Russia’s New Military Cathedral

Last week, the Russian Federation celebrated the consecration of the new Orthodox Cathedral dedicated to Russia’s military.

Truth be told, this is not Russia’s first attempt at honoring its armed services; that distinction would go to St Nicholas cathedral in Kronstadt, which is dedicated to the Navy, specifically the Baltic fleet. I myself have been there twice and it is a beauty to behold. (It’s a half-scale model of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and its interior is a gleaming white made of marble.)

This present cathedral was supposed to be consecrated on May 8, the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Berlin to the Soviet forces in what is known to day in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

Unlike the Naval cathedral which embodies traditional Orthodox architecture, this new one transcends description. Some would view it as ultra-modern, others as “steam-punk”, which itself is a mixture of high-Victorian sensibilities with obvious metallic elements configured in a turn-of-the-20th-century neo-Gothic; the missing link as it were between the Neo-Classical style of that period and the Art Deco that came after it. (To see what I’m trying to get at, rent a DVD of John Carter of Mars.)

Anyway, its greenish tinge oozes militariana, as in tanks, camouflage and missiles. I’m sure it’s not to everyone’s taste and truth be told, in Russia, even many conservatives and traditionalists have expressed concerns about its style and ethos.

I certainly can understand why, as I’m very much a medievalist myself. Having said that, it’s possible that the critics are missing the larger point and that is that Orthodoxy is a timeless faith. We shouldn’t be leery of experimenting with new architectural elements in styles provided that the traditional Orthodox liturgical template is honored. In looking at the video below (as well as others), it is clear to me that this cathedral can serve as the template for the Third Millennium of Christendom*, one that revivifies Christendom and takes it forward to the stars.

As always, your comments and criticisms are welcome.


*That is unless we are in the Last Days.

About GShep


  1. It certainly is different. Some of the lighted stained glass work in the lower chapel reminds me of what Frank Lloyd Wright and his early mentor, Louis Sullivan, designed for churches and buildings in the U.S. and Canada. But in the end—a church is a church—to be used by people to pray and lift up their hearts unto God. 

  2. Johann Sebastian says

    It certainly stirs a feeling of patriotism—both for the earthly state and for the Heavenly Kingdom.
    America has strayed far.

  3. I like the aesthetic. It’ll never be used as a parish church, as it is far, far away from population centers. However, it is in a national park (Patriot Park, I think is the name) which is a major tourist attraction, with thousands of non-Russians visiting there every day during the normal tourist season. So, it might not function as  a’normal’ church, but its beauty and sheer scale will definitely get people thinking about Orthodoxy, I think.

    • I just realized that the photo at the top is not the interior of the new cathedral, which is quite different.

  4. Michael Bauman says

    Here is a link to a word from St. Nicolai (Velimirovich) 

    • Sage-Girl says

      Great article MB :
      Nicolai Velimirović had it so right — notice synchronicity of his word ‘Mask’ — now symbolic as entire globe engulfed in Mask ? 

  5. Ronda Wintheiser says

    I apologize for being so random and that this is SO off topic… 
    But seeing the usual notification for this blog in my email inbox this morning, it occurred to me that perhaps this blog can no longer becalled Monomakhos.
    George is no longer fighting alone.    🙂

  6. anonsayswhat says

    What I love regardless of the style, which I’m quite fond of, is that these Russian churches are built to hold many people. I love the grandness and space within these churches. It is built for the future hope of many more Christians to fill them.
    I’m sure some anti-Russian sentiment would and will encourage criticism of this church for it’s specific style and purpose of dedication. For instance… on the Orthodox Times site, “The dark, almost black, color of the temple was considered by many to be incompatible with an Orthodox church, while the representations on the walls and stained glass of the temple were considered incompatible with the sanctity of a Christian place of worship.”
    I guess these unnamed critics never stepped foot in a monastery where dark, aged wood is placed everywhere, the stasidia, etc…

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I don’t think it expresses ‘anti-Russian’ sentiment to see this as over the top. I find it both attractive and repellent, which is unsettling in itself…

    • anonsayswhat,
      I don’t read the “Orthodox Times” any more.
      It better be called the “The B. Times”. 

  7. Breaking News
    A friend just informed me that the province of Ontario is forbidding the reception of Holy Communion in Orthodox Churches due to CV19, and the bishops are on board. If this information is accurate, I believe we may be witnessing the beginning of the catacomb Church in North America.

    • cynthia curran says

      Yeah, churches are experiencing the second coming of the old Soviet Union,

    • I am told that it is mostly the Toronto area.

      • This is blatant viewpoint and cultural discrimination on the part of the predominantly post-Protestant English/Northern European Canadian culture.

        Obviously this “cancellation” of holy communion could easily happen in America too. 

        Protestants and secular post-Protestants overwhelmingly view church and holy communion as an “unnecessary hobby.”  These are our cultural elites and those who govern us who think this way – make no mistake about it!!
        Orthodox Christians, by contrast, view Church and holy communion as foundational to our lives.
        The stark contrast of these opposing worldviews grows, with each week, more and more irreconcilable.  

        • I think you are overstating what Protestants believe about Holy Communion.  Actually many are finding that it is necessary. 

        • Obviously this “cancellation” of holy communion could easily happen in America too. 
          Unless I missed something, it already did happen – for nearly two months, though our government is not exclusively responsible for it.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      This will break your heart. “We are not worthy to keep the great blessing of the Orthodox Faith.” God bless our holy priests.

    • Family Man says

      This seems a bit odd.  I can find no statement from the government there, or the GO leaders in Canada or Toronto, on the website of St Nicholas GO church in Toronto, or on the St Nicholas FB page. I even looked at the websites and FB pages of other GO churches in Toronto.  Nothing ….
       The video looks legit, but why no other mentions?

  8. George,
    “Orthodoxy is a timeless faith. We shouldn’t be leery of experimenting with new architectural elements in styles provided that the traditional Orthodox liturgical template is honored”

    This reminds me of the comparison to the unfinished (or unfinishable??) Shrine in New York.

  9. Sage-Girl says

    This Russian video should have soundtrack played in background called ‘Mother Russia’ —
    it’s very dark intense, from old British rock group – Renaissance — it’s famous lyrics:
    “Mother Russia cries for you”… 
    my musicologist ? uncle played it often, but my fave on album is still Carpet of the Sun ? 

  10. Excuse me, I think that we cannot accept into an Orthodox Church or Cathedral, the  Communist Symbols (i.e. the Hammer and the Sickle.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Giorgo, I didn’t know that the Hammer and Sickle were anywhere in the cathedral.  As much as I hate Communism (and I do), a historical representation of hateful symbols in icons is not taboo per se.  For instance, an icon of the Battle of Kursk, in which Soviet and Nazi tanks are depicted, each sporting their respective insignia would be perfectly allowable in my opinion. 

    • A natural reaction, yes, but we need to understand that, nowadays, the red star, the red flag, and the hammer and sickle are symbols of Russian patriotism, and not international Bolshevism.
      I’m not really down with that, but I’m not a Russian either. Let them have their symbols.

      • Antiochene Son says

        This. I don’t want foreigners casting shade on our Confederate flag, so I’m not going to cast shade on the flag they carried in defense of their land either. To understand history requires nuance. 

  11. The Greek Archbishop of Canada has just announced that he forbids the giving of Holy Communion in every Church in Canada.

  12. Patriarch Kirill gave his thoughts on Hagia Sophia:
    I would say maybe Russia should buy it, but, I’m betting Patriarch Bartholomew would rather see it as a mosque than owned by the Russians. 

    • Nice thought, Petros. But I highly doubt that Turkey would sell it (Hagia Sophia).

  13. Michael Bauman says

    …and what says the OCA in Canada.  Are they still open for business?  The Greeks are not the Church.  Just one more reason to not look to them for leadership. 

    • Lately, the OCA has been mimicking the Greeks. Stay tuned.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        I guess this should come as no surprise, given Metropolitan Tikhon’s desire for concelebration.

  14. Antiochene Son says

    Orthodoxy is one of the few parts of Christendom which still has manly elements (it also has feminine elements, in balance). May this church stir the hearts of many men in Russia and in the world.

  15. This entire cathedral complex is stunningly beautiful.  I am envious that I do not live in an Orthodox country that is capable of creating this kind of beauty.  But on the other hand, I also know that God created me as an American and wants me to be an Orthodox Christian American to help shine His light in this land. 
    Orthodoxy is for absolutely *everyone,* not simply for those of certain ethnic backgrounds.  May the Russian Orthodox continue to evangelize this land.
    The icon of Christ holding the sword (which is shown in the video) is odd, however.  I’m assuming that it this image is allegorical, in that Christ never brandished a sword from what we know via the Holy Scriptures or from Holy Tradition.  
    Regardless, I would love to visit this magnificent cathedral, pray there, and attend services there. 
    You can tell how captive “western-style” Christianity is to feminism by how feminized western “Christian” architecture and worship is, in comparison.  It’s like night and day.  Of all the Christian faiths, only the Orthodox Christian faith has a balanced percentage of faithful at 50/50 men/women.  Most men in the West have given up on Christianity entirely, as it is so feminized.  I would have given up on it too, if I felt that my options were limited to either homosexualized Roman Catholicism or lesbianized modern Protestantism. 
    “Western Christianity” has become a caricature of itself and is now institutionalized insanity.

  16. I would consider this “cathedral” what really looks to appear to be a celebration of Dzugashvili’s (aka “Joe Stalin”) red army what not with all the war action mosaics frescoes on the walls and ceilings of what is supposed to be a temple, intermingled with saints and Orthodox symbology mixed with Soviet symbology red star hammer sickle etc. this is clearly an example of the passage in 2Corinthians 6:14 “And what communion has light with darkness?” Christ the Pantocrator brandishing a sword? This is unheard of, I know in Scripture there is mention of “sword” in places having various meaning and teaching however in  Orthodox Iconography there is Holy Tradition and convention and I cannot see any of the Holy Church Fathers of yesteryear as seeing anything in this other than “end time” blasphemy and prep for anti-christ. There is the awful horrendous pagan like statue outside along the periphery of the complex what looks to appear to be “Virgin Mary” it was not shown in this video but elsewhere available to see on u-tube or wherever and it is an assault, just that, I will avoid any descriptions leave it at that. Everything here is “mixing light with darkness” the legacy of the red army and stalinism leninism and communism and the celebration of all this and as Orthodox I would be very careful to not just dismiss as some “kind of expression or point of view” nope this is prep for anti-christ and I remember hearing the well known warning  about churches in end times that their cupolas will all be freshly gilded in gold and everything will be shining and sparkling .. but you cannot go into them! This is that example. Now you also have to wonder where all the funds come from for putting up this rather elaborate, slick monstrosity? Big project Russian people generally put rubles in the collection plate when they go to service and even at that I’ve heard the numbers in Russia overall church attendance is not very high in first place as one may think given how much is invested. Deep pockets are funding this thing obviously and it’s unfortunate to see this is all not good for Orthodoxy in Russia, not good. 

  17. Please, see in the Video the minute 1:29  and ss., where the Hammer and the Sickle are alone in one of Cathedral vitraux.
    Excuseme for my bad English.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Giorgio:  not a problem!  We welcome your comments and readership.

  18. Sam Young says

    When I first saw the new, sort of militaristic Russian Orthodox Cathedral — and the opening ceremonies (official blessing) of the church — I was sort of awestruck. I didn’t quite know what to think – or say – in the moment, even to myself. Now after a short time, I suppose things are a bit clearer. This is the militant expression of the Orthodox Church in a fallen world, as distinct from (not opposed to) the spiritual, self-sacrificial expression of the Church. I find solid comfort in the Byzantine Eagle symbol which contains and intermingles the life of Heaven and our life on Earth, which at time requires that we protect the Christian “institution”, which is the Body of Christ in this world. We are entering into interesting times. It appears that the dark powers of anti-Christianity are becoming stronger. I’m not saying we are in the Last Days. But those days do seem to be drawing closer than they were.

  19. Sam Young says

    One of the great Russian paintings which sort of prophesies a few of the Last Days before the eventual end of things.

    • The modern Russian artist, Ilya Glazunov, also has a few works which depict the hell of the 20th century and beyond, maintaining the spirit of the ancient iconography in a contemporary setting. The main one is ‘Mystery of the Twentieth Century,’ but there are others also worth looking at, like ‘Market of our Democracy.’ Truly frightful.

  20. Apocalypse of St. John 19:17-21:
    And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
    And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
    And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”
    St. Luke 22:35-36:
    “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.  Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
    When you read that Christ taught us to turn the other cheek, that is an exhortation to patience, not pacifism.  Hebrews would backhand each other to emphasize a point in argument and it is to this that He is referring.  
    When you read that Christ taught to love ones enemies and bless those that curse you, the reference “enemies” is to the Romans.  Who else could it be?  This is simply an exposition of common sense.  If you are occupied without any hope of liberation from arms, the occupier being an overwhelming force, the rational thing to do, the wise thing, is to cooperate in a pacifistic manner since that is the only weapon you have that can effect a result.
    None of this is to say that Christ taught, as a general rule, pacifism.  That is simply false.  It is possible to explain His statements that seem to countenance such a thing in the manner I have done above, since that was the reality of the situation.  But it is impossible to explain Christ’s exhortations to sell possessions and buy swords for defense, let alone His words in the Apocalypse of St. John regarding slaying His enemies and feeding their flesh to the birds, as coming from a pacifist.  A pacifist would not have used such imagery or counseled arming oneself.
    We may thank God for this realization inasmuch as a pacifist Christ could not possibly be the Yahweh of the Old Testament who, to put it mildly, is no pacifist.
    That being said, traditional Orthodoxy got the mix about right.  No doubt Christ taught non-violent cooperation as a means to disarm ones enemies.  It is important to consider the context.  Context is everything.  
    What we need to avoid is the heresy of Marcionism which so many moderns fall into unwittingly.  One cannot have a God 1.0 in the Old Testament and a God 2.0 in the New, at odds with each other on questions of the use of force.  Christ is Yahweh, the God who did many seemingly harsh things in the Old Testament period (and in the New and afterwards, actually).

    • Michael Bauman says

      Misha, I agree. I once asked Jim Forest, who is a pacifist about the such things as the two swords being enough by Jesus in Luke 22:38. He said such verses troubled him but he had not figured them out yet.  
      True absolute pacifism does not work. Neither does warfare of aggression and ideology.  But then, there is martyrdom. 
      There is no linear answer it seems.  If one takes a human life, one can no longer serve in the priesthood even after repentance.  But repentance is required 

    • As I pointed out in another thread, while Gandhi’s Satyagraha worked well enough with the British Raj, it would very likely have been somewhat less effective with Stalin.

  21. Michael Bauman says

    Misha, I agree. I once asked Jim Forest, who is a pacifist about the such things as the two swords being enough by Jesus in Luke 22:38. He said such verses troubled him but he had not figured them out yet.  
    True absolute pacifism does not work. Neither does warfare of aggression and ideology.  But then, there is martyrdom. 
    There is no linear answer it seems.  If one takes a human life, one can no longer serve in the priesthood even after repentance.  But repentance is required