Russia Russia Abroad St Alexander Nevsky Church in Copenhagen

St Alexander Nevsky Church in Copenhagen

The Church of St Alexander Nevsky at Bredgade 53 in the centre of Copenhagen was built between 1881 and 1883. The building was designed by David Grimm and consecrated in 1885. The project was initiated by Empress Maria Fyodorovna and financed by her husband, Tsar Alexander III.

The church was used by officials of the Russian consulate and the imperial family, who visited Denmark every year. After the revolution, the congregation consisted of émigrés who had fled from the Communist regime in Russia.

In 1924, Denmark recognised the Soviet Union and the two countries exchanged diplomatic missions. Soon afterwards, the Soviet government laid claim to the St Alexander Nevsky Church.

On 19 October 1924, Maria Fyodorovna wrote to her sister, Queen Alexandra of England: “Just imagine, these Bolshevik scoundrels have decided to take from us the Russian church, which is the sole consolation for the poor émigrés here in Copenhagen. They have already ordered the priest to vacate his house at once. Fortunately, we have managed to halt the process for now, it will be heard in court and there is hope that the demands of these foul rascals will not be met.

“All this is simply terrible, if not outrageous. Everyone, believe me, is seized with fear that we will loose our beautiful church! I always considered it our own, for it was built by my beloved Sasha. But judging by it all, after the revolution it was transferred to the diplomatic mission, which means it has fallen into the hands of the hated Bolsheviks, which they are now attempting to prove. All true Christians in Denmark are trying to help us in various ways, which is so wonderful and touching. God willing, we will be able to tear our dear church from the claws of these devil’s children. That is the result of the terrible mistake made here, as in England, of recognising these murderers and criminals, who cannot do anything other than bring misery to people and carry out their revolting propaganda across the whole world. Forgive me, I have bored you with this tale, but I am so involved in this story that I can hardly think of anything else.”

Several days after Maria Fyodorovna wrote this letter, the court heard both sides and recognised the Soviet Union’s right of ownership. An appeal was submitted to the court of first instance, which also decided in favour of the Soviet government. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which issued a final ruling in October 1925.

The Russian congregation was allowed use of the church, without formal ownership rights. This decision meant victory for Maria Fyodorovna and the whole Russian émigré colony in Copenhagen. To this day, the Church of St Alexander Nevsky still celebrates mass for the local Orthodox community every Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 10 am.

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