Little more than a decade ago, my brother Aaron and I spent a day in Kronstadt—a naval town on an island in the Gulf of Finland. We arrived by bus from the Saint Petersburg, and we commenced to search for any memorials or parishes associated with Saint John of Kronstadt, as Saint Andrew’s Cathedral where Saint John chiefly served had been destroyed by the Soviets. We found none. After spending the entire day searching in vain, we returned to the bus stop. Behind the stop, I noticed a church under renovation. I thought that it might be worth asking about before we left. A family allowed us to enter the edifice, which turned out to be the city’s Vladimir Sobor—the main church in the city after Saint Andrew’s before the construction of Saint Nicholas’ Naval Sobor. I do not know how often Saint John served at Our Lady of Vladimir, but it seems likely.
While we earlier sought to retrace Saint John’s life, we got to see Kronstadt, which had been closed to foreigners until a few years before. During the day, we came to the grandest building on the island—the remains of Saint Nicholas’ Naval Sobor. I found a caretaker to let us in, and I was saddened to see an auditorium inside. It clearly had been a lovely temple, but the Communists had perverted it into a cinema. Even in its secularized state, it seemed neglected. Wherever we went in Russia, we were constantly reminded by the evil done after the revolution.
It was thus with great joy that I read about the reconsecration of the Naval Sobor in April of this year on A.O.I.: “Is This the Most Beautiful Orthodox Church in the World?” The article links to a photographic report on Православие и мир: ”Освящение Кронштадтского Морского собора во имя святителя Николая Чудотворца,” which I highly recommend.
I really like the chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy, but the Russkies have outdone Annapolis! The sobor’s council has a page on the church’s history and on the renovation efforts.
The A.O.I. story also features a video of the consecration with Patriarch Kirill:
There is much to lament in the news, but the developments in Russia are a cause for celebration. Glory to God!