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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church on the Blood Consecrated

APCrowds gathering Wednesday for the consecration of Yekaterinburg's Church on the Blood, built where Nicholas II was killed.
YEKATERINBURG, Ural Mountains -- Surrounded by crowds of Russian Orthodox faithful, clerics on Wednesday consecrated a golden-domed memorial church on the spot where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot to death by the Bolsheviks 85 years ago.

Russian Orthodox priests wearing gilt-edged red robes chanted and carried crosses under lowering skies in Yekaterinburg, where the last tsar, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were executed in a cellar on July 17, 1918.

The Church on the Blood, a white-walled structure topped by several shining gold-colored onion domes at different levels, was built on the murder site at a cost of 328 million rubles (about $1 million), much of it donated by large companies, Itar-Tass reported.

"I am delighted that I am here on this historic day. This place is known to everyone as the Russian Calvary," a descendant of the Romanovs, Olga Kulikovskaya-Romanova said at the ceremony.

Other family members and well-known people, including Mstislav Rostropovich, joined about 1,000 pilgrims who arrived for the consecration.

Some traveled hundreds of kilometers on foot and stayed at a tent camp set up in a nearby field, NTV television reported.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II has been ill lately and was advised by his doctors not to travel to Yekaterinburg, Itar-Tass reported.

In a message, Alexy said the consecration suggests "a possible historic turn" for Russia and called for unity between the Russian Orthodox Church, the state and the Russian people. In imperial Russia, church and state were extremely close and the tsar was considered to have the divine right to rule.

At the main entrance to the church stands a sculpture depicting the last minutes of the Romanov's lives -- surrounded by members of his family, Nicholas clutches his son, Alexis, to his chest.

Nicholas, who abdicated in March 1917 as revolutionary fervor swept Russia, was canonized by the church in 2000, along with his family, after years of debate on the issue following the collapse of the Soviet regime.

Nicholas and his family were detained and in April 1918 they were sent to Yekaterinburg. Three months later, a firing squad lined them up in the basement of a merchant's house and shot them. The building was demolished in 1977 on orders from Boris Yeltsin, who was the top regional official at the time.

The remains of the royal family were unearthed from a mining pit near Yekaterinburg in 1991 and were buried in St. Petersburg in 1998.