This fall, hundreds of thousands of Russians lined up in the cold, waiting for a dozen hours or more to kiss a glass-covered reliquary – reputedly containing the Virgin Mary’s belt – that was visiting Moscow from a Greek Orthodox Monastery on Mount Athos.
The contemporaneous reports on those waiting to revere the Belt of the Virgin increasingly sounded like reports from the front. The line stretched from Savior’s Cathedral to Sparrow Hills. The number of pilgrims standing in line reached 82,000. The wait was nearly two days. Dozens were hospitalized. The line was filled with old women, expectant mothers, children, and multitudes of pilgrims who had traveled from all across Russia.
All of this because the vestment fragments of the Blessed Virgin lay in wait in Savior’s Cathedral. Yet in the Church of the Prophet Ilya, just a seven-minute walk from Savior’s Cathedral, there is a fragment of the very same belt, and pilgrims could pay reverence to it there without waiting in any lines whatsoever.
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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