Monday, 1 April 2013


Over the weekend, we had a chance to see the interior of the Memorial Church of Saint Alexy of Moscow that Kaiser Wilhelm II commissioned to honour some twenty-two thousand Russian soldiers who perished fighting Napoleon’s armies during the decisive “Battle of the Nations,” that stopped the French advance. The living monument, center of the Russian orthodox community of Leipzig, was dedicated in 1913, a century after the fighting ended, and the exterior is undergoing reconstruction—along with the Volkerschlacht Denkmal, in recognition of this year’s anniversary.
The inside of the church, which is duplicated on an upper and lower storey, symbolic of Heaven and Hell, has an impressive array of icons covering the back wall (an iconostasis) and donated fixtures, including one faithful reproduction of the Hodegetria (the iconic canting of “she [the Virgin Mary] showing the way”) of the Mother of God of Smolensk, that tradition holds was painted by Saint Luke and made its way from Constantinople to Russia via a very circuitous route.
According to different sources, the revered icon was destroyed either during the Russian Revolution that followed just a few years later or during the German occupation in 1941. The relic, however, could have been hidden for safe-keeping as its own copy, like some of the other treasures originally plundered from Byzantium.