum Nikolai Burov, however, is against it.

Cathedral should be owned by Church - Makarov

Makarov expressed his “private” opinion at the meeting of the Council for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage of St. Petersburg, in which the vicar of Holy Trinity Alexander Nevsky Monastery Bishop of Vyborg Nazary asked the authorities of St. Petersburg to speed up the transfer of the Annunciation Church and other sites located within the complex under the monastery’s ownership.

Makarov said that such a move would be fair. “It [St. Isaac’s Cathedral] should be owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, it is my private opinion,” said Makarov. “Besides, there are a lot of stalls that sell cheap jewelry and strange things ... The church should be used for its intended purpose,” Interfax quoted Makarov as saying on Thursday.

Museum should remain independent

On Thursday, Nikolai Burov replied that the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church is provocative and inappropriate.

“It’s very awkward and inappropriate statement of the chairman, made on the eve of the election. Mr. Makarov is dealing with the domain that is not subject to KGIOP,” Burov told Interfax. “A private opinion is one thing, but the opinion of members of the government - though not literally, but in a broad sense - it is provocative in this form,” said the museum’s director.

Burov noted that the cathedral has been cooperating with the church and St. Petersburg diocese, builds relationships with the clergy, through dialogue, compromise and mutual agreement. “We have a fragile relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church; it is developing and has its own special strategy. We have been working on this balance for 20 years not to have it ruined by random attacks of a new man in town,” he stressed. “We’re not just a museum, we are an operating temple. We are proud that its abbot is Metropolitan Vladimir [of St Petersburg and Ladoga],” Burov said.

Difficult balance

This year’s main Easter service in St. Petersburg was in St. Isaac’s Cathedral for the first time in 10 years, and six altar lamps have been restored specifically for the service. As for church services in general, they have been held in the cathedral since 1990.

Director of St. Isaac’s Cathedral was of the opinion that the new head KGIOP should look at the restoration of the chapels of the temple and its sculptures.

In particular, The Angel with Lantern sculpture has just been returned to the cathedral after six years of restoration, paid for by the money the museum earned.

“The museum has only what it earned itself, we have 3 million visitors a year, and the ‘stalls’ Mr. Makarov mentioned also bring income. So, this is not ‘stalls,’ it is a way to earn a living, to pay for restoration,” Burov said.

Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent, a site protected by UNESCO, that used to be a museum has also been given to the Church in March 2012 on a permanent lease basis.

Source & Copyright: The Moscow News
1 December, 2011