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City news, 15.02.2005 18:37

14th Century Cross in St.Petersburg

Valaam Monastery A 14th-century cross with a particle of the holy relics of St. Pantaleon the Great Martyr and healer has been brought to St Petersburg, Mikhail Shishkov, press-secretary of the Valaam Monastery, said on Tuesday.

For more than six centuries this reliquary has belonged to the famous boyar family of the Nashchokins, who played an important role in the rise of the Russian state. The shrine has never been widely available, and it was only in April of last year that the cross was bought from a private collection and donated to the Valaam Monastery.

In September, on the initiative of the hegumen of the Valaam Monastery, Archimandrite Pancratius, the cross was sent to the Moscow-based burn center, which caters to children who suffered during the terrorist attack in the north Ossetian town of Beslan. Then the cross was kept in the house of the Valaam Monastery in Moscow, and on Tuesday returned to St Petersburg.

In the morning the shrine was met at Moskovsky railroad station by brethren of the Valaam Monastery. Then the reliquary was solemnly taken to the town house of the Valaam Monastery, the church of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God, where it was met by the house hegumen, Archimandrite Pancratius, with brethren, congregation members, and believers of the city.

After the solemn welcome, a festive liturgy was served and, following it, a prayer service and a cross procession took place.

Presumably the shrine will stay at the house for about two months, and then sent on to Valaam, Shishkov noted.

The Valaam Monastery of the Transfiguration, known alongside the Solovetsky Monastery on the White Sea as a famed cloister, has gained the reputation of the Northern Athos. It is situated on Valaam, the biggest island of the same-name archipelago, in the northwestern part of Lake Ladoga. In the 14-15th centuries, it already had a numerous monastic community who revered the memory of founders of the monastery - Sts. Sergius and Germanus. The monastery's new history dates from the first quarter of the 18th century, when Peter the Great annexed western Karelia to Russia. The most intensive construction began in the 19th century, when the monastery acquired its present-day architectural look. In its daily life, coenobium (monastic community life) has long been combined with skete and reclusive life. A large religious and economic center, Valaam attracted, in addition to pilgrims, many artists.

Together with the archipelago, the monastery in 1917-1940 formed part of Finland: at the end of the Soviet-Finnish war (1939-1940), the monks, fearing reprisals, left the place to establish the Novo-Valaam monastery in Heinavesi, on the other side of a shifted border. The Old Valaam was converted into a school for sea cadets and then (from 1945) a boarding house for the war disabled, and from 1979 a historical-architectural and nature preserve museum. Returned to the Russian Orthodox Church (the handover of the buildings began as early as 1988), the monastery is now restoring its historical dignity as a church and a work of art.

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(c) 2000