The construction of the new cathedral built on the territory of the historical Sretensky Monastery in the heart of Moscow has been completed. Built at a furious pace, it attracted the attention of the media from the moment when Bishop Tikhon, the abbot of the monastery, announced an open competition for the preliminary design of a church that would commemorate the Christian victims of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent persecutions of the Soviet Regime. The church is built a few steps away from the historic KGB headquarters on Lubyanka Square.
Bishop Tikhon wanted something that would look “heavenly.” Of the 48 projects received, he and a committee of architects and artists chose one: the one that was most “triumphant” and “joyful” and “unearthly.”
This new cathedral is 200 feet high. It fits in 2,000 people. It was built in three years and three months. And it’s breathtakingly, unbelievably beautiful.
When we walked in, we were overwhelmed by the shining limestone arches, the ornate marble floors, the huge, wide windows, the echoing ceiling; by the sheer size and yet utter weightlessness of the thing. The faces of the saints on the walls were familiar, not just ancient bearded ascetics, but people who lived but a few decades ago. Everything was vibrant green and the artwork had snow and pines–so realistic and yet unusual in traditional Russian churches. And most uncanny was the thought that right here, on the territory of this very monastery, the Soviet Regime had bombed ancient churches into bits and shot Christians, shoving them into nameless graves. The KGB had been quite certain that these “counter revolutionaries” would be forgotten and ridiculed by posterity.
The cathedral was built on the proceeds of Bishop Tikhon’s incredibly successful book Everyday Saints and donations from the public. “I see dollar signs everywhere” a friend told me, wondering at the grandeur of the church. And yet, this new church cost substantially less than other projects of similar scope, simply because the monks and Bishop Tikhon participated in each step of the way.
As is to be expected, President Putin played an active role.
To see what Putin had to say about this church, watch this: