But we also got to spend several hours in Kronstadt, and that was very welcome! Not only do I have a personally strong veneration of St. John of Kronstadt, but he is also the patron saint of our Diocesan Pastoral School. Now, one might be tempted to think that my own veneration of St. John led to his being the patron of the Pastoral School. In fact, that temptation would be just that - a temptation, that like most temptations, is not true. In fact, as the conversation took place about who might be the school patron I suggested another Saint. It doesn't matter who. The bishop gets to make these decisions and he decided on St. John and I thank God for that.
We stopped first at the beautiful light blue church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. The upstairs of the church seems not to be ready for worship yet. A few pictures of the exterior of the church and the interior of the downstairs church are below. The rare picture of the New Martyr Maria Romanov was from that church. Actually, there were several rare pictures of the Royal Martyrs there, but since my daughter Maria is named after this saint this one especially caught my eye.
From there we were on to the chapel of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. This little chapel sits by the park that once held the St. Andrew Cathedral (where St. John of Kronstadt served for more than 40 years). We had a nice conversation about what the word "chapel" really means. In English this has a very wide meaning: from a huge place of worship (for instance, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican) to the size of a small room where there is no room to fit an altar table for the serving of the Divine Liturgy. That word in Russian does not seem to have quite the same breadth. Not perhaps the most exciting thing for our readers, but this was the conversation we had so I share it with you here!
Next we moved on to the monument where the St. Andrew Cathedral used to stand. This was destroyed by the Soviets, likely in an attempt to lessen the veneration of St. John of Kronstadt who of course had not been glorified yet in the Soviet Union (nor had he abroad - yet - when the cathedral was destroyed). We don't know for sure why they destroyed the cathedral, but we do know it was not in service to the Lord. Pictures of the chapel and the memorial are below.
We then walked to the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors after all). This is a huge church with a very naval motif. Note the anchors on the exterior of the main dome. The square in front of the cathedral is huge - perhaps 3 acres or so. The interior of the church is striking. The walls are ceiling are mosaic combined with iconography. If you think about it, making the whole thing mosaic, given its huge size, was probably not practical. There are three altars (not unusual in Russia at all), but the church has galleries - just like Hagia Sophia had. This is very interesting and unusual. Also, the chandeliers are the Greek style. Overall there are lots of pieces of Hagia Sophia in the building and that makes it that much more compelling. On the walls are lists of all the Russian sailors lost at sea in service to their homeland. This is quite powerful as well. Overall this church is unquestionably worth visiting. I liked a lot too that they had two boxes near the entrance clearly marked "scarves" and "skirts". That sort of took the personal interaction out of that potentially sensitive situation. Our church is approximately 100 times smaller than the St. Nicholas Cathedral, but if we could do something like this I think it would be good. It didn't feel imposing or "pushy", but it got the point across in a clear way. Something for us to think about...
The way to Kronstadt was slow. The way back was a parking lot. I am not joking when I say the pedestrians on the sidewalk were passing our bus at a regular rate. :) But the bus was in the left lane so we could not get out and walk! Eventually we made it back to Longan's and had the privilege to do some friend raising - meeting with some friends of Nathan and Mila's that were very interested in our project. We agreed to meet again next time I am in Russia. Then they called on the way home with some more questions! Excellent!
Tomorrow I fly home and with God's help will be back in Detroit before dinner. But before I close this series of reports from Russia I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this trip possible. I would especially like to thank Fr. Joseph Towne, who served for me while I was away - not just on Sunday, but for two busy weeks of our parish liturgical schedule. He will stay with us through the weekend so when you see him please thank him - he has helped our parish by allowing me to be here for the important friend raising we are doing that, God willing, will lead to fund raising as we get closer to the beginning of the construction of our new church, hall, and school. And just as I have asked everyone I have met here to pray for our success, I would like to close by asking our readers to do so as well. We need God's help to make this dream a reality. We need our own hard work too. Success only comes before work in the dictionary. I know there are folks that don't like that saying, my children perhaps first among them. But like it or not - it is true. So let us work and let us pray, and if it is God's will we will indeed execute this full project for His glory. May He grant it!
Please pray for my safe travels. I hope to see you all this weekend!