Monday, May 10, 2010


In 4 weeks time, I'll be flying to Europe with my sister to fulfill her dream of visiting Russia.
We will join the Viking Kirov in St Petersburg for a 13 day, 1300km cruise to Moscow called "Waterways of the Czars".  After a few days in St Petersburg, we will sail down the Neva to Lake Ladoga, along the Svir River to Mandrogy, the “Blue Route” to Lake Onega visiting Kizhi island, Goritzy, Yaroslavl and Uglich then down the Moscow canal to Moscow. 
I am hoping to find evidence of St James the Greater in Russia but, although I've done some research on the Internet, I haven't found much.
I've learned that In 1917 the Bolsheviks closed all churches and prohibited religion. Over the next few decades, more than 90,000 churches were either demolished (many blown up) or allowed to become ruins. Of the approximately 7000 that remained many became workshops, storage uits, museums or even a swimming pool - St Peter's Lutheran Church in St Petersburg.
One of the churches that fell into ruin was an Orthodox Church built in 1268, dedicated to Saint James, son of Zebedee, in the Kaliningrad region of Koingsberg which fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1970.
There is a church of St. James the Apostle in Kazyonnaya Sloboda, Moscow - and a Saint James the Apostle Lutheran Church in Novokuznetsk, Siberia. (I won't be visiting there!)

I found a picture of Saint James the Greater, a Russian icon from the first quarter of the 18th century, in the Church of the Transfiguration on the island of Kizhi - which we will visit on 28th June. The three-tiered Preobranzhenskaya (Transfiguration) Church is a fairy-tale structure built in 1714 without a single nail. There is a Virtual reconstruction of the iconostasis of the Transfiguration Church here  The third tier of the Kizhi iconostasis is a Dieses tier and "Jacob, son of Zavadeev" is located in the centre of the frieze.
I have also researched the Scallop shell as decoration and discovered that The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, commissioned in 1505 and built by the Venetian architect Alevisio, has notably foreign features such as the scallop-shell decoration of its gables. Are these facies of the Italian architect, or do they represent, in any way, the Santiago shell?
And how about those scallop-shell gables on the Novodevichy Convent? I found this beautiful photograph by Yeowatzup on the website. She says: "When you visit this beautiful, quiet place right by the shores of Moskva river, you immediately feel how the sweet tranquility fills up up your entire being.
I don't know how how to describe that feeling. Some call it "holiness", others "wholeness", and buddhists call it "Nirvana", but as I said - words don't apply here, and even pictures do not. Seeing this place on a photo is not enough - you absolutely have to visit it, because only then you will literally feel 'The Force' flowing through you."
Can't wait to visit it!
I've seen a number of pictures of Faberge eggs with scallop shell designs on them but I doubt these have anything to do with the Santiago shells.


  1. What a wonderful opportunity! Your apostolic encounters in Russia are more likely to be with St. Andrew than with either of the Sts. James. When I visited Valaam Monastery (on an archipelago in Lake Ladoga) I was informed it was possible that St. Andrew made it all the way there.

    Rather than look for evidence of a "western" saint in Russia, I encourage you to get acquainted with some of their native sons and daughters: Basil the Fool-for-Christ of Moscow, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Andrei Rublev, Sergius of Radonezh, Seraphim of Sarov, Xenia of St. Petersburg. These, at least, are some of the Russian saints who have become dear to me.

  2. Sil it sound like a wonderful journey - great that you get to share that experience wih your sister.
    I look forward to reading about your trip!

  3. Saints alive!
    I see I have my homework cut out for me!!

  4. Hi Sil,
    Sounds like a great adventure..... and one that allows you to take more than one change clothing and even some nice perfume and shoes?.... I hope so!

  5. LOL

    If you've got a bit of time in St. Petersburg, the grave of St. Xenia is not hard to find. There may even be a line-up of people in the cemetery waiting to enter her crypt.

    If you're sailing through Ladoga, then you're in St. Herman territory. In North America he's known as "Herman of Alaska" but he was a monk at Valaam Monastery before trekking across the continent. I doubt the monastery will be a stop on a tourist cruise, though.

    Kizhi island is magnificent. Years ago I met the priest who lives there and serves both at the smaller church and a parish in Petrozavodsk on the mainland. Apparently there are relics of St. Nicholas of Myra in the church there.

    I'm sure that one of the places you'll visit in Moscow is St. Basil's Cathedral. Its name was changed to honour the saint entombed there.

    I'm not familiar enough with Russian history to identify any more potential "pilgrimage" visits on your itinerary, but if you're interested I'm sure you can learn more.

  6. A couple of years ago I visited St. Petersburg, and went out to Pushkin Village where I was privileged to attend an Eastern Orthodox service at St. Nicholas Church. The angelic chanting, the hundreds of flickering candles, the frankincense that hung sweetly in the air, the babushkas bobbing reverently--ahh, it was so peaceful in spite of the terrible history of the place. Yes, there was a "force" there!

  7. Ah ...... frankincense, babushkas bobbing reverently ..... perfume St James and his friends ... What more could a pilgrim want?

  8. Hi Sil!
    In 1981 me and my husband took a train from Helsinki, Finland to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and continued later to Moscow by train. What an experience! We celebrated the New Year in Moscow and it was FREEZING COLD. Stayed hours in the line FREEZING in front of the Lenin Mausoleum. Saw the art museums and galleries.
    You are welcome to visit us in Stockholm if you have time. Just let me know!

  9. There is a church called Saint James´s chuch in Stockholm see here:'s_Church,_Stockholm
    and a Swedish Saint Brigdet was one of the very early pilgrims to Santiago in the 14Th century.