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12 Jan, 2008 14:49

Restored cathedral gets Patriarch's blessing

Patriarch Aleksy II has re-consecrated one of Russia’s oldest cathedrals – the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin. It's the main temple of the Iversky Monastery in the northwest of Russia. Restorers have spent 20 years renovating the

President Putin spoke at the ceremony, saying that the State was responsible for hacking away at the roots of Russia's history and culture in recent decades. “There's not much to thank us for”, Putin told worshippers.

“The Patriarch's words of gratitude will be interpreted by my colleagues and me exclusively as a wish for the State to return its debts to both the Russian Orthodox Church and our other traditional faiths, and to the Russian people,” Putin said.

The monastery is situated on one of the islands of Lake Valdai.

It was built in the middle of the seventeenth century, based on the monastery at Holy Mount Athos in Greece.

The building was designed to emphasize that Russia was the direct successor of the Byzantine empire.

During Bolshevik rule the monastery was closed down and saw years of neglect.  It had been one of Russia's most famous and prosperous.

It was re-opened in 1991, but 17 years of restoration were needed to bring the monastery back to its former glory.

The restoration was officially finished with the re-consecration of the main cathedral.

Hundreds of worshippers and pilgrims have flocked to the area to join the festivities.