This is one of my absolute favorite stories of the Russian spirit and God’s working with these people.  I first heard this about this fascinating piece of history a lecture from a Russian scholar in 2006.  From then it has always remained near to my heart, reminding me of the way God is working in Eastern Europe.

I first wrote this in 2010 when I was planning a second trip to Russia, as I recounted the story in great anticipation of visiting this country that summer.

Originally written May 16, 2010

Храм Христа Спасителя
Khram Khrista Spasitelya
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Russia is a country of contrast. Spotted with many dark times in its history and yet a fortress of artistic creativity, innovative intelligence, and a rich soul. The beauty of its prideful strength and yet mournful hardships beckons me to reach a richer understanding of the country and its people.

The legacy of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior is an emblem of the essence of Russia’s beckoning spirit. This breathtaking cathedral was commissioned to be constructed in 1812, in honor of Christ the Saviour "to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her" and as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people. Construction lasted more than 3 decades, from the time the cornerstone was laid in 1832, until the time the majestic cathedral emerged from is scaffolding in 1860. It stood above the Moskva River, the tallest Eastern Orthodox church for more than 70 years, representing Christ’s saving grace to the people of Moscow.

All of that changed in 1931 when the Soviets came to power. Completely intolerant to any representation of Christianity, Stalin’s minister ordered the Cathedral to be demolished. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished with dynamite, reduced to a pile of rubble to make way for the Palace of the Soviets. “This monument was to rise in modernistic, buttressed tiers to support a gigantic statue of Lenin perched on top of a dome with his arm raised in the air.”

After several years of failed attempts at construction, the Soviets concluded it could not be done. Instead, they created Moskva Pool, the world’s largest open air swimming pool. This pool stood from 1958 until 1995, and was often used for Christian Baptisms! The Soviets adamantly attempted to remove Christ from their city, God was still at work and used what they had intended for harm, for good. He had a purpose in the midst of the hardship and called them out of darkness.

Since 2000, the reconstructed Cathedral of Christ the Savior stands to declare God’s redemption to those who were once in darkness and continues to beckon the lost, broken, and hurting people to His saving grace.

Fact/Historical Source – Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Article

Cathedral of Christ the SaviorI love to reflect on this story.  The Soviets tried to do all they could to remove religion from their state.  They failed to convert it into a palace for their anti-religion.  So they thought a swimming pool would make a decent, non-religious substitute.  And yet the Christians there were able to use it for Baptisms.   That is so like God to work in such mysterious ways!  They tried to keep God out, but God’s people stood strong!

Although time has passed, Soviets are gone, Russian are still under religious oppression.  Please pray for the believers in Russia and that God would continue to work in spite of all their challenges!

As the Scriptures say,“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor,and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
And,“He is the stone that makes people stumble,the rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
“Once you had no identity as a people;now you are God’s people.Once you received no mercy;now you have received God’s mercy.”

1 Peter 2:6-10 (NLT)