Under Communist rule in the old Soviet Union, religion was discouraged. The Russian Orthodox Churches became places for tourists to visit the graves of famous ancient rulers and admire the fading frescoes upon the walls and ceilings.
Once Communism was overthrown, people began returning to the churches for services but the buildings remained tourist attractions.
One of the most famous of these in St. Petersburg, Russia is St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Located near the Hermitage Museum, St. Isaac’s is owned by the city of St. Petersburg. But now the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for a return of the Cathedral to the church.
St. Isaac’s is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. While still a museum, the Russian Orthodox Church has been holding services in the cathedral.
The proposal has drawn the ire of the Russian population who have already gathered outside of St. Isaac’s in protest. Detractors of the proposal are concerned that if the Church reclaims the cathedral that it will inhibit public access for visitors to the area. Church officials have stated that access to the cathedral will not be limited or cut off.
As a tourist attraction, St. Isaac’s brings in millions of rubles each year to the city.
According the Russian state news service, Patriarch Kirill is willing to conduct a “positive dialogue on the subject with all the interested parties.”
In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has been playing an active part in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to return Russia to more traditional ways.
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