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Revelers torch 30m-high wicker ‘Gothic cathedral’ as part of folk celebration (VIDEO)

Revelers torch 30m-high wicker ‘Gothic cathedral’ as part of folk celebration (VIDEO)
The celebration of Maslenitsa, a traditional Russian folk festival, reached epic proportions when the usual effigy of winter was replaced by a massive wicker gothic structure as the centerpiece of the celebration.

Maslenitsa is a formerly pagan festival meant to hasten the arrival of spring, which was reinvented through the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church as a final chance to rejoice before the 40 days of Lent.

Nowadays, it is largely a winter folk festival for people who want to dance, eat pancakes, maybe wrestle a little, or climb a greased pole to show off. It typically ends with the burning of an effigy of winter.

The Saturday celebrations in the village of Nikola-Lenivets in Kaluga Region, however, took Maslenitsa to an entirely new level. Instead of an effigy, the centerpiece for the burning was a massive wicker gothic “cathedral” made from alder, complete with four towers with spires reaching as high as 30 meters.

The structure reportedly took 20 builders and three months to complete.


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Some public figures in Russia were not happy with the fire show, saying it conveyed an anti-Catholic message. “I don’t understand why somebody would burn down a 30-meter Catholic church instead of a harmless effigy on a folk-Orthodox festival?” TV personality Maksim Galkin said on his Instagram page. Some clerics in the Russian Orthodox Church said the performance should be probed as an anti-Christian incitement.

Nikolay Polissky, the artist behind the project, earlier said his intention was to give a literal meaning to the architectural term “flamboyant” used to describe the late Gothic style. “The structure we have built is not a gothic cathedral but a great pyre resembling a cathedral in shape,” he said in an interview with The Village website. “I hope when we set it on fire we will see a church made of fire, seemingly made not by human hands, floating and dazzling. As an artist I expect to see a glimpse of flamboyant architecture, not some game of spirituality using wicker and matches.”