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Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice closes on account of neglect

Parishioners complain about the failure of its illegal occupants to follow court orders concerning the Cathedral.

A piece of plaster with a diameter of 1.5 to 2 metres fell on the south side of the nave of St Nicholas Cathedral in Nice. “The church is closed. Workmen have begun surveying the walls and other parts of the building”, a Cathedral parishioner told Interfax-Religion on Wednesday. A piece of plaster fell near the memorial table; fortunately, some tourists had just left the affected area in the Cathedral only minutes before the incident. “Everything was covered with pieces of plaster and dust, as if it were a bombing, not to mention the fact that the fallen plaster came off one of the beautiful frescoes. [St Nicholas Cathedral] is an architectural gem, and many consider it the most beautiful Russian church building outside Russia. Since there’s a danger of further collapse, we’ve closed off the perimeter of the building with warning tape”, our informant told us. According to him, less significant plaster failures on the walls and the roof of the Cathedral happened regularly in the past, but such a massive and dangerous collapse has never happened before. “For many years, it’s been clear that the so-called ‘Orthodox Association of Nice’, although it occupies the Cathedral, wasn’t in a position to properly care for this beautiful church. What did they spend the huge amounts of money from the admissions paid by visitors on, I wonder? ” a parishioner told the agency.

Our source informed us that French courts have twice declared that the Russian Federation is the legal owner of the church building and its site, but “the Association explicitly and insultingly ignores the rulings, its leaders are outlaws; two of the Patriarchate of Constantinople priests here openly stated that they aren’t going to obey the court’s decisions”. In May 2011, the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence (France) recognised that the Russian Federation was the owner of St Nicholas Cathedral in Nice. Commenting on this decision, Viktor Khrekov, the Press Secretary for the Russian Embassy in France told us that the decision was an important one for the country. “[St Nicholas] Cathedral is a part of Russia abroad; it’s connected with its history. The fact that it’ll return to the hands of the Motherland has a significant symbolic meaning”, he said. According to Khrekov, there’s one more court where the current occupants (the EP community) can appeal. He emphasised that “we’ll continue to work for the return of Russian property, and, when we receive a final decision, we’ll settle the formalities of administration, we’ll take stock of the situation at the Cathedral, and take appropriate actions in the interests of the believers who worship there”. Commenting on the current reluctance of the current occupants to hand over the church to its rightful owners, Khrekov noted that for them, the Cathedral is a “cash cow”. “They sell tickets for admission, according to various estimates, they earn up to one million euros a year”, he said, explaining that the church did hold services, but they use it primarily as “a moneymaking tourist attraction”.

29 June 2011


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