A window into Russia’s past: The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace

Truly the church is heaven upon earth; for where the throne of God is, where the awful mysteries are celebrated, where the angels serve together with men, ceaselessly glorifying the Almighty, there is truly heaven. And so let us enter into the house of God with the fear of God, with a pure heart, laying aside all vices and every worldly care, and let us stand in it with faith and reverence, with understanding attention, with love and peace in our hearts, so that we may come away renewed, as though made heavenly; so that we may live in the holiness natural to heaven, not binding ourselves by worldly desires and pleasures.
-St John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), spiritual adviser and confessor to Russian Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II.

The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace (Baroque), consecrated for use in 1763 under Empress Catherine II (r. 1762-96). Executed on Empress Elizabeth Petrovna's order (r. 1741-62) by Francesco Rastrelli.

The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace (Rococo), consecrated for use in 1763 under Empress Catherine II (r. 1762-96). Executed on Empress Elizabeth Petrovna’s order (r. 1741-62) by Francesco Rastrelli.

The Imperial Chapel or “Grand Church” at the Winter Palace was completed in the Rococo style then immensely popular across Europe. Its Russian name is Cобор Спаса Нерукотворного Образа в Зимнем дворце. It is where Emperor Nicholas II Alexandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse) were married on 14/26 November 1894, on his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)’s birthday.

Portrait by Laurits Tuxen of the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II and the Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, which took place at the Chapel of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, on 14/26 November 1894.

Portrait by Laurits Tuxen of the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II and the Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, which took place at the Chapel of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, on 14/26 November 1894.

The chapel was designed by the Italian maestro Francesco Rastrelli, who was personally in charge of the three-tier iconostasis, whose magnificent icons were painted by Ivan Ivanovich Belsky and Ivan Vishnyakov. The Italian Francesco Fontebasso painted the evangelists in the church’s spandrels and the “Resurrection of Christ” plafond in the vestibule.

It was constructed during the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter I’s daughter, from October 1753-June 1763, and dedicated in Empress Catherine II’s presence by Archbishop Gabriel (Gavril) Kremenetsky on 12 July 1763. The church is located on the piano nobile in the eastern wing of the Winter Palace, and is the larger, and principal, of two churches within the Palace. A smaller, more private church for the use of the Imperial Family was constructed in 1768, near the private apartment in the northwest part of the wing.

The gilded pulpit of the chapel from which sermons were delivered and the Gospel read.

The gilded pulpit of the chapel from which sermons were delivered and the Gospel read.

Western-style icon of the Lord's Ascension into heaven on the chapel ceiling.

Western-style icon of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven on the chapel ceiling.

The western wall. As is tradition in all Orthodox churches, the entrance is at the west and the iconostasis and altar to the east.

The western wall. As is tradition in all Orthodox churches, the entrance is at the west and the iconostasis and altar to the east.

As the ‘chapel royal’ of the Russian Imperial Family, the chapel was designated as a nominal cathedral, dedicated to the icon of the Lord ‘Not-Made-by-Hands’ (see here). This eponymous icon, painted by Feodor Ukhtomsky in 1693, lavishly decorated with gold and diamonds, was placed near the sanctuary by Archbishop Gabriel in 1763.

The Cathedral of the Not-Made-by-Hand Image of Our Saviour in the Winter Palace, by Eduard Hau (1866).

The Cathedral of the Not-Made-by-Hand Image of Our Saviour in the Winter Palace, by Eduard Hau (1866). Painted during the reign of Alexander II.

Russian copy, undated, of the Icon of Christ 'Not Made by Hands'.

Russian copy, undated, of the Icon of Christ ‘Not Made by Hands’.

The Imperial Chapel was targeted early on in the Russian Revolution by the atheist Bolsheviks, who ordered it closed for worship in May 1918 just two months after Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication. It is now used as an unconsecrated exhibition hall of the Hermitage Museum. Between 2012 and 2014 a comprehensive restoration project resulted in the recreation of the original design of the Court Cathedral. The icons, the candelabra, the standard lamps and pieces of the iconostasis, the pulpit, the lantern and the altar canopy were returned to their original place.

May divine services one day again be held in this beautiful church!

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Metropolitan Hilarion, DECR Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate, Greets Catholic Synod on the Family in Rome

Published by Mospat.ru,  the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk greeted the Roman and Eastern Catholic delegates at the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the “Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World” in the Vatican on 20 October 2015.

Your Holiness!
Your Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies!

On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus I extend fraternal greetings to you on the occasion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the theme of the family.

In our restless and disturbing world the human person needs a firm and unshakeable foundation upon which he can rest and upon which he can build his life with confidence. At the same time, secular society, aimed primarily at the gratification of individual needs, is incapable of giving the human person clear moral direction. The crisis of traditional values which we see in the consumer society leads to a contradiction between various preferences, including those in the realm of family relationships. Thus, feminism views motherhood as an obstacle to a woman’s self-realization, while by contrast having a baby is more often proclaimed as a right to be attained by all means possible. More often the family is viewed as a union of persons irrespective of their gender, and the human person can ‘choose’ his or her gender according to personal taste.

On the other hand, new problems are arising which have a direct impact on traditional family foundations. Armed conflicts in the contemporary world have brought about a mass exodus from areas gripped by war to more prosperous countries. Emigration often leads to a disruption of family ties, creating at the same time a new social environment in which unions of an inter-ethnic and inter-religious nature arise.

These challenges and threats are common to all the Christian Churches which seek out answers to them, proceeding from the mission that Christ has placed upon them – to bring humanity to salvation. Unfortunately, in the Christian milieu too we often hear voices calling for the ‘modernization’ of our ecclesial consciousness, for the rejection of the supposedly obsolete doctrine of the family. However, we ought never to forget the words of St. Paul addressed to the Christians of Rome: ‘And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’ (Rom. 12: 2).

The Church is called to be a luminary and beacon in the darkness of this age, and Christians to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light to the world’. We all ought to recall the Saviour’s warning: ‘If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men’ (Matt. 5: 13-14). The salt which has lost its savour are those Protestant communities which call themselves Christian, but which preach moral ideals incompatible with Christianity. If in this type of community a rite of blessing of same-sex unions is introduced, or a lesbian so called ‘bishop’ calls for the replacement of crosses from the churches with the Muslim crescent, can we speak of this community as a ‘church’? We are witnessing the betrayal of Christianity by those who are prepared to accommodate themselves to a secular, godless and churchless world.

The authorities of some European countries and America, in spite of numerous protests, including those by Catholics, continue to advocate policies aimed at the destruction of the very concept of the family. They not only on the legislative level equate of the status of the same-sex unions to that of marriage but also criminally persecute those who out of their Christian convictions refuse to register such unions. Immediately after the departure of Pope Francis from the USA, President Barack Obama openly declared that gay rights are more important than religious freedom. This clearly testifies to the intention of the secular authorities to continue their assault on those healthy forces in society which defend traditional family values. Catholics here are found at the forefront of the struggle, and it is against the Catholic Church that a campaign of discrediting and lies is waged. Therefore courage in vindicating Christian beliefs and fidelity to Church tradition are particularly necessary in our times.

Today, when the world ever more resembles that foolish man ‘which built his house on the sand’ (Matt. 7: 26) it is the Church’s duty to remind the society of its firm foundation of the family as a union between a man and woman created with the purpose of giving birth to and bringing up children. Only this type of family, as ordained by the Lord when he created the world, can forestall or at least halt temporarily modern-day society’s further descent into the abyss of moral relativism.

The Orthodox Church, like the Catholic Church, has always in her teaching followed Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition in asserting the principle of the sanctity of marriage founded on the Saviour’s own words (Matt. 19: 6; Mk. 10: 9). In our time this position should be ever more strengthened and unanimous. We should defend it jointly both within the framework of dialogue with the legislative and executive branches of power of various countries, as well as in the forums of international organizations such as the UN and the Council of Europe. We ought not to confine ourselves to well-intentioned appeals but should by all means possible ensure that the family is legally protected.

Solidarity among the Churches and all people of good will is essential for guarding the family from the challenges of the secular world and thereby protecting our future. I hope that one of the fruits of the Assembly of the Synod will be the further development of Orthodox-Catholic co-operation in this direction.

I wish you peace, God’s blessing and success in your labours.

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)

The God-Man, Mankind, and Creation

This Orthodox icon depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd and Steward of All Creation. Photo courtesy: Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration.

This Orthodox icon depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd and Steward of All Creation. Photo courtesy: Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration.

I delivered this short paper on Monday, November 11, 2013. Washington, DC’s Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration (OFT) hosted “On Earth As It Is In Heaven: A Pan-Orthodox Conference On Putting Orthodox Theology and Ecology into Practice”. The first-ever pan-Orthodox conference held in North America on the intersection between Christian ecology, theology, and stewardship of the natural world featured a notable gathering of well-known clergy and lay scholars. I was part of a student panel moderated by Dr. Alfred Siewers, Professor of English and Environmental Studies of Bucknell University.  Foremost among the guests were His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who delivered the opening keynote, and Dr. James Hansen, director emeritus of NASA, who offered the afternoon keynote address. Here is a summary of the event for the Institute on Religion & Democracy’s blog. Below you may read my paper.

Presenting my paper at the conference.

Presenting my paper at the conference.

_________________________________________________

The God-Man, Mankind, and Creation:

Applying an Orthodox understanding of the relationship between God, mankind and the natural world to today’s sustainability efforts

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God. I shall not cease reverencing matter, by which my salvation has been achieved.

– St. John of Damascus (675-749)

I cannot help but speak these words with a sense of wonder and trepidation. We can only imagine how profoundly moved, how aware of God’s presence St John of Damascus was when he spoke them some 1,300 years ago. What does it mean for us, as Orthodox Christians living in the twenty-first century to reverence matter, to reverence God’s creation, particularly the earth, as a living icon of Him? For us, it should come naturally, as our faith rests entirely on the extraordinary premise that God Himself became Incarnate 2,000 years ago, fully taking on our humanity while retaining His divinity, unconfused and undiminished. Because ours is an embodied God, our Faith must above all else be an embodied one, in which we hold all created matter to be sacred, formed, as it was, by the Lord of Lords (cf. 1 Tim.  6:15) and King of Kings (cf. Rev. 17:4).

Since God Himself condescended to participate fully in His Creation by joining Himself into the race of Man at a set time and place — since He took on flesh and dwelt among us — what does this say about our view of all creation? Particularly, what does this say about our understanding of how mankind fits into the ongoing story of life on this earth, and beyond, into the very cosmos? It is telling that we worship a Triune God in Whom there is dynamic, yet constant life. We call the Second Person by one of the most powerful, beautiful names: Christ is the Theanthropos, the God-Man. Alone of all monotheistic faiths, we believe our God walked this earth as a man for a finite time, during which He gazed at the trees and mountains and streams which He created out of nothing, during which He ate, thirsted, and tired. Yet He remained fully God. Think on the simplicity, yet also the profound wonder, of belief in such a God.

It has always been self-evident to me, and I know, to all of you here, that we have an innate, natural responsibility to this earth as stewards and caretakers of God’s creation. Yet how are we to apply and live out this vocation in our day-to-day lives, in our parish communities, and in our corporate life as members of the Body of Christ? True to our Orthodox understanding of the relationship between God and man, between husbands and wives, parents and children, and all people, we are called to view our responsibility to this earth as a sacramental undertaking, marked by gratitude to God for His bounty, and a sincere desire to conserve His creation unto the ages. As His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch has stated so beautifully,

Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God. The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush of God’s created energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator. Such is the true nature of things; or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it, “the truth of things”, if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.

I am a student of History, which is itself a science in some ways, and while I have taken several courses on environmental sustainability, I cannot and do not claim to be any kind of expert on the subject. Speaking, then, as a novice in this field, I would touch briefly on a scientific subject of decidedly amateur interest, but one which I think serves as a relevant example for how our emerging understanding of much of the natural world reflects – even without being aware of it – that profoundly sacramental worldview to which Orthodoxy calls us.

My example is an August interview conducted by Aviva Hope Rutkin, a Boston-based science reporter who writes for the MIT Technology Review. She talked with Dr Lori Marino, a Research Associate with The Smithsonian Institution and Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, about her groundbreaking research on orcas, popularly known as killer whales. In her interview, Dr Marino elaborated on some of her work, which has shed extraordinary new light on the sophistication of orcas’ brains. Her research revealed that orcas have a profound capacity for self-awareness, social cohesiveness, emotional intelligence, trauma processing and tool-making skills, understanding of symbolic language, and depth of memory. Given our worldview, what can we learn as we continue to discern more about the unexpected brilliance of this particular species in God’s creation?

I hope that this brief example illustrates my point; that the more we continue to learn about other created life, especially fellow mammals, the more aware of God’s presence, dynamic life and glory we become, even without consciously realizing it. In discussing how we as Orthodox Christians are to care for God’s creation, what we continue to learn about such extraordinary creatures seems profoundly relevant, on a scientific, societal and theological level.

So much laudable work has been done, and so much continues to be done at inter-jurisdictional levels to integrate sustainable development and ecological stewardship into Orthodox parish and diocesan life. As a student, what I see as the principal obstacle to greater student participation is a lack of awareness among many young people that these initiatives are even taking place. Among my Orthodox friends, there is a deep sense of love and affection for the person of His All Holiness, and most are aware and proud of the title he has affectionately earned for his efforts, that of “the Green Patriarch”. But how many young Orthodox in parishes across the country are aware of the finer details, or the years of planning and vision that have gone into so many international symposia, high-level hierarchical conferences, and bilateral meetings with heads of state?

In this increasingly “plugged-in” age of instant communication, in which my entire generation communicates by Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, one thing that strikes me as having a fundamental importance is finding a way to archive and communicate the history of Orthodoxy’s leading engagement in environmental stewardship, as well as all ongoing efforts and the latest relevant developments. Unless we develop a means of engaging young people in a way that is easily accessible to them, the impact and perceived relevance of these efforts on the lives of Orthodox youth will not be as high as it ought to be. Social media outreach will be crucial to all future efforts, from the parish level up to inter-jurisdictional summits.

I would humbly suggest the creation of a common online resource where all of the important developments, and the history, of Orthodox environmental engagement are publicly accessible in one place. From the addresses and initiatives of His All Holiness, to important multilateral agreements and inter-jurisdictional Church statements, to collaborative local and state partnerships between parishes and businesses, all of these valuable resources should be accessible from one common website. The easier it is for young people to have online access to this extraordinary wealth of materials, the easier it will be for more of us to educate ourselves and then begin to get involved on a local and diocesan level.

I would also suggest the identification in every Orthodox jurisdiction on a diocesan level of student leaders who can meet with hierarchs and lay leaders to discuss plans for a greater integration of sustainability efforts into all dioceses nationwide, beginning locally by reaching out to parishes, Orthodox business owners and community leaders, and local university chapters of the nationwide Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). The eventual establishment of an inter-jurisdictional Orthodox student leaders’ sustainability conference or committee under the Assembly of Canonical Bishops would be something to possibly consider in the future as needed.

The most crucial factor which would facilitate the success of any collaborative efforts by local parishes, business leaders, and OCF chapters to integrate sustainable practices into Orthodox community life across the nation is also the most variable: the existence of close cooperation between all parties involved. Here in Washington, university students are blessed with supportive campus faculty and programming, interested businesses, and the freedom to visit and worship in three beautiful cathedrals, and numerous parishes in the greater Metropolitan area. We are fortunate to have access to many highly influential professionals whom we regard first and foremost as fellow parishioners, mentors and friends. It is my hope that future collaborative efforts in the greater Metropolitan area based on close cooperation between Washington students, parishioners, and businesses could serve as a kind of springboard for further nation-wide sustainability initiatives. Thank you.

Magnificent Rachmaninov arrangement of “Glory to God in the Highest”

British traveler Nigel Fowler Sutton maintains this superb YouTube channel which features magnificent Russian Orthodox choral music, photo montages of scenes from daily life in pre-revolutionary Russia, etc. Here he shares this magnificent rendition of Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Glory to God in the Highest” (Hexapsalmos) from the All-Night Vigil Op. 37, No. 7 as performed by the Children and Men’s Choir of the Moscow Choral Academy. The photographs are of the Church of the Annunciation in Taininsky, Moscow Oblast.

Слава в Вышних Богу…
Шестопсалмие
Музыка С. Рахманинов
Всенощное бдение, Op.37. № 7
Детский и мужской хор московской хоровой академии

Glory to God in the Highest
Hexapsalmos
Music by S. Rachmaninoff
From the All-Night Vigil Op. 37. No.7
Sung here by The Children’s & Men’s Choir
of the Moscow Choral Academy

Photographs:
Church of the Annunciation in Taininsky, Mytishchi District, Moscow Oblast

Remembering Queen Marie Antoinette of France

I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one’s conscience reproaches one with nothing.

I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister…

Let my son never forget the last words of his father, which I repeat emphatically; let him never seek to avenge our deaths.

I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed…

I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me.

-Excerpt from Queen Marie Antoinette’s last letter, written at 4:30am to her sister-in-law Princess Elisabeth of France, 16 October 1793.

Today we remember Her Most Christian Majesty Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Navarre, guillotined by the radical French Republic on 16 October 1793. May her memory, and that of her martyred son and husband, be eternal!

1783

1783 “Rose Portrait” of the 28-year old Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, by court painter Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun/

Born on 2 November 1755 to the Austrian Habsburg monarch Maria Theresa (1717-1780, r. 1740-80), reigning Queen of Hungary and Croatia, Archduchess of Austria, and from 1745-65 de jure Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire, and her husband, Prince Franz Stefan, Duke of Lorraine (1708-1765), Holy Roman Emperor, Princess Maria Antonia, as she was known before her marriage, had a happy and warm childhood. Her mother and father created a warm, informal family life in the royal palace of Schoenbrunn in Vienna centered around their devout Catholic faith.

Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg, Queen of Hungary and Croatia, sovereign Archduchess of Austria. Queen Marie Antoinette's mother lived from 1717-1780, ruling the Habsburg dominions from 1740-80 and serving as Holy Roman Empress from 1745-65 with her husband's death. She then co-ruled with her son Joseph II (r. 1765-90) as Dowager Empress until her own death in 1780.

Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg, Queen of Hungary and Croatia, sovereign Archduchess of Austria. Queen Marie Antoinette’s mother lived from 1717-1780, ruling the Habsburg dominions from 1740-80 and serving as Holy Roman Empress from 1745-65 with her husband’s death. She then co-ruled with her son Joseph II (r. 1765-90) as Dowager Empress until her own death in 1780.

The widowed Empress Maria Theresa with her children, including Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette).

The widowed Empress Maria Theresa with her children, including Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette).

At the age of 15, in 1770, Maria Antonia became Dauphine (Crown Princess) of France upon her marriage to the Dauphin Louis-Auguste de France (1754-1793), favourite grandson and heir of the ailing King Louis XV of France of the Bourbon dynasty.

Painting of the wedding of then-Dauphin Louis-Auguste de France and Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia on 16 May 1770.

Painting of the wedding of then-Dauphin Louis-Auguste de France and Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia on 16 May 1770.

Profile medallion of Marie Antoinette as Archduchess of Austria and Dauphine of France.

Profile medallion of Marie Antoinette as Archduchess of Austria and Dauphine of France.

Upon her husband’s accession to the French throne as Louis XVI on 10 May 1774, when she was only 18, Marie Antoinette became Queen of France and Navarre.

Antoine François Callet's portrait of King Louis XVI in royal robes.

Antoine François Callet’s portrait of King Louis XVI in royal robes.

Marie Antoinette's monogram as Queen of France, 1774-1793.

Marie Antoinette’s monogram as Queen of France, 1774-1793.

Denied any real political influence, Marie turned her attentions to fashion, arranging elaborate parties and banquets, card games, and gardening. She established a friendship through letter correspondence with Queen Charlotte of Great Britain, consort of King George III.

King Louis XVI of France (1755-1793) shown at the age of 20 in 1775, a year after ascending to the Throne.

King Louis XVI of France (1755-1793) shown at the age of 20 in 1775, a year after ascending to the Throne.

The young Queen painted in 1775 at the age of 19. Courtesy of the Musée Antoine Lécuyer.

The young Queen painted in 1775 at the age of 19. Courtesy of the Musée Antoine Lécuyer.

Queen Marie Antoinette in a court dress worn over extremely wide panniers. By Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1778).

Queen Marie Antoinette in a court dress worn over extremely wide panniers. By Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1778).

The royal couple were widely ridiculed by the French public for their failure to produce an heir; Marie Antoinette’s brother the Emperor of Austria Joseph II even weighed in on their marital problems, as did their mother Empress Maria Theresa, who gave her daughter rather forward advice on how best to begin a normative sexual life with her husband the King. Finally, reportedly after a small surgical correction (possibly circumcision) the King and Queen began to enjoy a normal married life. After eight years of marriage, the Queen at last gave birth to a daughter, Princess Marie-Thérèse Charlotte (1778-1851), the first of her four children, and in 1781 to a son and heir, the Dauphin Louis Joseph (d. 1789). In 1785 she gave birth to a son who would survive Louis XVI by several years, Louis Charles (d. 1795, r. de jure as Louis XVII from 1793-95).

Portrait of the young Dauphin Louis Charles, heir of France, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. By Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.

Portrait of the young Dauphin Louis Charles, heir of France, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. By Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.

Alexander Kucharsky's portrait of the seven year old Louis Charles, Dauphin of France, in 1792, less than a year before his father Louis XVI's death.

Alexander Kucharsky’s portrait of the seven year old Louis Charles, Dauphin of France, in 1792, less than a year before his father Louis XVI’s death.

Within the Kingdom of France, a growing number of the population eventually came to dislike her, accusing L’Autrichienne, “the Austrian woman” (a nickname given Marie Antoinette upon her arrival to France by Louis XV’s hostile daughters,Mesdames de France), of being profligate, promiscuous, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin. The Diamond Necklace affair further damaged her reputation. The Queen later became known as Madame Déficit because France’s financial crisis was blamed on her lavish spending and her perceived opposition to the social and financial reforms of the more liberal-minded ministers Turgot and Necker. To counter anti-monarchical sentiment which focused particularly on the Queen’s alleged (but false) extramarital affairs and financial irresponsibility, Versailles royal portraitists released several paintings of the Queen with her children, showing her as a faithful wife and devoted mother.

Marie Antoinette with her two eldest children, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and the Dauphin Louis Joseph (1781-89), in the Petit Trianon's gardens, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1785).

Marie Antoinette with her two eldest children, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and the Dauphin Louis Joseph (1781-89), in the Petit Trianon’s gardens, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1785).

This State Portrait by Vigée-Lebrun (1787) of Marie Antoinette and her three surviving children Marie Thérèse, Louis Charles (on her lap), and Louis Joseph, was meant to help her reputation by depicting her as a mother and in simple, yet stately attire.

This State Portrait by Vigée-Lebrun (1787) of Marie Antoinette and her three surviving children Marie Thérèse, Louis Charles (on her lap), and Louis Joseph, was meant to help her reputation by depicting her as a mother and in simple, yet stately , essentially bourgeoisie, attire.

During the French Revolution, after a mob of angry Parisian women (and armed men) stormed the Palace of Versailles in October 1789 — attempting to kill the Queen and slaughtering the royal Swiss Guards — the revolutionary government placed the royal family under house arrest in the Paris Tuileries Palace.

Several events linked to Marie Antoinette, in particular the royal family’s bungled June 1791 attempt to flee to Varennes, and her perceived support for Austria against the revolutionary government, had disastrous effects on French popular opinion: over a year later, on 10 August 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the National Assembly.

Arrest of the royal family at the house of the registrar of passports, at Varennes, night of 21–22 June 1791, by Thomas Falcon Marshall (1854).

Arrest of the royal family at the house of the registrar of passports, at Varennes, night of 21–22 June 1791, by Thomas Falcon Marshall (1854).

On 13 August 1792, the family was imprisoned — ostensibly for their own safety from the mob calling for their heads — in the Temple. On 21 September 1792, Louis XVI was formally deposed as King and the monarchy declared abolished. Around this time, Marie Antoinette said to one of her close friends, Madame Campan:

… If the factions assassinate me … it will be a fortunate event for me; they will deliver me from a most painful existence… I am his wife; I will not suffer him to incur the smallest risk without my sharing it.

The increasingly radical revolutionaries wondered what to do with the man they considered an “ex-king”: Should he be sent into exile, perhaps to America? Should he be kept a prisoner for life? Should he be killed? What about a trial? Leading Jacobin anti-monarchists such as Robespierre and Saint Just called for the immediate execution of Louis, with some urging the assembly not to try him at all, but kill him without trial. The verdict was a foregone conclusion: the radical majority of revolutionaries in the National Assembly convicted the King of treason against the French Republic on 20 January (despite the fact that Louis XVI had never sworn loyalty to it or acknowledged the abolition of the monarchy). They sent Louis XVI to the guillotine on 21 January 1793. As this account notes, the King went to his death with great calm and noble dignity, pardoning all those who took part in it and praying that France might be spared further political violence:

My account is based on that left by Fr. Henry Essex Edgeworth, an English man and the priest who accompanied the King, when he journeyed through Paris on that final morning.

King Louis XVI leaves his sorrowing family.

King Louis XVI says farewell to his family.

On January 20 1793 King Louis XVI was sentenced to death by the National Convention. The execution was scheduled to take place on the following morning. That evening the King was allowed to spend some time with his family, in order to take his leave. He explained to his sorrowing children what was going to happen on the following day. He asked his young son and heir, Prince Louis Charles, not to try to take revenge on the French people. When he left his weeping offspring to return to his own room, he told them that he would come back to see them in the morning. He knew that would not be possible, but he felt it would be comforting for them to feel that he might.

The last journey of a King of France.

On the following morning the King was up at 5 AM. At eight o’clock a guard of 1200 soldiers arrived to escort him to the place of execution. He was brought there in a closed carriage. There was little conversation between the King and the priest, as they were accompanied in the carriage by two gendarmes. Louis just asked his companion to point out various psalms, from the prayer book which he was carrying. The two guards appeared to be very impressed by the dignity and fortitude of their prisoner. They had never been in such close proximity to the King before. The journey to the scaffold lasted for about two hours and the streets were lined all the way by armed citizens of the new Republic. The carriage was also surrounded by the troops and drummers were marching alongside, with the intention of drowning out any cries of sympathy there might be for the unfortunate monarch. All the houses appeared empty and there were no faces appearing at any of the windows. All the activity was in the streets, where the populace were all rushing forward to the great square, to witness the completion of the crime. Whether they all approved it is not known.

Eventually the sad cavalcade arrived at the Place Louis XV, where the instrument of execution was set up. This huge square was shortly to be renamed the Place de la Revolution and is now known as the Place de la Concorde. The guillotine, that Louis XVI was executed on, was in the centre of the square. Thousands of the victims of the illusion of liberty were to follow him to their deaths, on it’s blood-soaked timbers in the following years.

When the king noticed that the carriage had stopped, he addressed himself to the two guards, regarding the priest.

‘I recommend to you this good man; take care that after my death no insult be offered to him – I charge you to prevent it.’

Right up till the end, this good man always showed concern for other people.

The execution of King Louis XVI.

When he disembarked from the carriage, he was surrounded by three guards who attempted to seize him in order to take off his garments. The King royally dismissed them and took his own coat and neckerchief off and arranged the collar of his shirt. For a moment, the soldiers were disconcerted by this show of spirit but they soon recovered and surrounded him again. This time it was in order to bind his hands.

‘What are you attempting?’ said the King, drawing back his hands. ‘To bind you,’ answered the wretches. ‘To bind me,’ said the King, with an indignant air. ‘No! I shall never consent to that: do what you have been ordered, but you shall never bind me. . .’

They gave up the attempt after that.

The pathway to the guillotine was very rough and the priest feared that his King might stumble on the way to his death. King Louis XVI, however, walked resolutely forward and straight up the steps to the awaiting blade. He marched directly across the platform and silenced, with a look alone, the drummers who were standing at the base of the scaffold. Then, in a voice that seemed loud enough to be heard all over the city, he addressed the crowd. These were the final words of this King of France to his people.

“I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.”

He was attempting to proceed when an officer on horseback screamed at the drummers to start beating. They immediately commenced and any further words King Louis XVI might have been trying to say were drowned out.

Many voices in the crowd could be heard encouraging the executioners to perform their task. It was but the work of a few moments, to hustle the King into position and take off his head with one blow from the guillotine. For a moment, a hush fell over the throngs of people. But when one of the soldiers took the head of the dead king and showed it to them, they commenced cheering and throwing their hats in the air.

Thus died the saint and martyr King Louis XVI. His very last thoughts were for the welfare of the people who were murdering him. Remember this on the 14th of July (Bastille Day).

King Louis XVI on the scaffold moments before his death under the guillotine.

King Louis XVI on the scaffold moments before his death under the guillotine.

The death of King Louis XVI on 21 January 1793. From this moment, according to French royal law and tradition, he and Marie Antoinette's son and heir the Dauphin Louis Charles as now King as Louis XVII. Marie Antoinette was now Queen Mother of France, though, of course, the French Republic did not recognise her as such, calling her instead the

The death of King Louis XVI on 21 January 1793. The chief executioner Sanson shows the royal head to the people. From this moment, according to French royal law and tradition, he and Marie Antoinette’s son and heir the Dauphin Louis Charles as now King as Louis XVII. Marie Antoinette was now Queen Mother of France, though, of course, the French Republic did not recognise her as such, calling her instead the “Widow Capet”.

Marie Antoinette, kept afterwards in a state of close guard with no privacy, deeply mourned her husband. By this time her once-splendid hair had turned white from stress.

The Queen aged rapidly in her confinement and subsequent imprisonment, especially following her husband's death.

The Queen aged rapidly in her confinement and subsequent imprisonment, especially following her husband’s death.

Marie Antoinette prisoner in the Temple Tower, attributed to Alexandre Kucharski, ca. 1792. (Private collection)

Marie Antoinette prisoner in the Temple Tower, attributed to Alexandre Kucharski, ca. 1792. (Private collection)

It was only a matter of time before the hatred and fury of the radical revolutionaries returned to the person of the hated Queen. Shortly after the King’s murder, she was removed from her children, and imprisoned in a dank and foul-smelling room in Paris’ Conciergerie prison. In October 1793 she was charged with treason against the Republic and conspiring with Austria (her late brother Leopold II had been, and his son Francis II, her nephew, was now the reigning Archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor). She was permitted no attorney to speak in her defense.

Trial of the Queen, October 14-16 1793.

Trial of the Queen, October 14-16 1793. “Marie Antoinette au Tribunal revolutionnaire”, engraving by Alphonse Francois, from a painting by Paul Delaroche (1857). United States Library of Congress.

French Queen Mother Marie Antoinette at her trial, October 1793.

French Queen Mother Marie Antoinette at her trial, October 1793.

Marie-Antoinette_au_Tribunal_révolutionnaire_by_Alphonse_François

After a two-day trial begun on 14 October 1793, during which even the women of Paris (who hated her) felt her inquisitors went too far by forcing her son Louis XVII to testify against his mother and accuse her of molesting him, Marie Antoinette was convicted by the revolutionary tribunal of treason. When asked what her response was to the charges against her, the Queen ignored them, except the charge of incest with her own son, which she vehemently and eloquently denied:

I thought that human nature would excuse me from answering such an imputation, but I appeal from it to the heart of every mother here present.

Like her husband before her, Marie Antoinette was allowed no appeal. Her jailers refused her request to see her children one last time, so she spent her last hours in prayer and writing this letter to her sister-in-law Princess Elisabeth, who would ultimately follow the Queen to the guillotine in 1794*:

16th October, 4.30 A.M.

It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time. I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one’s conscience reproaches one with nothing.

I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister. You who out of love have sacrificed everything to be with us, in what a position do I leave you! I have learned from the proceedings at my trial that my daughter was separated from you. Alas! poor child; I do not venture to write to her; she would not receive my letter. 


I do not even know whether this will reach you. Do you receive my blessing for both of them. I hope that one day when they are older they may be able to rejoin you, and to enjoy to the full your tender care. Let them both think of the lesson which I have never ceased to impress upon them, that the principles and the exact performance of their duties are the chief foundation of life; and then mutual affection and confidence in one another will constitute its happiness. Let my daughter feel that at her age she ought always to aid her brother by the advice which her greater
experience and her affection may inspire her to give him. And let my son in his turn render to his sister all the care and all the services which affection can inspire. Let them, in short, both feel that, in whatever positions they may be placed, they will never be truly happy but through their union. Let them follow our example. In our own misfortunes how much comfort has our affection for one another afforded us! And, in times of happiness, we have enjoyed that doubly from being able to share it with a friend; and where can one find friends more tender and more united than in one’s own family? Let my son never forget the last words of his father, which I repeat emphatically; let him never seek to avenge our deaths.

I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed. Having no spiritual consolation to look for, not even knowing whether there are still in this place any priests of that religion (and indeed the place where I am would expose them to too much danger if they were to enter it but once), I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life. I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers, as well as those which I have for a long time addressed to Him, to receive my soul into His mercy. I have to speak to you of one thing which is very painful to my heart, I know how much pain the child must have caused you. Forgive him, my dear sister; think of his age, and how easy it is to make a child say whatever one wishes, especially when he does not understand it. It will come to pass one day, I hope, that he will better feel the value of your kindness and of your tender affection for both of them. It remains to confide to you my last thoughts. I should have wished to write them at the beginning of my trial; but, besides that they did not leave me any means of writing, events have passed so rapidly that I really have not had time.

I beg pardon of all whom I know, and especially of you, my sister, for all the vexations which, without intending it, I may have caused you. I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me. I bid farewell to my aunts and to all my brothers and sisters. I had friends. The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them.

Farewell, my good and tender sister. May this letter reach you. Think always of me; I embrace you with all my heart, as I do my poor dear children. My God, how heart-rending it is to leave them forever! Farewell! farewell! I must now occupy myself with my spiritual duties, as I am not free in my actions. Perhaps they will bring me a priest; but I here protest that I will not say a word to him, but that I will treat him as a total stranger.

Queen Marie Antoinette was executed on the Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793. Here are two short videos which dramatise her death.

Marie Antoinette moments before her execution. In reality, her jailers cropped her hair extremely short so as not to get in the way of the guillotine (and, more realistically, to humiliate her). Unlike her husband the King, whom his killers permitted to ride to his execution in a closed coach, the Queen was seated in an open tumbrel, exposed to the jeers, taunts, and assaults of the Parisian crowd come to see her die.

Marie Antoinette moments before her execution. In reality, her jailers cropped her hair extremely short so as not to get in the way of the guillotine (and, more realistically, to humiliate her). Unlike her husband the King, whom his killers permitted to ride to his execution in a closed coach, the Queen was seated in an open tumbrel, exposed to the jeers, taunts, and assaults of the Parisian crowd come to see her die.

Marie Antoinette's execution, 16 October 1793.

Marie Antoinette’s execution, 16 October 1793. Her last known words were to one of her guards; she accidentally stepped on his foot, and said to him “Pardon me, monsieur, I did not mean to do it.”

Following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814, Louis XVI’s brother King Louis XVIII ordered his late brother and sister-in-law buried in a magnificent tomb befitting their royal status. Here they lie to this day. May God have mercy on them, remember them in His Kingdom, and one day restore the Bourbon monarchy in France:

The tomb of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in the royal Basilica of Saint Denis outside Paris.

The funerary monument of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in the royal Basilica of Saint Denis outside Paris. The sculptures, designed in 1830, are by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot.

Mort à la République! Mort aux les traîtres républicaines! Mort à la Révolution! Mort à le drapeau tricolore! Mort aux tyrans! Mort à Robespierre et Saint-Just! Mort aux Jacobins! Vive la monarchie de France! Vive le roi et la reine de France! Vive la liberté!

*Tried before the revolutionary tribunal and accused of being “the sister of a Tyrant”, Princess Elisabeth, Louis XVI’s sister, responded: “If my brother had been what you call him, you would not have been where you are, nor I where I am!”. She was convicted, and guillotined the following day.

Bibliography:

Recommended further reading:

The double-headed eagle: a symbol at once both ancient and new

Double-headed Romanov imperial eagle 2

This is the Roman Imperial Standard of the Byzantine Empire (AD 330-1453). The crown with the cross at the top surmounting the double-headed Imperial Eagle represents the authority of the God-anointed Emperor, who ruled with the Orthodox Church’s blessing; the double-headed eagle itself represents the symphonia/harmonia/cooperatio of the Orthodox Church and the Imperial State, governing and leading the Empire in tandem, one in politics, the other in religion. The eagle on the left, holding the sword in its talons, represents the Imperial State led by the Emperor, and the eagle on the left, holding the imperial orb and cross, represents the Imperial Orthodox Church led by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

According to A.V. Soloviev’s 1935 “Les emblèmes héraldiques de Byzance et les Slaves”, (Seminarium Kondakovianum), the interpretation of the tetragrammic “BB BB” emblem’s symbolism is as follows: The two traditional readings of the four “B”s, Βασιλεὺς βασιλέων βασιλεύων βασιλεύουσιν and Βασιλεὺς βασιλέων βασιλεύοντων βασιλεύει (both meaning “King of Kings ruling over the kings/rulers”) were demonstrated by the Greek archaeologist and numismatist Ioannis Svoronos to be later interpretations by the 17th-century historian Marcus Vulson de la Colombière. Svoronos himself proposed three alternate readings: Σταυρὲ βασιλέως βασιλέων βασιλεῖ βοήθει (“Cross of the King of Kings aid the emperor”), Σταυρὲ βασιλέως βασιλέων βασιλευούσῃ βοήθει (“Cross of the King of Kings aid the ruling city [Constantinople]”), and Σταυρὲ βασιλέως βασιλέων βασιλεύων βασίλευε.

14th century Byzantine imperial flag.

14th century Byzantine imperial flag.

As you can recognise, this symbol did not die with the fall of Constantinople in May 1453, but was adopted by many Orthodox states positing themselves as the successor states to Byzantium; most notably, Imperial Russia (1547-1917, Russian Empire 1721-1917) as well as Serbia, Montenegro, the Holy Roman Empire, etc. Here is a magnificent gold double-headed eagle in the former Russian Imperial capital of Saint Petersburg:

Double-headed Romanov imperial eagle

Joyous Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos!

A joyous Feast of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos to all! С праздником! Today Orthodox Christians on the Julian Calendar (most in the world) celebrate the Protection of the Virgin Mary, specifically when she interceded for and protected the Roman capital of Constantinople from a besieging pagan Slavic attack. Ironically, Pokrov (Покровъ), Σκέπη in Greek, is celebrated most ardently today among Slavic Orthodox Christians, especially Russians. This feast, on the first day of October (Julian calendar), celebrates the reality of Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos) interceding for us before the throne of the Almighty. Greek and most Arab Orthodox use the Revised Julian calendar and celebrate on October 1 according to the civil calendar.

Russian icon of the Feast of Pokrov (Protection) of the Theotokos, 1 October.

Russian icon of the Feast of Pokrov (Protection) of the Theotokos, 1 October.

17th century Ukrainian icon of Pokrov (Pokrova in Ukrainian), Seredina.

17th century Ukrainian icon of Pokrov (Pokrova in Ukrainian), Seredina.

A short history of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow

Interior of Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

Interior of Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

Christ the Saviour Cathedral (Храм Христа Спасителя) is the mother cathedra or see of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, whose current primate is His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. The cathedral is located on the north bank of the Moskva River to the immediate southwest of the capital’s Kremlin fortress, where, inside the Dormition Cathedral (Uspenskiy Sobor) all Russian tsars and tsarinas have been crowned and anointed. Christ the Saviour is the tallest Orthodox cathedral in the world, standing at 103 metres (338 feet) above the pavement. The main sanctuary (temple) can fit over 10,000 standing worshipers.

Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow.

Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow.

On Christmas Day in 1812, Russian Imperial forces drove the last of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army off of Russian territory — once 600,000 men strong, now a mere 20-30,000 remained. In thanksgiving, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Alexander I (1777-1825, r. 1801-1825) signed a Manifesto ordering the construction of a magnificent Cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior in Moscow as a thanksgiving to God and to honor the victorious Russian army.

The Emperor’s Manifesto reads, in part:

To signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her and to preserve the memory of the unheard of efforts, loyalty and love for our Faith and Homeland displayed during these difficult days by the Russian people, We hereby intend to build a Cathedral in honor of Christ the Saviour in our capital city of Moscow, wherein the appropriate Decree will be issued in due time. May the Almighty bless Our intentions. May our intentions be fulfilled. May the Cathedral stand for many centuries. Let the incense of thanksgiving, together with love and a desire to imitate the feats of our anscestoral feats, burn before the holy altar of God for many generations.

After over 40 years of initial construction paid for by donations from across the Russian Empire and with imperial patronage, the cathedral was first consecrated on 26 May 1883 in the presence of Emperor Alexander III and senior members of the Imperial Family along with numerous Church and foreign dignitaries. Demolished on Soviet dictator Stalin’s orders on 5 December 1931, the site was initially envisioned to hold a colossal monument to Marxist-Leninism, a gaudy skyscraper called the “Palace of Soviets” raised to the memory of Lenin. Here is a brief video showing the cathedral’s destruction.

Fyodor Klages (1812-90).

Fyodor Klages (1812-90). “Interior of the Cathedral of Christ Saviour in Moscow” (1883). The cathedral before its destruction.

Photograph taken of the demolition of the cathedral on Stalin's orders, 5 December 1931.

Photograph taken of the demolition of the cathedral on Stalin’s orders, 5 December 1931.

Plans for the “palace” stalled during the Great Patriotic War (WWII), and afterwards the foundations were turned into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool, in which numerous Soviet citizens drowned. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the newly-free Moscow Patriarchate announced plans to rebuild the demolished Cathedral on its pre-revolutionary model and scale. Funds poured in from all across the former Russian Empire, including from Russian emigres living in Western Europe and the Americas. Construction was finished by 2000, and HH Patriarch Alexey II consecrated the new cathedral along with numerous other Russian clergy on 19 August 2000. Besides functioning as the Patriarch’s cathedral church, the building is a monument to the suffering of the Russian people under communism and a symbol of the resurgence of Orthodoxy in Russian cultural life following 1991. Every year, the President and Prime Minister of the Russian Federation attend Nativity (7 January on the civil calendar/25 December on the Julian) and Pachal midnight services in the cathedral, and are greeted with an address by the Patriarch, who they in turn address with the traditional festive greeting “Christ is Risen!”, “Truly He is Risen!” (Христос Воскресе! Ваистину Воскресе!).

In front of the iconostasis (icon stand/wall) and altar solea inside the cathedral.

In front of the iconostasis (icon stand/wall) and altar solea inside the cathedral.

moscow-cathedral-christ-saviour01

Nigel Fowler Sutton notes

Here I present a look at the history of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Built as a result of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, the Cathedral was a thanksgiving for Russia & the victorious Russian Army. Construction lasted for 40 years & resulted in the largest Orthodox Cathedral in the World. Following the Russian Revolution, Stalin had the Catherdral blown up to make way for the Palace of Soviets, a “skyscraper” to Socialism & the memory of Lenin. Only the foundations were built by the time Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. Work ceased & following victory in 1945, the foundations were turned into an open-air pool. I actually swam there in 1966…… In 1994, the pool was closed and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour rose again. This time taking a mere fraction of the time to build. This is the story……..

Photographic montage of St. Emperor Nicholas II

Courtesy of Nigel Fowler Sutton’s superb YouTube channel. Here Mr Sutton presents photographs of the Tsar from infancy to his final days of confinement and ultimate death.

Tsar Nicholas II was the last Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. Born on 18 May 1868 he came to the throne on 1 November 1894 following the untimely death of his father Tsar Alexander III. He ruled the vast empire of Russia until his abdication on 15 March 1917. Together with his family, he spent the next year in captivity, subject to great deprivation, ridicule, and harassment by his Bolshevik jailers. During the night of the 16/17 July 1918 he was murdered at the Ipatiev House in rural Ekaterinburg with his wife Empress Alexandra, his son the Tsarevich Alexey, his four daughters, the family doctor, his valet, the lady-waiting to the Empress and the family cook.

In 1981 the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) glorified the late Imperial Family as Royal New Martyrs of the Orthodox Church. The new martyrs also include St. Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, sister to Empress Alexandra and aunt-by-marriage to Nicholas II. In 2000, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church followed suit, glorifying them as passion-bearers, or those who meet earthly death with Christian dignity and fortitude.

Beautiful Russian arrangement of the Magnificat

Nigel Fowler Sutton, who maintains this beautiful YouTube channel with numerous videos of historic photo montages of pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia as well as Russian Orthodox liturgical music, posted this magnificent arrangement of the Magnificat, sung during Orthodox Matins/Orthros services.

Величит душа моя Господа
Хор Соловецкого монастыря

My Soul doth magnify the Lord
Sung here by The Choir of the Solovetsky Monastery

Photographs:
Church of the Intercession at Fili (Branch Museum Andrei Rublev)