An acquaintance of mine soon will travel to Russia due to United Airlines’ currently incredibly cheap deals from Dulles to Moscow. So, I prepared a list of recommendations for her, one of which is Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
I believe that Christ the Savior is Moscow’s cathedral, but it is difficult to tell which of the “cathedrals” is the current patriarchal church because so many former ones remain. Moreover, it appears that Russians use the term sobor (собор) to designate any important church; so, the English equivalent is not really “cathedral” but something more like “basilica.”
Tsar Alexander I initiated the building of the new cathedral in gratitude to God for Russia’s defeat of Napoleon. His brother Tsar Nicholas chose the final design, and the cathedral was consecrated in A.D. 1883 on the coronation of Tsar Alexander III, Nicholas’ grandson. During the Soviet years, Stalin had the cathedral blown up, and the site became a public swimming pool. After the fall of the Communists, Russians rebuilt the cathedral, and it was consecrated on the feast of the Transfiguration in A.D. 2000. My brother Aaron and I attended the liturgy there for the same feast when we visited Moscow.
The cathedral is massive but beautiful. As you can see in the photograph above, it is built upon a base that covers a lot of area. Inside, in addition to the main church, there are museums, auditoriums, numerous chapels, and other facilities. In this, Christ the Savior strikes me as a Russian Orthodox equivalent to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Like Christ the Savior, the basilica is an all purpose center for worship, administration, and pilgrimage. They are similar in other ways, as well. I harbor significant reservations about the interior iconography of both churches. Christ the Savior has the Westernized style of nineteenth century Russian iconography, and the basilica has the chaotic and confused style of modern Roman Catholic religious art. Nonetheless, I am quite fond of both. If you are ever in the Russian or American capital cities, spend some hours visiting one of these monuments to the glory of God.
What American city better illustrates the diminution of the United States over the last couple of generations than Detroit? A century ago, the city that straddles Lakes Erie and Saint Clair boomed and became one of America’s industrial powerhouses. Today, it somewhat resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The factories have closed, the talented continually leave, the politicians are corrupt and moronic—even by American democratic standards, and the city’s survivors remain in a forgotten town. Good job, U.A.W. and Big Three visionaries!
Detroit’s populace only has Vernor’s Ginger Ale for comfort and the ridiculous People Mover for a laugh. Oh, I forgot “Comerica Park”—even baseball has been ruined in Detroit by their obnoxious companies. Comerica Bank is not even headquartered in Detroit anymore, having carpetbagged down to Texas. Bastards! Cincinnati has likewise suffered, as all the “Rust Belt” towns except, it seems, Chicago. However, Detroit’s decay is more striking, and the rot is regional rather than limited to the core of the town. De-industrialization has devastated Michigan.
On Slate, Witold Rybczynski has a “slide show essay” on Detroit and its ruins. You can see it here. I find the Michigan Theater pictures rather emblematic of the city as a whole. Henry Ford would weep.
Of course, those resigned to their doom may amuse themselves by the spectacle of their failed city. Urban politics often make for a colorful circus show, and Detroit does not disappoint.
The councilwoman who causes a scene is Monica Conyers, the wife of Congressman John Conyers and the current president of Detroit’s completely Democratic city council. Note that John Conyers is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the second longest serving member of the House, as well as being yet another crooked Detroit politician. Yes, this is what the American government has become.
You can see more Conyersesque wonderfulness in an interview with Charlie LeDuff. Here is the first part, and here is the second part. I experience the same sort of joy with Mrs. Conyers that I had watching Saddam Husein’s Information Minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (a.k.a. Baghdad Bob). If you are going to represent bad government, you can at least entertain the world while doing so. Kudos Monica Conyers—you at least have a sense of humor, if not of propriety!
Several nights ago, I had a dream about the old Ape House at the Cincinnati Zoo. It has been long closed, and I awoke not knowing if my mind had constructed the dreamscape or if I had simply remembered it. For I often dream of places that do not exist outside my imagination or of real places that change considerably in my dreams. Once, I dreamt that Catherine the Great escorted my family on a carriage tour of Saint Petersburg, but it was quite different from the city on the Neva. The mind is bizarre. Anyway, as I thought about it more, I was sure that my dream was based on my childhood memories of the zoo.
To confirm my memory, I looked online for pictures of the old Ape House, which led me to Cincinnati Views. The site has many postcards, maps, and photographs of the city. On the Downtown Streets page, you can see this view of Fourth Street looking east from Race Street:
For a more industrial look, consider this wonderfully melancholic view from Price Hill on the Bird’s Eye View page:
Spend some time on the site; it has thousands of images.