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A Cathedral, A Novel and Sports

April 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm
By Tigan Harrison and Megan Milligan

The outside of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior is almost as beautiful as the inside.  Constructed of a pearly white stone with gold gilding on the five onion domes, the cathedral glitters throughout the day.  Whether dawn, noon, or twilight, the colors catch the eye and shine with an almost ethereal radiance.  This feeling of a connection between the cathedral and the heavenly realm is emphasized by the golden cross perched on the topmost spire of the central dome.  Beneath the eaves of the domes, heroic figures depicted in bronze reliefs replay the history of Russia’s greatest battles and victories.  Slightly distant from the main building a smaller chapel mimics the design of its larger cousin, complete with white walls and gold dome.  Crossing behind the cathedral, away from the main street, you come to a pedestrian bridge that spans the Moscow River and provides a stunning view of both the cathedral and the Kremlin.  Rising up behind the three red towers is the Church of the Assumption and the Bell-tower of Ivan the Great, whose white walls contrast with the vivid scarlet of the ancient fortress.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior 

The neighborhood surrounding the cathedral is a mix of old and new buildings, with the older ones identifiable by their decorative exteriors, while the newer ones are simply utilitarian.  One example of a beautiful ancient building is a red apartment building with colorful mosaics across its facade.  Only five stories high the structure sits on the corner of the avenue looking over the Moscow River and away from the massive monument to Peter the Great.  The upper stories provided magnificent vistas of the river, cathedral, and the Kremlin, before modern high-rises crept in to impede the view.  This building also served as the setting for one of the famous Russian short stories we were instructed to read for our cultural class.  Ivan Bunin’s “Cleansing Monday” is the tale of two wealthy young lovers from Moscow, one of whom lived in the fifth-floor corner apartment before joining a convent.  With only a description of the apartment view, we circled the neighborhood of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, searching for a plausible setting for the story.  After comparing several possibilities, we decided that this house most closely corresponded to the details in the story.

Monday House 

Other excursions were of a more personal nature, or rather, they centered on what we were personally interested in.  Some took the weekend to visit art museums, others attended sporting events.  Some continued to shop for souvenirs and gifts, others found church services to celebrate the Easter holiday according to the Western calendar.  The sports of choice this time around were soccer and basketball, although only two students chose to attend both games.  However, the random nature of team selection on our part resulted in the soccer fans cheering for Lokomotiv, who had played against the favored basketball team the day before.  The basketball match was uneventful, which is actually a good thing in Russia, since it just means no catastrophes occurred.  In fact it was exciting to watch, and all the more so because our preferred team, Dynamo, won with around 80 points.  After each quarter the cheerleaders came out to entertain the crowd with a well-choreographed dance routine.  The most interesting part was our discovery of packaged ice cream during the half-time; looking like a typical McDonald's product, the ice cream cones were sealed in individual plastic bags.

Stadium

The day after the basketball game, a group of students went to a soccer game in Luzhniki Stadium, one of the sites of the 1980 Olympics, which were boycotted by the United States.  We were sitting with Lokomotiv fans, a team traditionally associated with railroad workers, in part because they were playing TsSKA, a team affiliated with the army.  While the United States has a professional soccer league in the form of the MLS, anyone will tell you that soccer in Europe is an entirely different experience.  Even halfway across the city, it was clear on that you were on the metro line leading towards the game, because of fans wearing their team's colors and chanting.  After exiting the metro, you had to walk through a police cordon which was supposed to separate the fans so as to prevent riots.  The game itself was exciting to watch, although disappointing because Lokomotiv ended up losing 4-1.  However, Lokomotiv played well and the level of soccer was much higher than that of the MLS in the United States.  What really made the game exciting, though, was the atmosphere, which, complete with thousands of fans chanting in unison, huge flags waving above us and flares being lit for any exciting play, was unlike any professional game in the United States.