Russian Orthodox basilica dedicated on site of Tsar's death, 7/18/2003
Yekaterinburg - A new Orthodox basilica has been consecrated in Yekaterinburg, on the site where, 85 years ago, on July 17, 1918, the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, together with his wife, son, four daughters and four servants who had been allowed to remain with them, were shot by the Bolsheviks.
The consecration ceremonies began on the morning of July 16 and continued through the day, culminating in a midnight procession to the site where the Bolsheviks tried to destroy the bodies so that—in their own words—“no one would ever know what happened.” (Their efforts were unsuccessful; the remains of the imperial family and their servants were located in 1991, verified by DNA matching, and eventually re-interred in St. Petersburg).

The new Yekaterinburg church, to be called the Basilica of the Blood in the name of All the Saints of Russia, stands on the site of the “Ipatyev house” where the imperial family was confined and eventually shot. The house itself was destroyed on the orders of Boris Yeltsin, during his term as Communist Party boss there: a decision which, as Russia’s first post-Communist president, he came to regret. However, stones from the foundations of the Ipatyev house have been built into the basilica, and a special side-chapel replicates the cellar where the shooting took place.

A consecration of this significance would normally have been conducted by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexei II. During the past year, however, he has had severe health problems, and his doctors forbade him to travel to Yekaterinburg. In a special message, read out at the celebrations, the Patriarch suggested that the dedication of the basilica might prove a “historical turning point” in Russia’s fortunes, and stressed “the importance of a revival of great traditions occurring at the spot where the blood of the holy martyrs was shed and where an attempt was made to destroy Russia.” Now, wrote Patriarch Alexei, the Yekaterinburg authorities and ordinary citizens were striving “to act in accordance with God’s laws, and view themselves as continuing the actions of many generations of ancestors—in their efforts to—construct a country that corresponds to the ideal of Holy Russia.”

The celebrations attracted pilgrims and visitors from a wide area of Russia. In addition to the purely ecclesiastical ceremonies, the event has been marked with various exhibitions, concerts by church choirs, and similar activities.