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Russian Orthodox cathedral to reopen in Nice after reconstruction on Tuesday

January 19, 2016, 8:22 UTC+3 NICE

The reconstruction took two years and was sponsored by Russia

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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Astapkovich

NICE, France, January 19. /TASS/. Reconstruction and restoration works on the compound of the St Nicholas' Russian Orthodox cathedral in Nice that took two years will be crowned on Tuesday with the public opening and solemn consecration of the Church.

The reconstruction project was sponsored by Russia.

"January 19, the day on which the Eastern Orthodox world marks the feast of Epiphany, or the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan, has been chosen quite purposefully for the consecration," a spokesman for the Korsun diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. "The fact the renovated cathedral opens its doors for the churchgoers and all other visitors on precisely this day is quite notable.

Diplomats at the Russian embassy in Paris recalled that the building was total disrepair in 2013 when when the Russian Federation regained ownership over it following years of litigations.

Funds for reconstruction of the building were earmarked at President Vladimir Putin's instruction.

The scope of works to be done was really impressive. It included, for instance, completion of the frescoes some which remained unfinished since the times of World War I.

Court litigations around the cathedral began in 2006 when the Russian embassy in France filed a request to do inventory reconciliation of the St Nicholas's cathedral but the representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Association of Nice, which managed it at the time, protested against it.

They made an attempt to challenge Russia's ownership rights to the compound in the courtroom.

The efforts by Russian diplomats to settle the dispute amicably and with due account of the interests of local parishioners bumped into an obvious resistance on the part of the father superior, Father John.

This and other aspects of activity of the Orthodox Association of Nice, like the imposition of fees for entering the cathedral, compelled the Russian representatives to file a lawsuit. As a result, all the seven court instances confirmed the fairness of the Russian interests. The court of review passed the final verdict in 2013 stating Russia's rights to the Nice cathedral.

"Huge work with archival documents was done," lawyer Alain Confino said. "This was necessary for proving the succession of Russia's rights and for familiarizing the French judges with the history of the Russian Orthodox Church."

The five-dome St Nicholas's Cathedral was erected in Nice in memory of Crown Prince Nicholas, the elder son of the Russian Emperor Alexander II. The 21-year-old prince died in Nice after heavy illness in April 1865. The church replaced Villa Bermond where the prince spent the last days of his short life.

Construction lasted from 1903 through 1912, with Czar Nicholas II, who had take patronage over the project at a request from the Russian community in Nice, donating his personal money for it.

Over the decades since its completion, the cathedral has become part and parcel of the of the landscape at the Cote d'Azur. It arouses intensive interests among the tourists coming to the place and received up to 250,000 visitors a year.

It is the largest Russian church in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world outside the former Russian Empire.

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