Golden crosses crown new Kazan Cathedral in Russia

By Peter Anderson –

   An important milestone in the reconstruction of the Orthodox cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan, Russia occurred on Monday, June 18, 2018. Metropolitan Feofan, the Orthodox bishop for the diocese of Kazan, blessed five golden crosses to be placed on the tops of the five domes of the cathedral. The largest golden cross, which is over 15 feet high, was then lifted by a large construction crane to the top of the cathedral’s main dome, over 145 feet above the ground, and affixed to the top by workmen.

This was an important event for the World Apostolate of Fatima. The cathedral will be the future home of the miraculous and beautiful icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which was purchased by the Blue Army in 1970. The icon was kept and venerated for many years in the Byzantine chapel of the Blue Army’s International Center in Fatima. In June 1992, Cardinal Cassidy, who was the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asked the Blue Army if it would be willing to make a gift of the icon to St. John Paul II so that he could personally take the icon back to Russia. The Blue Army was delighted to do so, and the Blue Army’s icon was physically transported to the papal apartments at the Vatican in March 1993.

The icon remained with St. John Paul II for 11 years, and he became devoted to it. He often placed the icon facing his work desk or in his personal chapel. When it finally become clear that the Russian Orthodox Church would not agree to a papal visit to Russia, the Holy Father asked Cardinal Kasper to take the Blue Army’s icon to Moscow and to give it as a gift to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy. This was done in August 2004. In July 2005, Patriarch Alexy personally brought the icon to the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan.

Kazan is now Russia’s sixth largest city and is located on the Volga River, approximately 450 miles east of Moscow. It was here that a 10-year-old girl Matrona had a vision in 1579 of the Mother of God, who told her to dig in a certain location to discover an icon. The girl did so and found the original icon of Our Lady of Kazan. Subsequently, the Mother of God Monastery was constructed at the very spot where Matrona had found the icon. The icon was venerated at the monastery for more than 300 years. The monastery became one of the major pilgrimage destinations in Russia.

In the early 1930s, the communists blew up and completely leveled the main cathedral at the monastery. A tobacco factory was later built over the spot where the cathedral had been located. The only church structure allowed to remain on the grounds of the monastery was the “gate church” of the Exaltation of the Cross, which was converted by the communists into faculty offices for a state university.

The City of Kazan was very anxious to obtain the Kazan icon, which had been given by the Holy Father to Patriarch Alexy in 2004. As part of the city’s efforts, it caused the removal of the tobacco factory, and the faculty offices again became the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross. When the City of Kazan received the icon from the Patriarch in 2005, it was placed in the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross, where it has remained until the present time. The reconstructed cathedral will presumably be the new home of the Blue Army’s icon.

It will be a magnificent home indeed. The reconstructed cathedral will be an exact copy of the destroyed cathedral. The exterior work on the cathedral should be almost completed by November 4, one of two annual feast days of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan. It is expected that the cathedral will be dedicated at that time, and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has indicated that he will personally come to Kazan to perform the dedication. Work on the interior of the cathedral will take longer. The magnificent iconostasis (icon screen in front of the altar) will include marble brought from Italy and Greece.

The monastery should again become one of the major pilgrimage destinations in Russia – hopefully visited by both Orthodox and Catholics. The Blue Army’s icon of Our Lady of Kazan will be an important part of the shrine.

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