Last September London gained a new Cathedral on a quiet residential road in Chiswick — The Cathedral of the Nativity Of the Most Holy Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs. Gleaming in the winter sun, the blue dome gives it a very distinctive appearance, and yes, it’s a Russian cathedral.

Not the official Russian church though, as it’s independent of the Patriarch of Moscow, and has been built by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) who never compromised with the Soviet Union or jumped into bed with Putin as the “official” church has. In 2007, a restoration was agreed upon, and now ROCA is a semi-autonomous part of the Patriarch of Moscow.

The London Cathedral was built in what’s known as Pskov Style, after the city in Russia with a simple white square Cathedral surmounted by the famous “onions” that dominate Orthodox churches.

It’s a square white building, sitting next to an older house which now acts as the “church hall” and home for the two priests, one from Canada and the other from Ukraine.

Planning permission for the Cathedral to be built was granted back in 1997, but it was many years before it was constructed, and only last September was the Cathedral was formally consecrated with a rather august group as there was a meeting of the Synod of Bishops in London the day before, so they all turned up for the service.

It looks today rather finer than just a few years ago, as it used to have a wooden fence around the outside, but a couple of years ago, that was replaced with the more impressive white walls and gate. A monument was also erected at the same time, in memory of the Royal Martyrs killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 — the Royal Martyrs being the Romanov family who used to rule Russia until the revolution.

Even though an ancient requirement that cities can only be cities if they have a Cathedral in them, it could be fun if Chiswick were to become a City thanks to the Cathedral.

I wandered around and saw a sign saying the entrance was on the other side, which entailed walking down a set of steps to the basement level, then along a long corridor. Opening the door, and inside is delightfully dark and atmospheric, but I beat a hasty retreat as there was a service going on at the time.

So I haven’t really seen inside, but the outside is a pleasing adornment to the local area.


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  1. stephen Groves says:

    Dear Ian
    This is a lovely article, but you are incorrect to say that the Cathedral is independent of the Patriarch of Moscow – ROCOR is under the authority of, and in complete communion with the Moscow |Partriarch, since the formal reunion of the two parts of the Church in the early 2000’s. I find it a place full of joy. Glad you enjoyed your visit.
    Stephen Groves

    • ianvisits says:

      I said it’s semi-autonomous now, and that’s the case according to several sources I checked about the organisation.

  2. Nice article Ian. I’m so glad to see our cathedral on the net.

    Our Church Abroad is, indeed, more or less autonomous, as we have our own First Hierarch and Holy Synod. This was enshrined in the act of union. We now have our own resident bishop: His Grace, Irenei, Bishop of London and Western Europe who arrived last week, after administering the diocese from San Francisco. He now has two cathedrals: Chiswick and Geneva.

    Though I get what you mean, it’s not correct to say that we are not the official Russian Church. ROCOR is ‘official’ as any parish belonging the Church of Russia. We’re simply another administrative part, with our own historical identity and strict traditions and local identity. In fact, after the reunion with Moscow, the Patriarchal parishes abroad should have been absorbed into ROCOR, as it’s what the label says: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. It never happened!

    The church’s cathedral status existed before last September, but was only fully consecrated then, in a service presided over by Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Eastern America (the First Hierarch of ROCOR) together with the members of the Holy Synod and Bishop Matvei of Sourozh. At this service the dedication to the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs was a change. It was formerly dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God, but that gave us two Russian Orthodox cathedrals in London with the same dedication. Not good in a reunited patriarchate!

    It was a wonderful, historic event.

    I hope you’ve managed to visit the cathedral and see inside!You realise it’s a double-decker, with another church on top of the one you entered?

    The cathedrals an inspiration for those of us who beg and borrow non-Orthodox buildings.

    Regards – Fr Mark

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