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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Worship Begins at Cathedral

The Church of the Transfiguration, the lower church of the Christ the Savior Cathedral complex, became a fully functioning church Monday when it was formally consecrated by Patriarch Alexy II.

The mammoth cathedral has been just 20 months in the building. The corner stone of the $300 million project was laid on Jan. 7, 1995, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has made it one of his pet projects. The original Christ the Savior Cathedral, by contrast, took over 40 years to erect.

The blessing ceremony, in which many of the Orthodox Church's top clergy participated, was attended by several hundred people, including Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov, presidential adviser Sergei Krasavchenko and world-renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.

Rostropovich, who has conducted several concerts on the site to raise money for the project, was enthusiastic. "When I see all of it happening, it gives me a great sense of the Russian epic tradition being reborn," he said.

The patriarch connected the blessing of the new church with the renewal of Russia. "Russians take the rebuilding [of Christ the Savior ] as the return to the spiritual basics of Christian belief," said Alexy II in a speech at the close of the ceremony.

According to Mikhail Posokhin, the head of the project and the deputy chief architect of Moscow, the new church is an addition that was not part of the original cathedral. It was built by the order of Alexy II to commemorate the Alekseyevsky Convent, which stood there before the first Christ the Savior Cathedral was erected.

The site was used as a public swimming pool for years after the original cathedral was blown up in 1931 by Josef Stalin.

The Church of the Transfiguration has a total area of 6,000 square meters and is completely finished and built according to all rules of the Orthodox Church architecture, Posokhin said.

"Only the painting on the walls will take a lengthy period of time but this is due to a special technique used for centuries," Posokhin said. The architect added that "the project has become the biggest aim of my life."

From now on the church will be a regular working part of the complex, open to the public seven days a week.