An ancient relic, long venerated as a girdle or belt which belonged to the Virgin Mary, has completed its ten city-tour of Russia, after being loaned to the Russian Orthodox Church by the famous Mount Athos monastery in Greece, where it is usually kept and guarded.
In an extraordinary display of the strength and vitality of Christianity in Russia after the downfall of the Soviet system, nearly half a million people queued for days in sub-zero temperatures to see the relic when it made its final stop in Moscow. The Church authorities were forced to extend its display in the cathedral by three days, whilst the secular authorities had to introduce fifteen hundred more police onto the street and re-route traffic.
The relic was displayed at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (above) which has special significance for Christianity's struggle against Communism in Russia. Originally created to give thanks for Imperial Russia's victory over the French invasion led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812, it was remodelled several times and went through extensive renovations, before finally being consecrated as the largest Orthodox church ever built on the same day as the penultimate Romanov tsar to date, Alexander III, underwent his coronation. The cathedral had a long and extensive gallery honouring the war-dead from the wars of 1812. After the Revolution, the Soviet regime decided to destroy the cathedral in order to replace it with a building called "the Palace of the Soviets," a modernist monument to the October Revolution. In 1931, on Stalin's orders, the cathedral was dynamited and reduced to rubble. The "palace of the Soviets" was never completed due to lack of funds and time, with Stalin presumably being kept busy with the business of genocide. In the 1950s, the site was turned into a public swimming pool.
After the fall of Communism, a replica of the cathedral was faithfully rebuilt as a symbol of the resurgence of Russian Orthodoxy after seven decades of hardship.
You can watch the desecration and demolition of the original, HERE.
And The Daily Telegraph has an excellent article on the veneration of the relic at Christ the Saviour, HERE.