Russian Orthodoxy has been arousing great interest and respect in France in the past few decades. The head of the Orthodox community in Strasbourg Hegumen Filaret Bulekov, in a Voice of Russia interview, said that plans were being made to build new Orthodox churches in Strasbourg and Paris.
The first Orthodox parishes in France appeared in the 19th century and have gradually evolved into what is now the world’s largest Russian-speaking Orthodox community outside Russia, Hegumen Filaret said.
Historically, France has a very large Russian diaspora, which is owed to special relations between our countries. Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled their homeland to France in the post-revolutionary years of the past century. They took care to organize their church life and opened numerous parishes. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, it’s a different situation. Relationships between our countries have grown simpler. Lots of people come here to take temporary or permanent jobs, or to spend a weekend or vacations. There are lots of Russians in France now. And the existing number of churches is certainly insufficient to cater for their spiritual needs.
Last year, Russia won a land purchase tender for the construction of a cathedral not far from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. And just a couple of weeks ago, Strasbourg authorities allotted a plot of land to the local All Saints Orthodox parish to build what will be the city’s first Orthodox church.
The Strasbourg Orthodox parish is relatively young. It was founded in 2005, Hegumen Filaret says. Immediately, we sought a premise we could use as a church or permission to build our own church. Things started to move along in 2007 when His Holiness, the late Patriarch Alexi II, visited Strasbourg. Meeting with the city mayor, he emphasized the urgency of organizing spiritual life for our compatriots in Strasbourg.
The design project for the future church in Strasbourg has been completed and approved by Patriarch Kirill. This will be a pyramid-domed church, an organic blend of Russian and European architecture.
The church was designed by Yuri Kirs, a talented architect from St. Petersburg, well experienced in designing and building Russian churches in a way that would make them fit harmoniously into the surrounding environment, Hegumen Filaret says. The idea of his Strasbourg church is that its Orthodox features should be easy to recognize, while at the same time it should not look like something entirely alien to the local architecture.