Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas today. For the first time since 1928, the nightly service has taken place at Isaakievskiy Cathedral. Alexander Chuev joined believers in the city’s largest Cathedral.
Alexander Chuev: “It’s not just another holiday at Isaakievskiy Cathedral. It sets a new historic milestone. For the first time since the 1920s, a Christmas service has been held here. And for the first time ever a huge 17-ton bell rang during the Divine Liturgy. It was reinstated last November – after 80 years”.
The bell’s tolling on this night became the result of a heroic deed by the clergy. A special mechanism which sounds the bell wasn’t set up, so they decided to toll it manually – in spite of minus 24 degrees outside.
Although, only journalists had a proper chance to enjoy the unique sound of bells, made upon August Monferrand’s blueprints at Voronezh factory – most of the believers were inside already. More than a thousand of residents and guests to the city opted to celebrate Christmas at Isaakievskiy Cathedral. In a certain way, it rivaled Kazansky Cathedral – where the service was held by Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga Varsonofiy, as per tradition.
Alexander Muravitskiy, believer: “Isaakievskiy Cathedral is depictive of our country. Of what Russia was. Its image, its heart. It was the capital and the main cathedral in the country”
In the early 1990s. Divine services were restored at Isaakievskiy Cathedral, mostly celebratory. Those on Christmas mornings and Easter nights. Several months ago, services took a daily routine.
Archpriest Alexey Isaev, sacristan of Isaakievskiy Cathedral: “Today we are happy with the fact that those daily services have brought good results. Those believers standing behind me serve as the best proof that people need this place to come and pray here”
Although not all feel comfortable with doing religious activities in a working state museum.
Viktoriya Kadina, believer: “I’m not quite ready to come here all the time. Too many tourists, and I want something cozier”.
Isaakievskiy Cathedral indeed is a popular tourist destination, visited by 3 million people annually. It is considered as one of the prettiest cathedrals in Europe, and in terms of the size it is only bested by Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. But this Christmas it also became the epicenter of Orthodox Christianity in the Northern Capital.