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ST. PETERSBURG, January 7 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is celebrating Christmas in his native St. Petersburg this year. He attended a night Christmas service at the Cathedral of the Savior’s Transfiguration of all the Guards where he arrived at midnight.
It has become a tradition with Putin to attend Christmas services in churches in various Russian cities, towns and villages. Last year, he prayed at the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in the village of Turginovo, the Tver region; in 2010 – he visited the Church of St. Martyrs Alexander and Antonina in the village of Selishche in the Kostroma region. In 2009, Putin celebrated Christmas at the Church of the Meeting of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia. In 2008 and 2007, Putin attended Christmas services at the Prokopievskiy cathedral in Velikiy Ustyug and the New Jerusalem monastery near Moscow.
The Cathedral of the Savior’s Transfiguration of all the Guards was built on order of Empress Elizabeth of Russia between 1743-1754. It was designed by architect Mikhail Zemtsov. The cathedral was built in the place of old barracks of the grenadier division of the Preobrazhenskiy regiment in honor of the Empress’s ascension onto the throne with the help of some of the soldiers and officers of that regiment. The cornerstone was laid on June 9, 1743. The cathedral was blessed by archbishop Sylvester in the August of 1754 in the presence of the empress, on the eve of the holy day of the Transfiguration of Christ. The icon stand and the altar canopy were made by woodcutters from Moscow from the drawings of architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The figures were painted by M. L. Kolokolnikov.
On November 12, 1796, during the reign of Emperor Paul I, the Transfiguration Cathedral received the honorary title "of all the Guards."
In 1825, a fire destroyed the first Transfiguration Cathedral, although all the essential sacred objects were saved.
Between 1825 and 1829 it was rebuilt by the architect Vasily Stasov in the Empire style just as it can be seen today.
A parish charitable society operated in the cathedral since 1871. It maintained an almshouse, a children’s shelter, a cafeteria, a school for the children of soldiers and free living quarters.
After the 1917 October Revolution the cathedral remained open for worship. However, like many other parishes in Russia it suffered serious losses in the 1920s.
The cathedral is closely linked to the glory of Russian army. One hundred and two gun barrels which the Russian army seized from the walls of Turkish fortresses in the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829 were placed at the basement of a fence surrounding the cathedral’s park. The cathedral of all the guards featured numerous regiment banners and other trophies seized from the Turks. The uniforms of the Preobrazhenskiy regiment that belonged to Russian tsars Alexander I, Nicolas I and Alexander II and a sabre of Alexadner II which he was wearing on the day of assassination on March 1, 1881 were kept in special cases behind glass.
In 1918 it became a parish church and the banners, ordnance and war trophies were handed over to the Artillery Museum; since 1950 those relics have been part of the Hermitage collection. During the Siege of Leningrad a bomb shelter for 500 people was built in the church’s basement where first aid was given to the wounded.
The facades and the interior of the Transfiguration Cathedral were renovated between 1946 and 1948.
The cathedral’s main icons include the Icon of Christ of Edessa and the Icon of the Mother of God “Consolation of All Who Sorrow”.
Archpriest Nikolia Gundyayev, the elder brother of Patriarch Kirill, has been the rector of the Transfiguration Cathedral since 1977.