Church of the Lourdes God's Mother (Église Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes)
At the end of the XIX century French Catholics living on the banks of the Neva formally set up their community. In 1898, the community – which numbered some one thousand people by that time - obtained permission to build a new Catholic Church - Church of the Lourdes God's Mother (Église Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes) - in St. Petersburg, and purchased some land in the capital for sixty-seven thousand rubles.
The new church was designed by the architect Leontiy Benoit. In 1903 he built the first floor of the church, but then construction work was delayed due to lack of funds. An assistant Benoit, the young architect Marian Peretyatkovich, made some changes to the design, and construction resumed.
Consecrated in the Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The temple was consecrated in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 2, 1909. The new Catholic Church look was very ascetic, with motifs of Romanesque style. The facade of the church, facing Kovenskiy lane, is asymmetric. It is lined with large blocks of roughly hewn granite.
Romanesque and Northern Art Nouveau
The church combines Romanesque and Northern Art Nouveau elements in an unusual way. Like a medieval castle, the church surprises us with its tall bell tower topped with a dome and a cross-turret as if growing out of the strict facade. Looking at the building it may seem to you that you’re actually somewhere in the streets of old Prague - especially if you climb the highest steps of the arch at the entrance to the church, and, looking upward, will see Madonna with Child in her arms, staring out the little window. Looking down, you can can see the wonderful statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in a blue niche located in the center of the staircase. A modest and fascinating image of Our Lady with arms crossed and head bowed - showing greatness and meekness of spirit, wonderful purity and holiness. Virgin Mary stands in the midst of stone like granite rocks, and behind it in the sun - the outline of the ancient town of Lourdes. At the foot of this expressive beauty and symbolism of the composition - white lily, symbol of purity and innocence.
Bernadette of Lourdes
Bernadette of Lourdes lived in the XIX century and she was a poor shepherdess. Once she herded sheep near a grotto. Suddenly, in a blaze of light she saw the Virgin Mary dressed in white, who asked the shepherdess to convey to people that they should live in peace and repentance, and ordered to build a temple at the grotto. Soon temples dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes were being built everywhere. It became famous for healing many sick and poor people in this temple. Day of Memory of Our Lady Mary of Lourdes is celebrated February 11 - this is the most important holiday of the church in the Kovno alley.
Modest and Simple Interior
The interior of the church is extremely modest and simple, creating an atmosphere of solemnity. The main hall is decorated with Gothic columns. An unusual bowl of holy water in the form of large sea shells, a little distance from them a crucifixion. The walls of the church are decorated with round stained glass windows and 14 bas-reliefs, 7 on each side depicting Way of the Cross of Christ on Calvary. In the center of the room, behind the altar - a huge painting Handing the keys to St. Peter by Zakharova. In contrast, the centerpiece of the second floor is the church organ, the sound of which creates a fascinating mystery and unearthly beauty of Catholic worship, as if offering up to heaven, the words of prayer.
Closed and Re-Opened Again
The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary of Lourdes was consecrated in 1909 by Bishop Jan Tseplyakom. The ceremony was attended by Petersburg nobility, representatives of the French Embassy, and city authorities. After the Revolution of 1917, the church was closed for only one year, from 1922 to 1923, but the number of its parishioners in these years had decreased, as many Frenchmen left for home after the October Revolutio. For many years, the church of Our Lady of Lourdes was the only active church in Petersburg - other Catholic churches were closed. During WWII, the church was severely damaged: shells damaged the bell tower, windows were smashed, the roof was destroyed. When German troops occupied France and the country's new government supported the Nazis, diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union were broken off, and father Florent, abbot of the temple and a citizen of France, had to go home. He was able to hand over the keys of the church to a parishioner who was the organist and the commandant of a residential building at the church. In the difficult post-war years, the church began to recover, and soon re-opened for the first service. A milestone in the history of the church was a visit by the French President General de Gaulle. Today, the church has daily services in Russian, Polish and Latin, during the week - at 9 am and at 7 pm, and on weekends - at 9 am, 10.30 am, midday and 7 pm.