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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary (Moscow)

27/13 Malaya Gruzinskaya Street, Moscow (tel.: +7 495 252-39-11); Metro stations: "Ulitsa 1905 goda", "Barrikadnaya", "Krasnopresnenskaya", "Belorusskaya".

Map

http://www.catedra.ru

When it was opened, before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary became Moscow's third functioning Catholic Church. The other two were the Church of St. Louis of France, in Malaya Lubyanka Street, and the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles.

By the late 19th century, Moscow's Catholic population had reached 30,000 people, making the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles, which belonged to the Catholics, too small to fit all the parishioners.

In 1894, it was decided to build another church for Moscow's Catholics. After having received a permission from the authorities to construct a filial church, the parish committee, in Milyutinsky Lane, started fund raising. The money was given not only by Poles, who lived across the Russian Empire and in other countries, including weaving factory workers, railway workers, construction workers working on the Trans-Siberian Railway, people in exile in Siberia, the Far East and Asia, but also by many Catholics of other ethnicities, including Russians. The archives of Moscow and St. Petersburg (Moscow Central State History Archive and St. Petersburg Central State History Archive, respectively) have preserved documents telling about the committee's work. The documents include an act of purchase (of 10 hectares (2.5 acres) of land in the vicinity of Malaya Gruzinskaya Street, for 10,000 golden roubles) and records of donations, where all the benefactors, regardless of the amount, are listed.

The Cathedral's design was developed by two people: Tomasz Bohdanowicz-Dworzecki, a parishioner of the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles, a famous Moscow architect and a teacher at the Moscow School of Painting, Art and Architecture, and Leon Dauksza, an architect.

The building was designed in the Gothic style. The Cathedral's facade was modelled on the Gothic cathedral in Westminster, England.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary was under construction from 1901 to 1911. In December 1911, the solemn opening of the Cathedral (then only a common church) took place.

The construction of the Cathedral cost as much as 300,000 roubles. Additional funds were raised in 1911–1917, for finishing works and for purchasing church utensils.

The Cathedral, in Malaya Gruzinskaya Street, had been functioning until 1937, becoming Moscow's first Catholic Church to be shut down. The church property, including the altar and the organ, was looted or destroyed. The facade was disfigured. The institutions that occupied the devastated church rebuilt its interior: they built three floor decks and changed floor plans, which made the interior of this precious monument of the church architecture ugly beyond all recognition. After the Second World War, the spire was dismantled as well.

In 1976, the Moscow authorities intended to hand the Cathedral's building to the Main Directorate for Culture. They developed a design, which was supposed to transform the Cathedral into a concert hall for organ music. However, this idea has never been implemented, because of the resistance of the institutions occupying the church.

In 1989, the Moscow Catholics and "Dom Polski" ("The Polish House"), a cultural association that united Moscow's Poles, declared that it was necessary to hand the Cathedral back to its natural and lawful owner, the Catholics and their Roman Catholic Church.

In January 1990, a group of Moscow Catholics established the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary; however, it was just 8 December 1989 when the priest Tadeusz Pikus celebrated the first Holy Mass permitted by the authorities. The mass was attended by several hundred people.

On 21 April 1991, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin-Rite Catholics of Russia's European Part, issued a decree that re-established the Catholic Parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary at the eponymous church in Malaya Gruzinskaya Street in Moscow (i. e., at the Cathedral).

On 31 May 1991, the Parish's statute was officially registered by the Directorate for Justice at Moscow City Council.

Since 7 June 1991, the Cathedral hosted the Holy Mass each Sunday in its courtyard.

Since 29 November 1991, Salesian sisters have served at the Cathedral; they perform catechetesis and teach the foundations of Christianity. In parallel with that, charitable work started, including providing help to the ill and the destitute.

In 1993–1995, the Cathedral hosted the Mary Queen of Apostles Senior Theological Seminary.

On 1 February 1992, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed a decision to gradually, in the course of two years, free the Cathedral's premises for occasional services. However, the rooms, even several of them, had never been handed over to the Parish. Thus, on 2 July, the parishioners entered the Cathedral and freed a small part of the rooms by themselves. After negotiations with the Mayor's representatives, the regained part of the Cathedral remained under the control of the Parish.

On 7 and 8 March 1995, the believers once again stood up to the fight for the return of all the other Cathedral's rooms. The parishioners had understood that the situation would hardly change without decisive action from them. On 7 March, after a common prayer for the return of the Cathedral, they got up to the third floor and started carrying away the junk that was kept there. Meanwhile, other parishioners dismantled the ground-floor wall that separated the Parish and the Mosspetspromproyekt Company. On 8th March, the parishioners continued the liberation of the Cathedral's rooms. However, the police including the OMON, a special purpose police unit, interfered this time: people were driven out of the Cathedral, with many of them injured, a nun beaten, a priest and a seminary student arrested. On 9th March, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz addressed Boris Yeltsin, the then-president of Russia, with an open letter dedicated to the Cathedral's situation. As a result, on 7 March 1995 Yury Luzhkov, the Moscow mayor, signed a resolution, which had been compiled long ago, to transfer the Mosspetspromproyekt company to a new building and to hand the Cathedral over to the believers by the end of the year.

However, there were no guarantees that that decision would be implemented. Father Jozef Zaniewski, the dean of the Parish, called on the believers to to fast and to pray for the return of the Cathedral. On Thursdays and Fridays, Eucharistic adorations started being performed in the Cathedral as well as prayer processions around the Cathedral on Sundays. Finally, on 13 January 1996 the Mosspetspromproyekt Company moved out of the Cathedral. And on 2 February the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary received documents that granted permanent ownership of the Cathedral. The main part of the difficult task of the Cathedral's return and reconstruction was shared with the archbishop and the dean by Father Kazimir Shidelko, the director of the St. John Bosco Asylum for Children, and by many parishioners. The completion of the restoration was supervised by Father Andzey Stetskevich, from August 1998.

The general design of the Cathedral's reconstruction was prepared and the author's supervision of the restoration works was carried out by the PKZ company. The design of the altars, the chapel and the interior in general was developed by Professor Jan Teichman (Torun, Poland). Constant material aid was provided by the EnergoPol Company (the director Kazimierz Wierszyllo). All the three benefactors come from the Republic of Poland. A Rodgers organ was donated by Aid to the Church in Russia, a US Catholic organisation.

Thanks to the donations from charitable organisations and Catholics from many countries across the world and to prayers and the disinterested aid from parishioners, the Cathedral regained its original beauty.

On 12 December 1999, the Cathedral was consecrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican's state secretary and a legate of Pope John Paul II, becoming a cathedral officially (the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary).

On 13 April 2001, the Cathedral hosted a solemn celebration of the 10th anniversary of the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church's organisational structures in Russia.

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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary



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