DIOCESE OF GENEVA AND WESTERN EUROPE: October 24, 2008
The Kursk-Root Icon Extends Its Sojourn In the Western European Diocese
The Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God will visit the Skete of All Russian Saints in Mourmelon, France, to mark the 20th anniversary of its chapel’s consecration.
Mourmelon is not far from the city of Reims in the Champagne region, known for a military cemetery of the Russian Expeditionary Corps in France, who during World War I laid down their lives there for the Faith, the Czar and the Fatherland.
Beginning in the late 1920’s, Russians began buying parcels of land around the cemetery. The first was purchased by veterans of the Expeditionary Corps, and in 1937, they built a memorial church dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ in memory of their fallen brothers. The church was built and its frescos painted by the architect and iconographer Albert Benois, and the graves of the veterans gradually surrounded it.
A second parcel of land for the cemetery was acquired in 1925, paid for with a donation by Archimandrite Alexei (Kireevsky, +1945), a monk who spent thirty years on Mt Athos. Already at a venerable age, Fr Alexei left the Holy Mountain in 1914 to be a volunteer, to accept ordination to the priesthood to minister to mobilized forces, but later could not return to Mt Athos and found himself in Western Europe. Fr Alexei asked Metropolitan Evlogii (Georgievsky, +1946) to grant him permission to establish an Athos-type monastery in France. So after a trip to Mourmelon’s Russian cemetery, he decided to buy a plot of land upon which he built a small church from pine lumber purchased at a Paris bazaar. The skete, dedicated to All Russian Saints, suffered from fire several times, but each time was rebuilt, and under these difficult conditions, monastic life in the small community gradually strengthened.
Fr Alexei’s successor was Archimandrite Job (Nikitin, +1986). In the 1960’s he began attracting young people to the skete, members of the National Organization of Vitazi [a scout group—transl.]. Under the direction of Nikolai Feodorovich Fedorov, and the spiritual guidance of Fr Job, the Vitiazi began organizing annual springtime camps. Many children received spiritual education there, which made an impact on the rest of their lives.
The skete always belonged to the Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but Archimandrite Job always welcomed Orthodox Christians of all jurisdictions. When the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia glorified the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in 1981, Fr Job ceremoniously placed a large icon of the New Martyrs in the skete chapel.
When in the 1980’s, the church fell to disrepair, plans were drawn up to build a new one. The new wooden church, prepared by Finnish masters and assembled in Mourmelon, was consecrated only after the death of Fr Job, exactly 20 years ago, in November of 1988.
On Sunday, November 2, 2008, the Kursk-Root Icon will be brought to Holy Trinity Church in Bern for Divine Liturgy. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the pastoral service of Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Ignast, long-time rector of this parish and the most senior clergyman of the Western European Diocese. He earned the Synodal award of the right to celebrate Divine Liturgy with open Royal Doors until the exclamation “The Holy Things for the Holy,” for which we congratulate Fr Vladimir.