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July 13, 2013

The Cross of the Apostle Andrew in Russia (photos + video)

2 July 2013

With the blessing of Patriarch Kiril Gundyaev of Moscow and all Russia and Archbishop Ieronymos Liapis of Athens and all Greece, the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called will bring the Cross of St Andrew to the canonical territory of the MP (Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus) from 11 July to 2 August.

On Tuesday, Aleksandr Gatilin, the Press Secretary of the Foundation told Interfax-Religion: “The cross on which the Apostle [St Andrew the First-Called] was crucified is kept in the Orthodox cathedral in Patras, in the Greek Peloponnese; it’s a major relic of the Christian world. Bringing this cross, this relic, to Russia is part of the celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus."

Current plans call for the cross to be in St Petersburg from 11 to 15 July, from 16 to 25 July in Moscow, from 26 to 28 July in Kiev, and from 29 July to 2 August in Minsk.

Gatilin went on to say: “Bringing the Cross of St Andrew to St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk is meant to emphasize that we can trace the spiritual life of these three states (государств) back to a single source - the blessing given by the Apostle Andrew to the Baptism of Rus, which was accomplished at the fount in Kiev in 988."

He noted that the name of the Apostle St Andrew the First-Called pops up throughout all of Russian history. For example, Tsar Pyotr Veliki established the Order of St Andrew, the first order of chivalry set up in the Russian Empire; it was the highest state award. In 1998, the Order of St Andrew again became the highest state award of the Russian Federation. Since the time of Pyotr Veliki, the Russian naval ensign has borne a light-blue cross of St Andrew on a white field. The tsar personally determined its appearance - “A white Flag, emblazoned with a light-blue cross of St Andrew, to commemorate that Russia took Holy Baptism from this Apostle.”

The Cross of St Andrew will begin its Russian journey in St Petersburg, the “maritime capital of Russia”. The Foundation wishes to stress that they intended this to remind us that since the foundation of the city on the Neva, the Apostle St Andrew was one of its patron saints. St Andrew was the brother of the Apostle St Peter, after whom the town was named. Some say that Pyotr Veliki himself placed a golden reliquary with a particle of the relics of the Apostle in the cornerstone of the Petropavlovsk Fortress. The arrival of the Cross of St Andrew will coincide with the 310th anniversary of the Russian Navy and of St Petersburg. Gatilin also said, “Then, we’ll bring the cross to Moscow, Kiev and Minsk, the capitals of the three states where most Russian Orthodox believers live, where spiritual and cultural life traditionally draw upon the heritage of Holy Rus."

The Cross of St Andrew was in Patras until the time of the Roman Catholic onslaught on Greece in the 13th century (Frankokratia). Then, the Franks removed the relic from Achaea and placed it in a monastery in Marseilles, where, afterwards, in about 1250, it went to another monastery in the same city. During the French Revolution of 1789, revolutionaries threw the cross into a fire to destroy it, but a Catholic priest pulled most of it out of the fire, risking his life to do so. Later, the relic resided in an underground crypt of a monastery in Marseille, contained in a large reliquary. Today, the Cross is in the Cathedral of St Andrew in Patras. The Apostle St Andrew the First-Called was crucified at Patras head down. There is a belief that the Cross of St Andrew was X-shaped. According to Church tradition, many believers received healing by touching and praying before the Apostolic cross.

For 16 photos of the Cross leaving Patras, see here.

For 6 photos of the arrival of the Cross in Russia, see here.

For 8 photos of the reception of the Cross in St. Petersburg, see here.