Protesters in St. Petersburg decry handover of cathedral

Protesters against the transfer of St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church hold letters reading 'The museum!' standing inside the St. Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Over 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to protest plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and state. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Protesters against the transfer of St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church gather at the Marsovo field in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Over 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to protest plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and state. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Protesters against the transfer of St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church gather at the Marsovo field in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Over 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to protest plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and state. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Protesters against the transfer of St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church gather at the Marsovo field in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Over 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to protest plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and state. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Protesters against the transfer of St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church hold a slogan 'The museum to the city!' standing inside the St. Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Over 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to protest plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and state. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Protesters rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday against plans by the city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and the Russian state.

"We won't give St. Isaac's to the church. We want to save it as a museum," Boris Vishnevsky, a local lawmaker, told protesters in central St. Petersburg.

St. Isaac's, one of the most visited tourist sites in Russia's old imperial capital, has been a museum since 1917. Some experts are concerned that when it gains ownership, the Orthodox Church will neglect the exhibits on display, which include a rare Foucault pendulum.

The rally Saturday by over 2,000 people was significantly larger than a similar demonstration by several hundred people earlier this month.

"St. Isaac's Cathedral is part of our cultural heritage. There are so many valuable exhibits that require the work of museum specialists. The Russian Orthodox Church does not have those specialists," said Irina Azbel, 43, a doctor among those protesting.

A few dozen counter-protesters gathered in the same place to support the plans.

"The return of the cathedral to the church is a return to our national roots," said Yelena Semyonova, a 52-year-old professor.

The announcement earlier this month that the neoclassical St. Isaac's Cathedral, which is currently a museum, will be put under Orthodox Church ownership has sparked a backlash from city residents. More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the city authorities to reconsider.

Prominent cultural figures, including the director of St. Petersburg's world-renowned Hermitage Museum, have criticized the decision.

The handover has been seen as indicative of the growing power of the Orthodox Church and part of a trend of social conservatism in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has appealed to traditional values as opposed to Western liberalism to help tighten his grip on society.

Must Read

Faberge egg reunited with its missing 'surprise' in Texas

Apr 7, 2017

A Faberge egg and the jeweled elephant designed to fit inside it are being reunited for the first time in almost a century thanks to a loan from Queen Elizabeth II to a Texas museum

Museum head defies Russian Orthodox Church over cathedral

Jan 26, 2017

The director of a museums' association has urged the Russian Orthodox Church's patriarch to recall its bid to take control of St. Petersburg's landmark cathedral, a move that has inflamed public passions

After bloodshed, NYC promises a safer J'ouvert festival

Sep 4, 2016

For years, there have been complaints about safety at J'ouvert (joo-VAY'), a big, joyous carnival celebrating Caribbean culture held before dawn each Labor Day on the streets of New York City

People also read these

Faberge egg reunited with its missing 'surprise' in Texas

Apr 7, 2017

A Faberge egg and the jeweled elephant designed to fit inside it are being reunited for the first time in almost a century thanks to a loan from Queen Elizabeth II to a Texas museum

Museum head defies Russian Orthodox Church over cathedral

Jan 26, 2017

The director of a museums' association has urged the Russian Orthodox Church's patriarch to recall its bid to take control of St. Petersburg's landmark cathedral, a move that has inflamed public passions

After bloodshed, NYC promises a safer J'ouvert festival

Sep 4, 2016

For years, there have been complaints about safety at J'ouvert (joo-VAY'), a big, joyous carnival celebrating Caribbean culture held before dawn each Labor Day on the streets of New York City

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH