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Patriarch Kirill I visits historical site of first Russian church in Beijing

May 12, 2013, 20:18 UTC+3

Later on, a church consecrated in the name of St Nicholas was built there

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BEIJING, May 12 (Itar-Tass) - Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I who is making a visit to China on Sunday examine a Cross of white marble installed on the territory of the Russian Embassy in memory of the first Russians who came to live in Beijing.

A plate placed at the foundation of the Cross contains the image of a church and an inscription saying that Cossacks from the Amur area built the first-ever Russian Orthodox church in China at the end of the 17th century right on that place.

Later on, a church consecrated in the name of St Nicholas was built there. It was destroyed in August 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion, which claimed the lives of 222 Orthodox Christian Chinese.

They were buried in a communal grave on the spot of the ruined church and a new Church of All the Holy Martyrs for Faith was built over their tomb in 1903 and 1904.

A number of victims of the purges, which the Bolshevik authorities subjected the Imperial Family of the Romanovs to in the summer of 1918, were reburied there at the end of the 1930’s. Their list includes the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich and the Princes Ioann, Konstantin and Igor, who were closely related to the Czarist family, and Court Chamberlain Fyodor Remez.

The exact location of the graves of these new martyrs for Christian faith is not exactly known but it is believed they entombed in the former Orthodox cemetery that was turned into a section of a city park later.

Also buried in the same church were the chiefs of the 18th and 19th Spiritual Missions in Beijing, Metropolitan Innocent and Archbishop Simon, and the chief managing officer of the famous Chinese Eastern Railroad, General Dmitry Khovart.

The foundation of the olden building has been partly recovered now and has been turned into a memorial corner in the embassy park.

The Russian spiritual mission in Beijing that existed for almost three centuries made a huge contribution to the rise and progress of relations between Russia and China and to the development of Sinology in Russia.

It ceased to exist in the middle of the 20th century. It was also then that its churches and other buildings were pulled down or rebuilt.

As for the community of Albazin /Amur/ Cossacks - the first Russians who settled in the then Peking who served in the Imperial Guard for generations - it continues existing.

The Albazins still have Orthodox Christians names like Matrona, Viktor or Anna and they remain committed to the canon and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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