Wednesday, September 27, 2006

State of the onion

Comrades! Let us now turn our attention to images of fascist, decadent, anti-revolutionary structures dedicated to that vile abomination which our dear Great Thinker Karl Marx had called "the opium of the masses!"


I'm speaking for myself (specifically my ex-seminarian self), but certainly any trip to Russia would not be complete without seeing up close its magnificent, centuries-old churches. These monuments to the Russian Orthodox faith, distinguished by their onion domes, spires and cupolas, are everywhere in Moscow. For 50 or so years the commies and their state-sponsored atheism ruled Russia, but in the end they were swept away, and the churches have remained standing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the onion is strong.

This edifice is the first Russian church you will see, if only because it lies just a few miles down the road from the Moscow airport to the city proper. Our urbane guide Alex (who speaks 7 languages and has been to 120 countries, including the Philippines--"Zamboanga, Bohol, Negros, Clark, Cebu, Palawan," he rattled off...) said it was "a church of no consequence"--is there such a thing?--built only recently.

The Church of St. George on Poklonnaya Hill, built only in 1993-1995 as part of the Victory Memorial complex. The complex commemorates the 50th anniversary of Russia's victory against Nazi Germany in World War II (also known to Russians as the Great Patriotic War). The church is open only for celebrations and occasions related to the Memorial. But here's what's striking: in the complex is also found a synagogue and a mosque.

The Gateway Church of the Transfiguration, which leads to the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent (also known as New Maiden's Monastery). The convent was the favored place of exile for disgraced members of the Russian nobility. Peter the Great's half-sister Sofia was banished to this place and forced to become a nun, as was Feodor I's wife Irina. For a time, it was the richest monastery in the land. According to Wikipedia , by the 17th century, the convent owned 36 villages and 14,489 peasants!

The main church inside the Novodevichy Convent is this golden-domed cathedral dedicated to the Our Lady of Smolensk. Built in 1524-1525, its interiors are adorned with floor-to-ceiling frescoes and a truly awesome iconostasis (altar decorated with icons). Fortunately, they allowed us to take pictures, so do scroll down...

There is no way I can adequately describe in words a sight such as this, so bless him who invented photography.

The central part of the iconostasis, with its incredible gilt detailing and parade of icons. The purple curtain near the bottom shades off the altar, beyond which no one is allowed except a priest or patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Assumption Cathedral inside the Kremlin walls, which has even more astounding religious art and artifacts (including Ivan the Terrible's throne!). Built in 1479, the church was where generations of Russian czars and czarinas were crowned, even when the country's capital had been moved to St. Petersburg by Peter the Great. No picture-taking is allowed inside. Still...

Seeing the priceless treasures inside, things I might not see again in my lifetime, I just HAD to take photos, all of them on the sly. That explains the awkward angle of this picture. Nasita ako in the end, but it was worth it.

The golden crowns of the Assumption Cathedral in close-up. The sight is breathtaking from any angle.

The 11 domes of the Upper Savior Cathedral, 1679-81, representing the 11 (eleven!) ancient churches inside the Kremlin that have disappeared due to war, revolution, calamity or plain old age since the walled city's founding around the 11th century. The Kremlin, by the way, is like our Intramuros, only far better preserved.

The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, which sits just outside The Assumption Cathedral. Puro simbahan! Indeed. Within a concentrated portion of the Kremlin's vast real estate stand seven ancient churches, huddled around what is now called Cathedral Square. This 16th-century church has a rather different function: it serves as the necropolis, or burial place, of various czars and grand princes. Their brass sarcophagi are all around the church, but their remains are buried in underground cellars. In the presence of dead people, I didn't dare take pictures.

The side entrance to the Archangel Michael Cathedral features these frescoes--faded now but still splendid enough to evoke the rich, unique history and culture that spawned them.

And finally, St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square just outside the Kremlin walls. Enough said.


Anonymous said...

i found myself in great awe by your most vivid pictures and journal ... i had to blink my eyes lest i am overwhelmed. such a feast!


Abaniko said...

It doesn't look like an onion to me. It looks like something else. Um, ah, okay, parang Kisses chocolate. Hehe.

chris said...

seminaristang seminarista ang dating!... hahahaha (parang ako hindi) LOL!

beektur said...

state of the onion. you and your puns :) amazing pics. good insights. who was it who said that if it is of god it will last. but which outlived the communist/socialist era: faith or edifices? ching.

gibbs cadiz said...

maraming salamat, RVE!

abaniko, i know what you're reallyreally thinking. :)

hello chris, let's both post our timeless seminarista stories!

hey beektur, siempre... edifices na lang. like everywhere else. haha! :)

jun said...

Great shots! And seminarista ka pala? If I had the time and a Canon 400D, i'd take pics of church's stained-glass windows.

Next BlogCon, hahanapin kita. Am interested in your seminarista stories... almost entered myself.

gibbs cadiz said...

EX-seminarista, jun, ex, hehe. see ya at the next blogcon. :)

Micaela said...


I see you've been EVERYWHERE! Kainggit ka! :) (Syempre may KONSENSYAng kumukulit sa kaliwa ko, na John C ang pangalan, at sinasabing: Yan kasi, nag-asawa ka na, nagkaanak pa. Wala ka tuloy panahon sa kahit ano! Hahahahaha)

Anyway, thanks for your message! Yup, dakilang ina na ang lola mo (ay, tama ba yan). Kinacareer ko na ang pagiging nanay - kulang na lang magresign na ako sa trabaho (how unlike me, imagine, gusto nang maging desperate housewife???).

Uuuy belated Happy Birthday to you! September di ba? :)

Yun lang. :) Sulat pa. Lamierda pa! :)
- mica

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